‘Tuscany’ event gives United Way a strong campaign start

The United Way of the Columbia Gorge had its most successful kickoff ever Sept. 19, at its Evening of Tuscany event held at the Gorge Room of the Best Western Hood River Inn.

Alison Church, campaign and allocations manager, said just over $70,000 was raised during the evening, attended by some 250 people.

“We are absolutely tickled with that,” she said. “We are absolutely thrilled by the support of not only the people who attended the event, but the overall generosity of the community.”

Waste Connections, Cardinal Glass and Best Western Hood River Inn served as the event’s main sponsors. In addition, merchants from all over the Gorge — and the world, added Church — donated trips, gift certificates, original artwork and more for the evening’s silent and live auctions.

Thirty to 40 volunteers, most of whom are on the Hood River council, came together to put on the event.

“But the biggest thing is the people who were there as supporters,” said Church, referring to those who purchased a ticket or a table, auction items, or gave cash donations during the special appeal. “People were extremely generous with the special appeal this year.”

The event served as the kickoff to the United Way’s annual campaign. Every year, the United Way funds critical programs in the Gorge, including Meals on Wheels, the SMART reading program, St. Francis House, Next Door programs, Hospice and FISH Food Bank.

Applicants are put through a rigorous screening process. Last year, $155,000 was distributed to 40 area nonprofit agencies serving people in the Gorge. While that’s a large amount of money donated, $250,000 was requested.

“There’s a pretty big gap between what was requested and what we had to give,” said Church.

This year, the United Way hopes to raise $180,000.

With the success of the Evening of Tuscany event, the United Way of the Columbia Gorge is optimistic about this year’s fundraising campaign. Soon they will be mailing out information to both individuals and businesses.

A lot of the United Way’s fundraising comes from businesses, said Church. When she is invited to a business, she shares personal stories of how the United Way has helped Gorge-area residents — in some cases, even saving lives — and employees are able to sign up for payroll deductions to support the United Way’s mission. For every $1 given, 99 cents stays in the Gorge.

Giving $1 — or $5 — a month might not seem like a lot, said Church, but it really accumulates when an office — or several — are participating.

Local businesses who would like to share the United Way’s message with their employees are asked to call the office at 541-386-6100.

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