‘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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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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