For the second year in a row, United Way of Northeastern South Dakota has a goal of $675,000.
Last year, the United Way campaign fell short of its goal, collecting $655,000.
This year, the organization hopes to reach the $675,000 goal, the United Way's Jennifer Klitzke said after the annual campaign kickoff breakfast Thursday at the Aberdeen Area Senior Center.
If the goal is reached, the drive won't be venturing into uncharted territory. In 2006-2007, United Way of Northeastern South Dakota raised $722,000, the biggest amount ever.
Speaking to the group were K.C. DeBoer, the 2013 United Way board president, and Heath Johnson, one of the 2013 campaign chairs.
United Way executive director Tom Agnitsch said he asked DeBoer for ideas on who should be this year's campaign chair.
“We need someone that's windy,” DeBoer supposedly said. So Johnson was a good fit because he works in wind energy, Agnitsch said.
Johnson and his wife, Stacy, are co-chairs. Stacy, an attorney who was not able to attend the breakfast, was tied up in a two-day trial. She is trying to take care of business before the birth of their third child, which is due next week.
"I don't think they allow you to have kids in court,” Heath Johnson said.
The couple has two sons, ages 7 and 4. Stacy Johnson works for Richardson, Wyly, Wise, Sauck and Hieb. Heath is one of the owners of Dakota Plains Energy.
Johnson noted that Avera St. Luke's allows DeBoer the freedom to do United Way work on business time.
“I'm self-employed, so I allow myself to do this,” he said.
Johnson reported the Rails Club last year raised $241,000, about one-third of the total amount raised in the United Way drive.
This year, the group already has raised $55,500 on the way to a goal of $250,000, he said. The Rails Club consists of individuals who pledge $500 or more toward United Way. He also talked about the Pacesetters, whose campaigns are conducted in September.
Two other individuals, representing United Way agencies, gave presentations. Vicki Holley talked about the dental van provided by CASSP, the Children and Adolescent Service System program. She said the dental van served 109 young people in two weeks in July. Dental services are provided to people up to 20 years of age.
Holley said three years ago, 50 percent of the patients were on Medicaid, and the other half had no dental insurance. Now, only about 30 percent are on Medicaid and 70 percent don't have insurance.
When people run into financial trouble, dental insurance is one of the first things to go, she said. “If you've ever had a child who has a toothache, you know that's a pretty troubling time.”
Holley praised the dentists who work in the van.
“These people are just like the Marines. They adapt, they adjust, they improvise.”
City transportation director Mike Wilson talked about Ride Line. Among other things, Wilson reported that Ride Line has a contract with Head Start.
Rodney Johnson, a local pastor, continued his tradition of playing a song at the annual breakfast. Johnson said after arriving from California, he initially planned to move away, but fell in love with Aberdeen. “I've never seen a community that gives as much as this community,” he said.
United Way of Northeastern South Dakota supports 19 agencies that provide 45 programs in six counties, including Brown, Day, Edmunds, Marshall, McPherson and Spink.
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