The United Way of Northeast Kentucky’s (UWNEK) 2020-21 campaign kicked off in unique fashion today. Traditionally a breakfast event, the UWNEK kick-off this year took the form of a singing, traveling road show because of COVID-19.
A barbershop quartet comprised of members of the Singing Kernels accompanied UWNEK board members and volunteers as they made their way through the community to deliver campaign materials to area businesses. UWNEK CEO Jerri Compton credited the idea of the Singing Kernels assisting with the kick-off to this year’s campaign chair Bernard O’Nan. “Knowing we couldn’t have our kick-off event in the traditional manner, Bernard came up with a great idea to add a little flair and excitement to announce the start of this year’s campaign,” Compton said. “We wanted a safe way to hand out materials and since we couldn’t dine together, we thought a serenade from a distance would be a lot of fun.”
The singers and UWNEK representatives adhered to masking and social distancing guidelines, traveling in small numbers and singing from outside the businesses that were visited except in instances where lobbies were large enough to meet COVID-era precautions. “We know that this year’s campaign has challenges,” said O’Nan. “Because of COVID-19, a lot of the events and other fundraisers that businesses use in their internal campaigns simply can’t occur. It is why it’s more important than ever that our supporting businesses and their employees come together to have successful campaigns even if those campaigns look different than in previous years.”
The theme of the campaign this year builds on the United Way’s overarching theme of LIVE UNITED. “We have yard signs that state ‘In this house we LIVE UNITED,’ stickers for car or business windows that also state that “we LIVE UNITED,’” O’Nan said. “We need everyone to be in this…every person, every business, every group…everyone in our communities united for United Way.”
UWNEK funds initiatives that focus on education, empowerment and employment to improve area communities while also providing a layer of support for the most basic of needs. To address the COVID-19 crisis, UWNEK established a COVID-19 relief fund in March that to date has distributed more than $20,000 to area organizations helping those on the front lines of the pandemic.
“Many of the initiatives we support and the organizations that provide those initiatives are having their own struggles currently,” Compton noted. “Supporting the UWNEK’s annual campaign is one of the best ways to make the biggest difference with every dollar given as what we raise goes back into the local community and we are very targeted at seeing that donation makes a lasting difference. We distribute funding in a way that improves lives and communities, and we do so by making sure we can measure those improvements and that they are impactful at addressing the roots of the problems in our region. When you give to the UWNEK campaign, it doesn’t just help a single organization or person just once on a given day. Instead, you are helping to make systematic improvements that can change the entire future of that person.”
UWNEK representatives and the barbershop quartet started at the UWNEK offices and visited City National Bank, Kentucky Farmers Bank, Peoples Bank, Community Hospice, Member Choice Credit Union, First & Peoples Bank, and Ashland Credit Union. Business on tighter restrictions such as Marathon Petroleum and King’s Daughters Medical Center, as well as businesses outside of Ashland, such as First National Bank of Grayson, received video performances and were sent their campaign materials. “It seemed our visits were well received,” O’Nan said. “I think our area businesses appreciated the outreach. This year, we’re going to need the support of those businesses more than ever just like the communities they serve are going to need United Way.”
UWNEK is a volunteer-based nonprofit organization that works with community programs to improve lives in neighborhoods, schools and workplaces. Established in 1936, UWNEK serves Boyd, Carter, Elliott, Lawrence, and Greenup counties.
Donations to UWNEK’s 2020-21 campaign can be made online at uwnek.org/donate or via phone by calling the UWNEK office at 606.325.1810.
Connect to UWNEK via social media at facebook.com/uwnek.