Day of Caring kicks off the 2011 fundraising drive with nearly 1,500 volunteers performing acts of work and kindness for the Mid-South

Day of Caring 2011United Way of the Mid-South has kicked off our 2011-12 fundraising campaign as nearly 1,500 volunteers from across the region are performing work at local nonprofits as part of this year’s Day of Caring today.

The giant crowd of volunteers at Cummings Street Church for Day of Caring represented businesses, labor, faith groups, government and other sectors of the community.

United Way board members and an army of volunteers wearing “United Way – Live United” t-shirts gathered at Cummings Street Church at 8800 Winchester Rd., for an 8:00 a.m. kickoff rally for the season’s fundraising campaign. The rally was led by John Crowe, United Way’s General Campaign Chairman for this year’s fundraising drive. Crowe is also Chairman & CEO for Buckeye Technologies, Inc.

Highlights at the kickoff included a generous $1 million corporate contribution from FedEx presented by Shannon Brown, Sr. V.P. and Chief Human Resources Officer for FedEx Express. International Paper had a “real-time” update to its report for over $900,000 already raised, which was shared by John Balboni, International Paper’s Sr. V.P. and Chief Information Officer. Steve Franklin from Medtronic announced their organization had already raised over $119,000 after only six days of fundraising. United Way President Bryce Haugsdahl announced the United Way staff had personally given over $130,000 to the drive.

John Crowe (left) and John Balboni provide a memorable "real time" update to International Paper's fundraising campaign-to-date, thanks to the help of an e-mail to the stage and a marker correction to the giant check. The total so far is over $900,000 after only one week of fundraising! International Paper's goal is $1.22 million, an 8% increase over 2010's great result.

Kimberly Mitchell, Administrator, Homeless & Special Needs Department, Division of Housing and Community Development provided a report about Project Homeless Connect, a Day of Caring site that is utilizing nearly 400 United Way volunteers for its work to address numerous homelessness issues at one time, from one location.

Sally Wanzer, wife of Brad Wanzer and on behalf of the Wanzer family, presented the 2011 United Way G. Bradley Wanzer, Jr. Award For Excellence to SRVS in a ceremony where she and SRVS President Jeffrie Bruton shared memories of Brad’s impact on our organization and the local nonprofit community.

Shannon Brown (right) presented FedEx's amazing corporate gift of $1 million, which brought the crowd to its feet in applause. Brown also reminded the Day of Caring audience that this weekend's Memphis Airshow will benefit 3 United Way network partner agencies, and the FedEx 5K Fun Run in October will also benefit United Way's work in our community.

With our uncertain national economy and increasing need for nonprofit services, this year’s United Way fundraising effort is more important than ever for the Mid-South. The work performed by local volunteers during Day of Caring positively impacts local nonprofits, local people in need and our entire community.

Volunteers are participating in a wide variety of projects including landscaping, painting, grounds improvements, interacting with children and adults with special needs and other work contributing to our common good.

Day of Caring volunteers departed Cummings Street Church at 9:15 a.m. and most will work at local nonprofits through late afternoon. We hope to share numerous photos and video from the worksites here at the News Center.

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Photos: Paul Smothers, United Way

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