Pacesetters raise more than $1 million as nonprofit kicks off yearly campaign to help others

Andy Paden emcees the United Way of Norman’s community kickoff event Friday at the National Weather Center. Pacesetter organizations raised more than $1 million to start the United Way’s fundraising efforts.

The United Way of Norman kicked off their community fundraising campaign Friday afternoon. But Norman already has a head start, thanks to the more than $1 million raised by Pacesetters, companies that have a history of giving and organize fundraising campaigns prior to the community kickoff.

The United Way has a goal of reaching 32,000 people this year — and even more, if possible, as there are at least an additional 9,000 people in Cleveland County who need programs the United Way funds through their partner agencies. With cuts to the state budget and a down economy, the local need for services is even greater than normal.

That’s the challenge United Way CEO and President Von Allen extended to the Norman community Friday afternoon at the kickoff event, hosted at the National Weather Center.

“It’s hard to raise money like we do every year,” he said. “Nobody else in Norman, other than the University of Oklahoma, raises $2 million or more each year. Over the past 15 years, our community has around $28 million invested in the people of this community.”

Allen said more than half of the 27 agencies the United Way funds programs for have experienced budget cuts, including the United Way. Variety Care took a $1.7 million hit overnight.

“Only in Norman, because of the support of United Way and Norman Regional Hospital, are they able to see new, uninsured patients,” Allen said.

Fundraising campaign co-chairs Joey Wishnuck, Robin Allen, Mark Millsap and J.D. Younger revealed the total amount raised by Pacesetters: $1,017,292.

“Go out, tell your co-workers, tell your family members, make sure they know their investment is being well taken care of, and their return is immeasurable,” Younger said. “That’s a message you have to carry. That’s what we’re looking forward to.”

Andy Paden, who emceed the event, said the celebration was for companies that had set the campaign on the right track.

“The groundwork has been laid. We know whether we’re going to be successful, based on what is announced today,” he said. “The momentum has been established.”

The community fundraising effort will run through Dec. 1. The United Way hopes to distribute more than $2 million to partner agencies following the campaign.

“You guys went first; you set the tone,” Allen said to representatives of Pacesetter companies in the audience. “You guys did well. I want to say ‘thank you.’ There is still work to do.”

The United Way of Norman funds programs at 27 local nonprofit organizations. The United Way and these agencies work together to create lasting community changes in Norman, Noble and southern Cleveland County. For more information or to give to the United Way of Norman, visit UnitedWay-Norman.org