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United Way of Greater Kansas City raises $37.5 million

Updated: 2013-11-22T04:17:35Z

By MARÁ ROSE WILLIAMS

The Kansas City Star

By the time most everyone associated with this year’s United Way of Greater Kansas City campaign had been thanked and the total funds raised announced, Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel” was blaring and campaign leaders were doing a victory dance.

The final numbers: $37.5 million.

It’s still just a projected total. The bulk of the fundraising is done, said United Way president Brent Stewart, but several company campaigns are still going.

“But it’s a solid number,” Stewart said. “It is a great number. This is a victory celebration for the generosity of this community.”

If the number holds, this year’s 10-week campaign will tally $200,000 more than the organization raised last year.

Last year, with people from more than 1,600 businesses and organizations contributing, United Way of Greater Kansas City raised $37.3 million, an increase of more than $1 million from the previous year.

The campaign started with a strong showing from five pacesetting organizations — the Federal Reserve Bank, Garmin Ltd., McGladrey, RubinBrown LLP and UMB Bank — that kicked off the year’s giving by raising $2.2 million.

So it was a party, held in the evening at Starlight Theatre rather than the traditional hotel ballroom luncheon announcement.

Stewart said he wanted to celebrate at Starlight because in an economy on the rebound from a deep recession, “this was not an easy campaign.”

He added: “But during challenging times, people dug in even more.”

Stewart praised the leadership of Greg Graves, chief executive officer of Burns & McDonnell, and Patrick Dujakovich, president of the Greater Kansas City AFL-CIO, who served as co-chairmen of this year’s campaign.

At the campaign launch earlier this year, Graves, who described himself as “competitive to the bone,” promised to raise at least one more dollar than last year.

On Thursday, he felt triumphant.

“This feels good,” he said.

Graves gave special credit to companies that raised more than a million dollars, such as Hallmark at $2.55 million, Sprint at $2.08 million, Black & Veatch at $1.75 million and Graves’ company, which for the first time crossed the million-dollar threshold, raising $1.75 million.

Stewart told the gathering that Kansas City’s United Way “is the envy” of a lot of other United Way agencies.

“Great work happens in our community,” he said.

To reach Mará Rose Williams, call 816-234-4419 or send email to mdwilliams@kcstar.com.

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