More than 1,000 people gathered Wednesday at Union Station to kick off the 2015 campaign for the United Way of Greater Kansas City.
The organization, which supports about 300 programs offered by about 170 agencies, hopes to exceed last year’s total of $35 million, but it has not set a specific goal.
The centerpiece of the program was an inspirational message from ABC reporter John Quiñones, who recounted how his family benefited from United Way programs while he was growing up in poverty in San Antonio.
“And here in Kansas City your (generosity) has been paying fantastic dividends, improving literacy, fighting poverty, bolstering well-being and health, jump-starting all kinds of careers, bettering lives,” Quiñones said. “I can think of no other organization that does so much for so many.”
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The Corporate Pinnacle Award was presented to J.E. Dunn Construction, which has supported the United Way for nearly 30 years.
The Adele Hall Spirit of Caring Award was presented to Bert Berkley, chairman of Tension Corp. and a longtime supporter of the United Way.
Danica Cherry of the American Cancer Society was the winner of the fourth annual Harley-Davidson motorcycle giveaway.
About 1,600 companies and organizations are expected to take part in the 2015 campaign. The United Way anticipates more than 60,000 donors. The campaign will conclude Dec. 3.
Citing census data, the United Way says there are more than 224,000 people in the six-county area living at or below the poverty line, including about 82,000 children. The number has grown since 2008.
The United Way is focusing on four core areas: poverty, literacy, career-readiness and well-being.
“Every day in Kansas City, someone wakes up feeling hopeless,” said Roshann Parris, co-chairwoman of this year’s campaign. “Not knowing where to turn. Not able to envision a better life. Not able to see their way out of a bad situation. … So we together are their solution team. We are their 911 call. We are their outstretched hand, their bridge to education, to financial stability, to better health.”