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United Way of Wyandotte County honors gifts from GM workers

Bill Kulhanek, plant manager at the GM Fairfax plant, was the keynote speaker at the United Way of Wyandotte County annual meeting on Nov. 19.
Bill Kulhanek, plant manager at the GM Fairfax plant, was the keynote speaker at the United Way of Wyandotte County annual meeting on Nov. 19. Submitted photo

Throughout the year, the United Way of Wyandotte County contributes significant amounts of money to agencies dedicated to making life better for those less fortunate.

“We have what we call a community impact plan,” said Wendell Maddox, president and CEO of United Way of Wyandotte County. “It has three major issue areas.”

Those areas are meeting basic needs, promoting health and quality of life, and nurturing children and families.

“(In) each one of these issue areas we fund agencies who provide specific services,” Maddox said. “We have 29 agencies, and among those agencies, they provide 45 programs and services.”

It takes donations from the community to make these programs work efficiently.

At the United Way of Wyandotte County annual meeting on Nov. 19, more than 200 guests gathered at the Reardon Center to honor some of the people who have made the year rewarding.

One of the big donors was the General Motors Fairfax Assembly Plant in Kansas City, Kan. This year employees at the Fairfax plant contributed $288,000 through payroll deductions, and the GM Foundation gave an additional $50,000 gift. Along with some in plant fundraisers, the total gift this year was about $345,000.

“In addition to focusing on the customer, which has resulted in producing award-winning vehicles, GM plants and its employees are dedicated to improving local communities,” said Bill Kulhanek, plant manager at Fairfax.

Maddox said the Fairfax plant is the number one contributor of what he calls the big six. The others are Proctor and Gamble, Kansas City Board of Public Utilities, Kellogg, Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools and KU Hospital.

“Knowing we give the largest gift is very humbling,” Kulhanek said. “This is a true testament to our employees and their generosity. 

“There are so many other companies other than GM that make large gifts to the United Way, and regardless of the size of the gift, each company that makes a gift should be applauded and acknowledged. It takes each and every one of us to make a difference.”

The contributions by the Fairfax plant make up 24 percent of the budget for United Way of Wyandotte County. Without them, United Way of Wyandotte County would be hurt significantly.

“It would be huge,” Maddox said. “We would have to reduce the number of agencies we support. We would have to reduce the number of staffing here. Program and services would definitely diminish. Some programs might not exist.”

One way United Way of Wyandotte County acknowledged the long involvement of the Fairfax plant was asking Kulhanek to be the keynote speaker at the annual meeting this year.

“One of the main reasons they were picked was because they are strong supporters of ours,” Maddox said. “We wanted an opportunity to showcase them and for the community to know what they do for us.”

Kulhanek said he was honored to hear the United Way of Wyandotte County praise the contributions of General Motors at the annual meeting.

“We (GM) are very fortunate that we are able to partner with and give to such a worthy organization that is supporting our local community where our employees work and live,” Kulhanek said.

The contributions were used to provide housing for more than 900 individuals and families that are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, provide primary medical care for more than 160 local uninsured or underinsured individuals, and provide early education programs to more than 1,000 Wyandotte County children.

“We all need a quality education, a sufficient income to support a family, sound mental and physical health and a safety net in times of crisis,” Kulhanek said. “We need long-lasting changes to prevent problems from happening.”

General Motors has been a supporter of the United Way for more than 50 years. In the last five years, more than $80 million has been raised and put back into the communities where GM employees live and work. The Fairfax plant has been a part of the campaign for more than 40 years.  Since 2000, the plant has donated nearly $7 million.

“To live united means being a part of the change, and through our continued partnership with United Way, we remain committed to live united, being part of change, building a stronger community and helping those in need,” Kulhanek said.

If you have a story you would like to see in Making a Difference, email David Boyce at Drive@kcstar.com

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