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Cornell Dining team does the floss at the Cornell United Way campaign kickoff Sept. 26 in the Willard Straight Memorial Room.

United Way kickoff mixes comedy and commitment

Rick Burgess and Pat Wynn co-chair the 2018 Cornell United Way campaign.

In the first 24 hours of the 2018 Cornell United Way campaign, $91,362 was raised in pledges or gifts by 177 members of the Cornell community. The campaign goal is $750,000.

A festive celebration in Willard Straight Hall kicked off the campaign Sept. 26. The tone of the celebration was set by Cornell Catering’s director, Brandon Fortenberry, master of ceremonies, and the Floss, a Cornell Dining dancing team. Campaign co-chairs Pat Wynn, executive director of Campus Life Enterprise Services, and Rick Burgess, vice president for Facilities and Campus Services, posing as “Peaches and Rick,” starred in a Cornell-oriented rendition of “We’re United.” Fortenberry closed the celebration with a comedy routine.

Punctuating this light-hearted gathering were appeals to pledge online using a computer set up in the Memorial Room; stories of local residents who benefited from community agencies supported by the United Way; and reasons for the audience to give to the campaign. Former campaign chair Andy Noel, Meakem*Smith Director of Athletics and Physical Education, set the bar for those wanting to join the campaign’s President’s Leadership Association. The President’s Leadership Association requires a minimum donation of $1,000, and those who join will be feted at a celebration on February 6, 2019.

All gifts and pledges, of any amount, make a real difference in the lives of those in need, event organizers stressed. “Just $1 per paycheck will provide five days of Meals on Wheels for one person, two round trips to transport a rural mom and her baby to a pediatrician, or an hour of home health aide services,” said Fortenberry.

Brandon Fortenberry, director of Cornell Catering, serves as emcee at the 2018 Cornell United Way campaign kickoff.

Fortenberry also highlighted the flexibility that donors have in designating where their funds are used. “Did you know that you now can designate any 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization to get funds from the United Way? For example, you can designate that some or all of your pledge goes to the SPCA,” he said. Donors can also pledge money to go outside of Tompkins County, “to an agency in the neighborhood where you live,” Fortenberry said.

Cornell United Way unit director volunteers read personal narratives by local residents who were helped by agencies supported through United Way funding: a mom with three children who moved to Ithaca and found a job through Challenge Workforce Solutions; an elderly woman receiving prepared meals through Foodnet Meals on Wheels; and a doctoral student in neuroscience whose apprenticeships with the Learning Web gave her experience at Cornell’s Spacecraft Planetary Imaging Facility and the Wilson Synchrontron.

Visit the Cornell United Way website for more information, or pledge online. To volunteer to help the Cornell United Way campaign in the coming weeks, email campus United Way coordinator Susan Riley.

Media Contact

Lindsey Hadlock