Opinion

United Way of Whatcom County honors workplaces and spotlights lives changed

No one program, individual or organization can strengthen a community alone. It takes all of us and a variety of solutions and strategies working together to solve crucial community-wide issues in education, income and health. Thanks to the amazing organizations and employees that participated in our 2014 Workplace Giving Campaign, United Way of Whatcom County is in a strong position to continue to work towards ensuring that all children have access to early learning, all families have a safe place to sleep at night and that everyone has access to the crucial medical care that they need. Together, through the generosity of our local supporters, we can make our vision of a stronger community a reality and we would like to give our sincerest thanks to our community for making it possible.

Recently we hosted our annual awards banquet. It was an exceptional time to honor a variety of community partners and celebrate success. The United Way of Whatcom County’s annual event shines a light on the individuals and organizations that make our annual Workplace Giving Campaign a success and celebrates the impacts that will be made in the community due to those efforts.

Throughout the evening local non-profit leaders shared inspirational stories of individuals whose lives were changed thanks to support from United Way of Whatcom County. Karen Ekdahl, executive director for Bellingham Childcare & Learning Center, gave the crowd a glimpse in to the life of a little boy who needed extra support for learning due to his autism. His low-income family was able to get the help they needed and he was able to enter school on track and with the necessary skills to ensure success in his educational career. Riannon Bardsley, executive director for Northwest Youth Services, shared stories of a struggling youth who was able to get his life back on track, finding a job, a home and self-confidence. Elya Moore, deputy director for Whatcom Alliance for Health Advancement, painted a picture of the variety of services that came together to ensure that one man with disabilities had access to crucial medical needs as well as job opportunities. His condition is now stable and he is working towards a degree in order to give back to the community that helped him in his time of need.

We honored our top supporters with the Super Star awards, given to the top three largest Workplace Giving Campaigns in Whatcom County: BP Cherry Point Refinery, Phillips 66 Ferndale Refinery and PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center. These three organizations and their generous employees form an amazing foundation of support making up almost one third of the total United Way Campaign here in Whatcom County.

Kori Olsen from WTA was honored with the Campaign Coordinator of the Year Award in thanks for her dedication and hard work in surpassing WTA’s total giving from last year. A special award, the Cornerstone Award, was presented to Whatcom Educational Credit Union for its on-going support in creating strength and stability for United Way and for the community. Samson Rope Technologies was honored with an Inspiration Award for its unique approach to their campaign by engaging employees, having them share their stories of how a United Way-funded program personally changed their lives. The Community Partner Award was presented to Washington Federal for its above-and-beyond support of the campaign as well as providing a generous donation of office space on the top floor of its Cornwall branch building.

The most prestigious award of the night, The Joseph and Anne McClain award, was presented to the company that provided exceptional support. This year Mills Electric was honored with the Joseph and Anne McClain award for doubling its campaign both in dollars and in number of donors. Check out the full list of award winners online at unitedwaywhatcom.org.

These individuals and organizations make our work possible. From all of us at United Way of Whatcom County: thank you for making great things happen in our community!

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