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Want to rappel off a 5-story building? You can through United Way's new fundraising event

United Way of East Central Iowa announces new opportunities, reports on 2019 fundraising campaign at annual meeting

Kristin Roberts, CEO of United Way of East Central Iowa, speaks Thursday at the nonprofit's annual meeting at the Cedar
Kristin Roberts, CEO of United Way of East Central Iowa, speaks Thursday at the nonprofit’s annual meeting at the Cedar Rapids Marriott. Roberts started as CEO on Feb. 3. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — As the new CEO of United Way East Central Iowa, Kristin Roberts said she is ready to do anything and everything to make the organization’s 2020 fundraising campaign a success — including rappelling off the eight-story Dows Building in downtown Cedar Rapids this fall.

United Way announced the new event — called Over the Edge — at its annual meeting Thursday at the Cedar Rapids Marriott.

Leaders also discussed the 2019-20 campaign, honored volunteers and announced that James Klein, president of Cedar Rapids Bank & Trust, will be the 2020-21 campaign cabinetchairman.

The new event, Over the Edge, will offer people a chance to rappel down the Dows Building, on the corner of Second Street and Second Avenue SE, on Aug. 7.

“I guess the initiation is not over,” said Roberts, who become United Way’s CEO on Feb. 3.

Registration for the event will open later this year. Participants can register for $75 and will be encouraged to do peer-to-peer fundraising to raise $1,000 or more, which will secure their rappelling spot.

The event will kick off the 2020-21 United Way campaign

This past year was the first time United Way deployed a campaign cabinet of 20 volunteers to be the face of its annual campaign, led by a campaign chair, instead of having only one to three people lead the campaign.

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Dennis Jordan, chairman of the 2019-20 campaign, reported the campaign is on track to raise $7.8 million, down from the $8.6 million raised in 2017 and 2018.

“We have faced some significant headwinds in raising money,” Jordan said. “Over the years, there’s been a lot of changes afoot. The environment is changing in terms of how we go about doing workforce campaigns, and we are overcoming these challenges.”

United Way has “great momentum” going into next year, Jordan said, with 71 partner companies increasing their giving by at least 10 percent and 47 companies increasing by 10 percent.

United Way also had 49 new companies join its campaign in 2019. Other highlights of the past year included:

• Development of a board orientation and leadership development program, which graduated 26 young professionals in its first year.

• Women United East Central Iowa connected 12,895 underinsured or uninsured women to health care services.

• Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program helped 2,139 families complete tax returns and collect $3.8 million in refunds, which helped them pay rent, utility bills and groceries, Roberts said.

• The Jones County Volunteer Center helped needy residents, logging 66,700 miles, which is “going around the world 2.6 times,” Roberts said.

• 3,269 volunteers donated time, valued at $1.4 million, to local nonprofits.

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“As a team, we fight for the education, financial stability and health of every East Central Iowan,” Roberts said. “Thousands of volunteers, millions of donated dollars from you, your organizations, your employees, your co-workers, dozens of partner agencies and a team of dedicated professionals work together to make this mission possible.

“Every number you see here is a life ... with a full potential ahead of them, all because of your dedication to United Way.”

Comments: (319) 368-8664; grace.king@thegazette.com

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