United Way of Central Georgia 2015 campaign breaks $5 million mark

United Way of Central Georgia announces grant for education

United Way based in Macon exceeded $5 million for 2015 campaign; announced $500,000 AARP education grant to help tutor Middle Georgia students.
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United Way based in Macon exceeded $5 million for 2015 campaign; announced $500,000 AARP education grant to help tutor Middle Georgia students.

WARNER ROBINS -- United Way of Central Georgia has broken a record.

The organization raised $5,009,404 during the 2015 campaign, topping its $5 million goal.

The announcement came Tuesday during United Way's annual meeting, held at the Museum of Aviation's Century of Flight Hangar in Warner Robins.

"I really don't know what to say," said Eddie Norris, the 2015 campaign chairman. "This is the largest amount United Way has ever had, and we have never broken the $5 million mark in our history. This obviously is a huge accomplishment."

Last year the organization raised about $4.5 million.

"You have to have good leadership to do that," Norris said about reaching the new level.

For the past 12 years, Geico has donated the most to the local United Way. This year its employees contributed more than $922,000, and the company gave more than $201,000 for a total of $1.12 million.

As announced earlier, Theresa Robinson, region external affairs manager at Georgia Power, took over as chairwoman of United Way for 2016.

"Many thousands of lives are changed and our communities are improved each year by the hard work and dedication of our partner agencies' volunteers and staff," Robinson said. "I have witnessed extraordinary caring and results produced by the services provided to so many who need a helping hand."

The annual meeting also was an opportunity to recognize people who had made a significant impact during the year.

Mercer University English professor Mary Alice Morgan was presented with the second annual Lt. Randy Parker Memorial Volunteer of the Year award. The award was created to recognize an outstanding volunteer who has exhibited a spirit and dedication to raise awareness for everything United Way is doing in the community, George McCanless, president and CEO of United Way of Central Georgia, said. Parker, a firefighter, died in the line of duty in February 2015.

"Her concern for others less fortunate" led to other efforts, McCanless said. Morgan is an advocate for social justice on campus and in the community, having taken the lead on issues such as violence against women, sex trafficking and racial inequality, he said.

Morgan, also a senior vice provost for service learning at Mercer, was a co-principal investigator who brought the Promise Neighborhood initiative to the community, he said.

"That effort is the No. 1 reason that we have been able to bring in over $1 million in grants the past couple of years" for the Read2Succeed program, McCanless said.

United Way's inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to businessman Jack Steed, a former chairman of United Way of Houston County. McCanless said Steed has accomplished many things, mentioning that a Warner Robins park was named after Steed for his contribution to the Keep Warner Robins Beautiful Commission and that the existing United Way organization would not exist with him.

Steed was on the board of the Houston United Way when it merged with the Macon organization in 1989, and he saved the merger more than once during the process, McCanless said.

"And we became United Way of Central Georgia," due in great part to Steed's efforts, he said.

Steed also brought lots of water to the United Way staff during Macon's Great Flood of 1994 so workers could stay on the job and help with recovery efforts.

"You should leave this place better than you found it," Steed told those on hand after receiving the award.

Before the meeting, Dana Sawyer with Perdue Foods was presented with the Campaign Volunteer of the Year award.

To contact writer Linda S. Morris, call 744-4223 or follow her on Twitter @MidGaBiz.