Fernandina Beach, Fla. — United Way of Northeast Florida kicked off its 2014 Nassau County Community Campaign at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation on Oct. 22. More than 100 corporate, civic and community leaders attended the breakfast event where the goal was announced, success stories were celebrated and guests were energized to achieve big results that will make a big impact.
Stephen Lee, hospital president of Baptist Medical Center Nassau and chair for the 2014 Nassau County United Way Campaign, led the kickoff that highlighted how United Way’s research-based initiatives are improving the quality of life for Nassau County residents with measured outcomes in education, income and health.
Nassau County is one of five counties that will benefit from the programs and initiatives funded by the $21.3 million that United Way plans to raise across northeast Florida this campaign season.
“Each year, we are making a more significant impact and changing lives right here in our community,” said Lee. “Last year, Nassau County donors increased their giving by 11 percent, a truly monumental increase. We’re nearly a quarter of the way to our $21.3 million goal, and I know that with your help and your support, we will achieve even bigger results with an even bigger impact that will improve the quality of life for all!”
This year’s kickoff was the first for new United Way of Northeast Florida president and CEO, Michelle Braun, who began her role in July 2014 after a community development career in the financial and nonprofit sectors.
“Because of the support of generous donors and volunteers, many northeast Florida families are served through our Success By 6, ReadingPals, RealSense, 2-1-1 and additional programs and services,” Braun said. “As a result, children are entering kindergarten with the literacy and cognitive skills necessary for long-term academic success, graduation rates are increasing, families are learning to better manage their finances and they are accessing the care they need to lead productive lives,”
One of the highlights of the kickoff was five-year-old Hailey Reeder, who was awarded a free, two-year Success By 6 scholarship to attend Island Academy, an early learning center in Fernandina Beach. Today, Hailey is a well-prepared kindergartener who is excited about learning.
Hailey read to guests from her favorite book as her parents, Amanda and Brian Reeder proudly watched.
“When Hailey was given the scholarship at age three and accepted at Island Academy, our lives changed forever,” said Amanda Reeder. “The difference in her is more than we could have ever imagined. She loves learning and is doing great in kindergarten.”
Lee led a huge round of applause for Hailey and her parents. He then thanked guests for their attendance at the event.
“You hear us use the LIVE UNITED phrase a lot,” Lee said. “Living united is an idea that goes beyond successful campaigns and dollars raised. It’s about matching that success with impact that changes lives for good. We are so thankful and delighted to see the progress made in the 2014 campaign already because of fantastic leaders, businesses and volunteers, and we know that the best is yet to come.”
Each year, nearly 12,000 Nassau County residents’ lives are improved through United Way-funded programs such as Success By 6, including preschoolers, at-risk youth, people with disabilities, senior citizens, local families and many others. There are 11 Nassau County-based impact partners and a total of 44 United Way-funded programs that assist Nassau County residents.[hr]
About United Way of Northeast Florida
United Way focuses on education, income and health – the building blocks for a quality life. The organization supports measurable solutions to ensure children enter school ready to learn, students stay on track to graduation, families achieve financial stability and people have the tools to lead healthy, productive lives. More information can be found at unitedwaynefl.org.
Giving Back: Former school librarian shares her passion for reading through United Way’s ReadingPals