Joel Duling speaks about the work of United Way during the local chapter’s campaign kickoff breakfast on Tuesday, Oct. 17. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Kendal Groner)

By Kendal Groner

With a focus on education, financial stability and health, United Way works to improve the lives of communities all around the world. With nearly 1,800 United Way chapters, the nonprofit is powered by over 2.8 million volunteers and 9.8 million donors.

On Tuesday Oct.17, the Unicoi United Way held its fundraising kickoff breakfast at the Clinchfield Senior Adult Center. Dozens of community members and leaders, business owners and school officials attended the event to share their support and enthusiasm for the organization’s fundraising efforts.

The Rotary Club of Unicoi County, Unicoi County Family YMCA, Contact Ministries 211, Children’s Advocacy Center of the First Judicial District, Unicoi County Little League, Change is Possible (CHIPS) Family Violence Shelter, Unicoi County/Erwin Health Department, Unicoi County Shoe Fund, Second Harvest Food Bank, Sequoyah Council Boy Scouts of America, Clinchfield Senior Adult Center, Unicoi County Dental Schools Program and Backpack Program, Unicoi County 4-H, Tennessee Rehabilitation Center, Unicoi County Habitat for Humanity, The Monroe Foundation and CASA of Northeast Tennessee all receive funding from Unicoi County United Way.

“Our major role is to provide funding for all the nonprofits in the area that we serve,” said Lee Brown, president of the Unicoi County United Way. “One of the highlights is the backpack program where we take kids shopping for school supplies, and we provide support for the Christmas shopping tours that reach a lot of children.”

Brown welcomed attendees at the breakfast before Matthew Laws and Macy Miller from Unicoi County Middle School gave an invocation and Pledge of Allegiance followed by the National Anthem.

After breakfast was provided by volunteers, Carolyn McAmis, United Way board member, showed the 2018 fundraising campaign video followed by the keynote speaker, Joel Duling, president of Nuclear Fuel Services, Inc.

“I’ve lived in a lot of places around the country .. .and the common thing I see is people in need. From the single parent that’s trying to raise their kids and has to choose between food and paying the electric bill, kids who don’t have what they need for school, broken families, and families affected by drug use .. .all of those things are out there across the country,” Duling said. “United way is really one of the things I’ve been involved with that helps in so many ways.”

The Unicoi United Way has a goal for 2018 of $120,000. The organization will be fundraising from now until Dec. 7 afterwhich they will have a victory luncheon if fundraising goals are met.

“We need every dollar of that,” said David Erickson, United Way vice president. “I think it’s important as we go forward that we get out and mention Unicoi County United Way. We’re one of the few United Ways that distributes a large portion of that dollar back into the community. We are a great organization and just about everyone here is a volunteer.”

The Unicoi County United Way is always happy to receive additional volunteers or donations. For more information, contact the Unicoi United way via phone, 743 5111, or via email, unitedwayunicoicounty@gmail.com.

“The great thing about Unicoi United Way is it provides funding from birth to senior adults. We’re able to touch so many people at so many different stages of their lives. It’s an amazing thing that we can do in a small community,” said Brown.