Donations help fuel the fire

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 17, 2006

By Rebecca Houg, staff writer

Volunteers for the United Way of Freeborn County&8217;s Keep the Fires Burning fundraiser collected $5,370 Thursday bringing them to well over 50 percent of their total goal of $ 540,000.

With temperatures in the low 30s, volunteers literally needed to keep the fires burning to keep warm.

Jean Pestorious, a United Way board member, attended the fundraiser at the Northpark Plaza parking lot on Bridge Avenue near the intersection with Marshall Street to do her part to help collect donations.

&8220;It just warms your heart, when you can help so many people,&8221; Pestorious said. &8220;It&8217;s a great fundraiser. It&8217;s done in a confined amount of time and it&8217;s a really neat thing to do.&8221;

This is the second year they&8217;ve done this particular fundraiser she said. Last year, it raised $10,000.

&8220;Even if people don&8217;t contribute, at least we&8217;re out here waving and thanking them for the donations they have already made,&8221; Pestorious said.

The money raised by United Way this fall helps fund 18 agencies running 29 different programs that meet the needs of the community.

&8220;Ninety-nine percent of the money stays here in Freeborn County,&8221; said Phil Bartusek. Bartusek and his wife, Mary, are heading the campaign this year.

&8220;People can know their money is staying here and making a difference in the lives of their friends and neighbors,&8221; Phil said.

Every dime and dollar donated is appreciated, United Way Director Dave Bonnerup said. This is his first campaign as director and he said it&8217;s been a good one.

&8220;Some days I get a little nervous, but we&8217;ve got a lot of great volunteers and we&8217;re doing good,&8221; he said.

Right now, United Way is about half way to its $540,000 goal. There are a couple of major businesses that need to turn in their pledges that should bring in a significant amount of the remaining funds.

&8220;We still have a lot of small businesses out there that we need to get in. It&8217;s a hard time right now, everybody&8217;s busy,&8221; Bonnerup said.

He said they are ahead of last year&8217;s progress by about $80,000 right now, and he finds that encouraging.

&8220;Both county and city residential giving have been great. We are at 100 percent of our projected goals right now in those areas,&8221; he said.

The Keep the Fires Burning fundraiser is symbolic of keeping the agencies programs going, but it also emphasizes the end of the campaign, Bonnerup said.

&8220;It serves as a reminder to people that they need to turn in their donations,&8221; he said.

Leon Bure is one of the many people served by the programs United Way funds. He was also on hand Thursday to help collect donations.

&8220;I have helped a lot with the campaign, talking to the employees at the different companies,&8221; Bure said.

He said he feels like giving back to the organization that gave so much to help him out. Bure has been employed as a janitor through the Cedar Valley Services program since 1993 working at Herbergers and Progress Castings.

Even with the many programs United Way funds, there are still some issues that need to be addressed in the community in the areas of early childhood and senior resources, Bartusek said.

&8220;There&8217;s a real need out there. Without those United Way dollars, they would not be able to offer the programs they do,&8221; he said. &8220;If everyone would give a little bit, it would add up.&8221;

Campaign volunteers have a Nov. 30 deadline to make their initial contacts and then the month of December is reserved for follow up calls and collecting pledges.