United Way raises $3,500 without fire

Published 9:17 am Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Even without an actual fire, United Way raised more than $3,500 during its annual Keep the Fires Burning event on Friday.

“We didn’t get any comments about not having the fire,” said Ann Austin, executive director of the Freeborn County United Way.

“The fire is fun — and it does help keep people warm,” she continued. “We’ll probably try to do it next year since the new location worked out so well.”

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This was the fifth year that Freeborn County United Way participated in the Keep the Fires Burning event and the first year at a new location, on the corner of Broadway Avenue and Main Street in Albert Lea. It was because of the new location that the local chapter decided not to burn an actual fire during this year’s event.

In the past, the local chapter has embraced this symbolism by burning an actual fire, adding wood to keep the fire burning as donations are collected.

“The symbolism of the fire is that in a person’s darkest hour, whatever their need is — physical, emotional, etc. — United Way provides a light for them to guide them through,” said Austin.

According to Austin, this year’s goal was to raise at least $5,000. They fell a little short, raising $3,532. Last year, the event raised $3,900.

“It’s hard to say why we didn’t raise as much. It did seem like fewer people gave, although we’ve never actually taken count,” she said. “We received a lot of $1 bills and one man filled the bucket about one-third full with change!”

More than 30 volunteers donned yellow vests and collected donations at the event throughout the day.

Austin wanted to thank all of the volunteers who helped at the event along with KATE Radio, Power 96, the Albert Lea Tribune, KAAL-TV, the City of Albert Lea, the Minnesota Department of Transportation, the Family Y, Wells Fargo and all of the people who participated in the event.

All proceeds benefit Freeborn County United Way’s Live United campaign.

According to Austin, United Way funds 31 programs essential for the well-being of the community. She said these programs benefit community members of all ages and focus primarily on education, income and health.

Upcoming events

Potato bar fundraiser

Thorne Crest Retirement Community is hosting a potato bar fundraiser to benefit United Way today from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Enjoy a potato bar with all the fixings, including chili, cheese, salsa, bacon and onions, along with dessert and beverages. Donations will be taken at the door and all proceeds will benefit Freeborn County United Way. The community is invited to attend this annual event. Thorne Crest Retirement Community is located at 1201 Garfield Ave., Albert Lea.

Wine and beer tasting

Everyone is invited to a Holiday Grand Wine and Beer Tasting at Wedgewood Cove Golf Club on Friday. Fountain Warehouse Liquor is sponsoring the event, with more than 70 different wines and beers to taste. The event begins will be from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. and no reservations are needed. A $20 donation per person will be accepted at the door with all proceeds benefiting Freeborn County United Way. Also enjoy a silent auction and hors d’oeuvres.