United Way rocks into 2011

Published 1:30 pm Saturday, January 15, 2011

The United Way of Freeborn County isn’t letting a shortfall in the 2010 campaign dampen its spirits for the new year.

In fact, the local chapter is just going to rock on.

Ann Austin

United Way will host it’s first-ever Battle of the Bands on June 12 on the grassy lot at Bergdale Harley-Davidson of Albert Lea.

“It’s for the whole community, anybody who loves music, and encourages our youth to get involved,” said Freeborn County United Way Executive Director Ann Austin. “A lot of times people do the same things, and we wanted to do something new and unique.”

Austin said it’s an idea that Bergdale’s Kristin Mummert presented to them a couple of years ago.

A few guidelines will apply to the event: the majority of band members must be under 25 years old, the band cannot be signed with a label yet, and while any genre of music is acceptable, it is a family event, so the lyrics must be appropriate. Although bands should bring their own equipment, Austin said that Marshall Street Music will provide amps and drum sets, “things that don’t travel as well” for the event.

Austin said the first year they plan to hone in on bands in the Albert Lea and Austin areas, but she hopes to grow the event to include bands from across southern Minnesota next year.

The bands will compete for various prizes, with the top prize of recording time at Legacy Studios in Albert Lea.

In addition, Austin said there are some other exciting campaign events in the works.

The local chapter plans to tweak its approach in 2011, as well, focusing more on volunteerism.

“There’s so much we can do to create a healthy community, she said. “If we band together, we can accomplish a great deal.”

It also plans to restructure for effectiveness and efficiency. Austin said although resources are becoming more limited, there’s no reason they cannot get more creative in their methods.

“Communication is key,” she added. “We really want to personalize this for people, so they can really see the impact, whether it’s by supporting United Way financially or through volunteerism.”

2010 campaign wraps with shortfall

The goal for the 2010 campaign was set at $650,000 last spring. The campaign ended up raising $596,627, which will be allocated in 2011. That was about $55,000 short of their goal.

The local chapter, however, remains positive.

“I think it went great. The structure, organization, volunteers, everything was just excellent,” said Austin. “Everyone’s hearts were in it, sharing stories. I think we can do more of that in the future because people were just amazed of services available in a community of our size.”

She said when the goal was originally set, the local chapter had no doubt it could be reached. Unexpected events throughout the community, however, including tornadoes in June and floods in September, made them look at the campaign in a new light.

“We had to take a realistic look at the campaign and understand we probably wouldn’t make it,” said Austin. “But we’re very happy with what we took in; very pleased with what the community donated in light of what’s gone on this year.”

She said because of the shortfall, some funding will have to be cut from some of the programs, which will be determined by the allocations committee at the end of January.

Among the major firms committed to the United Way 2010 campaign, almost half of the firms who gave to the Freeborn County chapter exceeded their donations from 2009, including: Albert Lea Select Foods, ALAMCO Wood Products, Innovance, Streater, Farmer’s State Bank, ShopKo, Interstate Packaging, Alliance Benefit Group, Mrs. Gerry’s Kitchen, Freeborn Mower Cooperative Service, Larson Manufacturing Company, Southern MN Lubes, Security Bank MN, UPS, Edwards Manufacturing, Motor Inn Company, Albert Lea Tribune, Independent Service Company, Four Seasons Travel, Bonnerup Funeral Service, Zenk Read Trygstad, Liberty Investments, United Employees Credit Union, Power 96/KQAQ, Bayview Funeral Home, American Bank, Alliant Energy and Albert Lea Electric.