Live United: Don’t forget the stories, people who will benefit from fundraisers

Published 8:45 pm Friday, October 7, 2022

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Live United by Erin Haag

We’ve been working hard to polish up the details and finalize our silent auction items, and make sure that everyone knows about the fundraiser. For those of you who might not have heard about it yet, here’s the scoop. United Way is having its first large public fundraiser since 2017 on Friday, Oct. 14, at Wedgewood Cove. For $25 tickets ($30 at the door), you’ll be able to come and enjoy a night of fun casino type games with your “fun money.” There’s a variety of games, and you don’t need to know how to play— I certainly don’t. Our volunteer “celebrity dealers,” such as Jeff Strom, lieutenant with the ALPD, and Matt Moller, proprietor of Homestead Boutique, will be on hand to guide you through the game. In between trying your hand at Texas Hold ’em or Blackjack without the risk to your wallet, you’ll be able to enjoy a cash bar, a  buffet with Wedgewood’s most popular appetizers such as their meatballs, vegetable eggrolls, pretzels with beer cheese dip and more. Of course, we’ll have silent auction items, which include baskets from our popular small businesses and beautiful handmade items. In my house, my little girl wants to do her part, so she’s been planning a couple of paintings, and even considering donating fresh farm eggs from her chickens. I, of course, have told her that it’s her decision, but I’m very curious what she’s going to come up with. My son is still asking to come, because he heard me talk about how we need people who are outgoing and talking to people to serve as the celebrity dealers. He tells me he can wow people with animal facts. We’re considering letting him come for an hour. He then was planning his outfit, and apparently celebrity dealers are secretly cowboys complete with bandannas. For the rest of us that don’t have a basket of costumes, come as you are. There are bonus points if you arrive in a full 1920s tuxedo or flapper dress, or a glitzy, sparkly Old Vegas ballgown, but that’s just for sheer entertainment value. The rest of us will be wearing jeans and sweaters, or maybe a little dressier in a pair of black slacks. I have no idea what I’m going to wear, I’ll figure it out, and so will you. Tickets are on sale now at the Albert Lea Family Y, the Convention & Visitor’s Bureau or the United Way office, which is generally open from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday at 2610 Y.H. Hanson Ave. We also have an online option available at

Erin Haag

Now that I’ve made sure everyone knows the details and what to expect, I wanted to share with you how I was reminded of why we’re doing this fundraiser. Last week, I was running around town, dropping posters off, grabbing the mail and other odds and ends. I stopped a local retail store and met a woman who had moved to the area last year. She was very interested about the fundraiser, but asked lots of questions about United Way as well. We talked about our work and I shared our flyers for Welcome Pantry, Winter Gear Drive and our Community Impact Handout, which gives an overview of all our programs and investments. 

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Suddenly, the moment changed. As I stood there in this pretty little shop with the sun streaming through the window and the smell of lavender, I watched this friendly woman tear up. She took a deep breath and then looked at me. She held up our handout that gives an overview of why we do the food pantry. On that handout there’s a quote from a client. “I make 37 dollars too much for food stamps.” 

She told me, “I made $14 too much for food stamps. This is me. This is what I needed. Three kids, trying to leave an abusive relationship, and there just wasn’t ever enough, no matter how much I worked.” 

That moment has stayed with me all week. The funds that we raise will be ensuring that we’re able to offer programming that provides support and services for those in all kinds of situations. It’ll be ensuring that we’re able to offer our Community Investment Grants, which will ensure that our area nonprofit partner programs are able to provide the support and services for their clients as well. Working together, in a collaborative spirit our organizations can come together to solve problems that no one can solve alone. That’s what it means to Live United, and that’s why we’re hoping you’ll join us this fall to Give Where You Live. Through a donation, through attending our fundraisers, or volunteering, there’s a place for you to become engaged in our community. I’m grateful every day for those who have joined us already and hope that you’ll join us, too. 

Erin Haag is the executive director of the United Way of Freeborn County.