COLUMBIA — The Heart of Missouri United Way launched its 2011 campaign in front of Columbians clad in "Live United" shirts with a breakfast at The Tiger Hotel on Friday.
The campaign’s goal for this year is $3.45 million, the largest goal yet for this United Way chapter. For 51 years, the Heart of Missouri group has exceeded the previous year’s goal. Business owners, residents, politicians, members of MU's Athletics Department and volunteers filled the room.
“This year, we hope to involve the community in a more broad way,” Tim Rich, executive director of the Heart of Missouri United Way, said after the event. “There are a lot of folks who can’t give money but can give their time.”
Rich introduced a video that showed the willingness of Columbia residents to help and donate their time to make the community excel.
The video also showed how part of the community needs help as well. It said that 40 percent of children in Columbia Public Schools live in poverty and that 200 children drop out of school each year.
“We try to bridge the gap between the people who need help in Columbia and the people who can give help in Columbia,” Rich said.
MU Athletics Director Mike Alden attended the breakfast and told the gathering the Heart of Missouri United Way reaches beyond Columbia. It donated more money than any group in the country or the world to relief efforts in Joplin.
Alden also unveiled a video of MU athletes' efforts to help Joplin, which will be shown at the football game Saturday.
Alden also introduced another video showing highlights from the Tigers' football victory over Oklahoma last year. He said teamwork, selflessness and checking egos at the door is not only what MU did to upset Oklahoma, but what players did when they dropped everything to travel more than 200 miles to get to Joplin and help.
MU accounts for more than 20 percent of the overall campaign’s goal, Rich said.
“MU is the number one major employer in Columbia,” he said. “We’re able to get in front of thousands of people through them. But there are also people at MU who are eligible for help from United Way.”
For the next few months, pledges will be made to complete the Heart of Missouri United Way’s goal, which will be used to support agencies such as Big Brothers Big Sisters, American Red Cross, Meals On Wheels and the Salvation Army.