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United Way kicks off fundraising campaign

United Way Executive Director Elizabeth Shelton joins Darren Burgfeld, center, and Eric Sean in the “broadcast booth” to discuss how United Way helps people win the “Game of Life” at the United Way kickoff event Thursday. Photo by Gregory Dullum

The United Way of Southeast Missouri kicked off its 2022-23 fundraising campaign with a sports-and-game-themed luncheon at the Cape Girardeau VFW Hall Thursday, Sept. 1.

This was the first live kickoff event since 2019, because the 2020 and 2021 events were cancelled over COVID-19 concerns.

United Way Executive Director Elizabeth Shelton sat at an ESPN-labeled table with United Way Board Member Darren Burgfeld and Sportscaster Eric Sean to deliver in true sportscasting fashion the “meat” of the meeting. To add humor, Shelton often mixed her sports metaphors.

United Way focus

“We have a new team of partners who have had a string of successes helping everyone win the game of life,” Burgfeld announced.

“If there’s one team that can take the hits and keep on running, its United Way of Southeast Missouri and their powerful network of funded partners,” Sean added.

“The United Way lineup tackles problems most ordinary players run from: hunger, homelessness, substance abuse, mental health challenges—so many issues that would cause someone to feel like they are losing the game of Life,” Burgfeld continued.

“But the United Way Team racks up wins by sticking to basics, and those are the fundamentals of success: education, income stability and health,” Sean noted. “You know, it’s like a relay race; every leg has to be strong. To win the game of life you’ve got to have a good education, good health and a stable income.”

Those three things are the main focus of United Way and were used to help selected the funded partners for the next three years.

Funded partners

Thirty agencies, representing 34 programs, have returned as United Way funded partners for the next three years. They include:

• 4-H of Bollinger County;
• American Red Cross;
• ABCToday;
• Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri;
• A.P.P.L.E. Project;
• Boy Scouts of America Greater St. Louis Council;
• Boys and Girls Clubs of Southeast Missouri;
• Cape Girardeau Public Schools;
• Community Partnership of Southeast Missouri;
• Early Prevention Impacts Community (E.P.I.C.);
• First Call for Health;
• Foster Adopt Connect;
• Girl Scouts of the Missouri Heartland;
• Habitat for Humanity;
• Jackson Senior Center;
• Little Whitewater Baptist Church Food Pantry;
• Lutheran Family & Children’s Services;
• Mississippi Valley Therapeutic Horsemanship;
• New Life Mission Inn;
• One City;
• Oral Health Coalition;
• Read to Succeed;
• Salvation Army
• Scott City Ministerial Alliance & Benevolent Fund;
• Jackson Ministerial Alliance Food Pantry;
• Safe House for Women;
• SEMO Alliance for Disability Independence (S.A.-D.I.);
• Southeast Missouri State University Center for Speech and Hearing;
• Tiger Lilies
• Voices for Children/CASA; and
• 211 Informational and Referral Service.

United Way is also funding some new partners, includingAging Matters Aging RX, the Cape Adult Education & Literacy Program, the Civil Air Patrol Cadet Program, Hope Therapeutic Horsemanship Center in Scott City and the Regional Family Crisis Center.

“We are so excited to be back in person, having live, in-person events again,” said “Team Captain” Shelton. “Thank you for helping kick off the season that is sure to be a home run.”

Shelton introduced the United Way staff, including Donna Noe, operations manager, Mark Stone, director of marketing development, Ciera Schlie, marketing VISTA, Robin Koetting, Read to Succeed, and Denise Wimp, First Call for Help.

Shelton said that out of every donated dollar, 98 cents go to funded partners. This is made possible by corporate sponsors.

Shelton stated, “It would be a very different story without corporate support on the infield and in the back nine.” Each of the corporate sponsors were then recognized.

The United Way Board of Directors were introduced by Shelton: Brandy McIntire (president), Jay Wolz (vice president), Jane Myers (treasurer), Jack Geissinger, WyKeshia Atkins, Brad LaBruyere, Darren Burgfeld, Bill Kuecker, Brooke Roth and John Spear.

United Way supports programs, not just agencies. Agencies must report back to the United Way the success of the programs being funded. “By investing in specific programs, and requesting annual outcomes or reports from our partners, we are able to deliver on our promise that our donors’ gifts are a line drive to the end zone, going directly to the program that helps people right here in Southeast Missouri,” Shelton quipped.

In the past, United Way formed an education coalition that worked to improve the graduation rate up to 90 percent at Cape Girardeau Public Schools.

“This year, we’re taking the same approach to transportation,” said Shelton. “We are forming a regional transportation coalition to research challenges and identify resources to better address this need in our community.”

Volunteers who took part in the “Over the Edge” fundraiser were recognized.

“After much discussion and number crunching, our board voted not to repeat Going Over the Edge,” announced Burgfeld. “The return on investment simply didn’t justify the expense of the financial and human resources of this very small team to pull it off again.”

The following United Way events and fundraisers are planned:

• Saturday, Sept. 17: Free tickets are available to donors for the first SEMO home football game.
• Friday, Oct. 14: 35th annual golf tournament at the Cape Country Club.
• Saturday, Nov. 12: First SEMO men’s basketball game with 50% of ticket sales going to United Way.
• December: Drive to collect new and gently used family games.
• Early 2023: Online trivia and bingo via Facebook Live.
• Spring/Summer 2021: Exciting community-wide and donor-only events planned to wrap up the 2022-23 campaign.

United Way usually has a community awards celebration in the spring, but because there has not been one for two years, the following awards were presented:

A Lifetime Giving Award was presented to Jackson Mayor Dwain Hahs and his wife, Susan. A second Lifetime Giving Award was presented to Wayne Nesslein. The Family Giving Award was presented to Ludeane Ruzicka and her son, Jay Wolz. The Spirit of Caring Award was presented to Voices for Children/CASA.

Gregory Dullum has worked for The Cash-Book Journal for more than 25 years. Prior to becoming the editor in May 2017, he was production manager, circulation manager and reporter. Before moving to Cape Girardeau in 1988, he was editor of the Saint Louis Park Sailor, a weekly community newspaper in suburban Minneapolis, MN. A native of Minnesota, he returned there after graduating with distinction in 1978 from Ambassador College in Pasadena, CA, with a degree in mass communications. His wife, Marie, whom he met in college, is a native of Zalma, a small town in southeast Missouri. They have two grown daughters and five grandchildren. Gregory may be reached at

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