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Hosted at Bell Auditorium, this year’s festive themed event was unveiled as “Painting A Brighter Future”.  The auditorium was cleverly decorated in painting ephemera from drop cloths and wet paint signs to live caricature artists painting in the lobby.  The highlight of the event occurred when a surprise performance by artist Dan Dunn of PaintJam appeared on stage and showcased his talent live in front of the audience.  Furiously working on a revolving 6 foot sized canvas, the artist splashed and spattered paint to ultimately reveal a portrait of Ray Charles.  The audience applauded his work not once but twice as he wrapped up the event with another inspiring display of his talent as he created Lady Liberty.

Mayor Deke Copenhaver presented a Proclamation to LaVerne Gold, President/CEO of United Way, naming this “United Way Day” in Augusta in commemoration of their 75 years of service to the local community.

Dr. J. Michael Ash, United Way’s 2011 Board Chair, presented United Way Worldwide’s “Summit Awards” which honor company excellence in areas of Community Impact, Volunteer Engagement, and Philanthropic Engagement.  Awards were presented to Bank of America for Community Impact and Volunteer Engagement and to Procter & Gamble Manufacturing Company for Community Impact and Volunteer Engagement.

Zack Daffin, United Way’s 2011 Campaign Chair, announced United Way’s 2011 campaign goal of $4.1 million.  He challenged everyone to consider giving back to the community through their support of United Way, stating that, “It takes everyone working together to succeed.  United Way’s success is not just a dollar figure; it’s the countless number of lives that will be touched next year by a community working together.”

Mr. Daffin also announced that Bob Richards of Bob Richards Auto Group has donated a 2012 Nissan Sentra for this year’s campaign.  When you donate a minimum of $260 per year (just $5 per week), you become eligible for a ticket to win the car.  And, the more you donate, the more chances you have to win!  The winner will be announced in a drawing at the 2012 annual meeting next February.  More information is available at www.uwcsra.org.

Each year, United Way is fortunate to have assistance from a number of local companies who loan key employees that will work with United Way for the next 11 weeks helping to run campaigns throughout the community.  This year’s Loaned Professionals include:  de’Lisa Carrico, U.S. Department of Energy; Sherrie Cliett, Publix; Roger Duke, Savannah River Nuclear Solutions; April King, Sponsored by Georgia Power; Larry Laughlin, Sponsored by Savannah River Remediation; and Darrin Stancil, Elliott Davis, LLC.

Ten companies were recognized for running Pacesetter Campaigns this year, campaigns which are launched prior to the Kickoff:  Boy Scouts of America, Georgia-Carolina Council, Inc.;  Dillard’s; Macy’s; Palmetto GBA; SafeHomes, Inc.; Target; United Way of the CSRA Board of Directors; United Way of the CSRA Staff; UPS; Virginia College; and Walmart Stores, Inc.

The Kickoff was presented through the generosity of Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, AT&T, Procter & Gamble Manufacturing Company, ADP, Comcast, Georgia Health Sciences University, Georgia Power, Southern Nuclear Operating Company, and University Health Care System.  Paige Tucker and Jeff Rucker of WAGT NBC 26 presided over the event.