“Live United” was the catch-phrase of the morning for the United Way’s 2009 Campaign Kick-Off held Thursday at the Ramada Inn of Lewiston.

More than 225 members of the community, from agency representatives to local workplace employees, gathered for the onset of the fall’s annual fundraiser aimed at reaching $1.9 million by November.

“There are people from all walks of life here today,” said Androscoggin County United Way Executive Director Joleen Bedard. “It’s about all of us working together, all of us giving a little bit, to build a better community.”

Board Chairman Jeff Gosselin welcomed the crowd during a buffet breakfast and commended their continued community support and fundraising efforts. He recognized local area businesses. Some even closed their doors for the day so staff could participate in the Day of Caring. Immediately after the presentation, 185 volunteers dispersed into the local area for community-based service projects. The work included playground maintenance, gardening, painting, cleaning and stuffing 150 backpacks with school supplies for local children in need.

Participants were reminded of the great need this year due to economic restraints and were asked to focus on more participation from fellow employees.

“Can you imagine the impact we would make if everyone in our county contributed? What if each person increased their current contribution by a dollar per week?” asked 2009 Co-chairman Dick Albert during the hourlong presentation.

The United Way’s 2008 fundraiser fulfilled 93 percent of the $1.9 million goal, and hopes were high that this year’s efforts would exceed that. Already the organization has raised $200,000 from local businesses, including Tambrands/Procter & Gamble, Wal-Mart, Marden’s Surplus and Salvage, Geiger, Oxford Networks, Anthoine Financial Group and several others.

Kevin Donovan, evening operations manager at Hannaford’s in Auburn, was present at the morning event and has been involved in the United Way in some capacity for more than 30 years. For the past three years, Donovan has been working with another employee at the Auburn location in asking associates to contribute to the organization through their Hannaford pay, which allows a deduction from employee paychecks.

“I enjoy it and I think it’s a great cause,” Donovan said. “You get a lot more bang for your buck with United Way.” And one can contribute just that, a buck a week, adding to the funds the organization puts into investments, objectives and goals in meeting their community outcomes as well as support, prevention and dealing with crisis that may occur throughout the year within the entire county.

The campaign runs for 10 weeks, but the opportunity to give or to become involved with the United Way is available year-round.

Participants will meet Nov. 10 for the conclusion of the event at the Hilton Hotel in Auburn to assess if goals were met.

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