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Tanya Hasbargen: A world of good through United Way

BEMIDJI — I had visions of dancing chili peppers in my head for days as the excitement and anticipation grew leading up to United Way’s 22nd Annual Chili Cook-Off.

Finally, this past Wednesday, my visions became reality as teams began to enter the Sanford Center with their chili, site decorations and costumes. As the teams set up their chili sites, there were nine businesses ready to share their successful campaign results with the community.

Nine businesses in Bemidji host United Way campaigns earlier than other workplaces, and they are referred to as Pacesetters. They build momentum and set the pace for the rest of the workplaces and community to follow. And boy, have they set a pace. The Pacesetter businesses are AmeriPride Services, Beltrami Electric, First National Bank Bemidji, North Country Business Products, Potlatch Lumber Mill, RiverWood Bank, Sanford Health, Target and UPS. Together, they revealed a total of $151,912.30 that had been raised for United Way!

The Chili Cook-Off is the signature kickoff event for United Way in Bemidji, and yet, it’s more than an event. For those in attendance, it’s a gathering of the community, a chance to see friends and visit. When you look around the perimeter of the ballroom at the Sanford Center, you see our community — businesses, restaurants, media/celebrities, and non-profit organizations. It’s a well-balanced, healthy picture of the Bemidji community. And, that is what United Way is about.

United Way strives to bring community awareness and resources together to support a strong, healthy community. The non-profit agencies who apply for and receive funds from United Way are providing services that care for our neighbors in their time of need, whether that time lasts a few days or a lifetime. From emergency services providing food and shelter, to caring for individuals with disabilities, or teaching skills and reading to students, United Way is here to support the community of Bemidji.

It’s true; Bemidji has homelessness, people living in poverty, children who are hungry. It’s also true that your support of United Way makes a world of difference in the lives of thousands of our neighbors every year. United Way supports our local shelters as they serve families and youth who are going through tough times, and they also provide support and resources in an effort to end the cycle of homelessness for those who seek their services. Bemidji has non-profits who can help find resources to make limited incomes stretch further. United Way provides a food pack program to hungry elementary students who have shown signs of food insecurity.

As a reader of the Pioneer, you are part of this Bemidji community. I encourage you to jump into the United Way community campaign with both feet. Keep pace with the momentum that has been set. Sign up to donate through your workplace, visit and give online, or mail a donation in to the United Way office at Box 27, Bemidji, MN 56619. Make a world of difference. Support United Way of Bemidji Area.