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Giving exceeds $400,000 for 2010 United Way campaign

For the United Way of Bemidji Area Victory Banquet Tuesday, volunteers took on the roles of Dr. Seuss characters. From left are Jen Johnson, Pam Beard, Johnny Lee Walker, Jackie Imedieke, Brian Bissonette, Heidi Boyd, Tom Kusler, Mareike Stoutenburgh, Colleen Schulke, Mike Beard, Jean Baer and Melissa Vacek. Pioneer Photo/Molly Miron

Tuesday evening, guests gathered at the Hampton Inn's Southshore Conference Center to celebrate the close of the United Way of Bemidji Area's fall fund raising campaign for the community.

The 2010 campaign raised $407,093.35 to support area nonprofits.

During the "Celebrating Success in Seussville" victory dinner, the United Way's communications committee: Johnny Lee Walker, Jean Baer, Colleen Schulke, Jackie Imedieke, Mareike Stoutenburgh, Melissa and Chris Vacek, Mike and Pam Beard, Brian Bissonette and Jen Johnson joined alongside Bemidji area celebrities Heidi Boyd, Paul Bunyan Broadcasting, and Tom Kusler, retired Lincoln Elementary principal, former United Way board member and 2006 campaign co-chair, dressed as Dr. Seuss characters to reveal the campaign total..

Seventy-one businesses ran and completed United Way internal workplace campaigns this year. The United Way's campaign cabinet, which is divided into eight divisions and chaired by fourteen volunteers, worked effortlessly to help the United Way reach 97.7 percent of the campaign's goal, $417,000. The division chairs include: Jim Aylesworth, Professional Division; JoAnne Daniels and Sandy White, Business Division; Kari Knudson and Robin Myers, Healthcare Division; Missy Thomas, Agency Division; Kim Kusler, Bemidji Area Schools; Troy Haluptzok and Scott Kurtzweg, Commercial Division; Scott Turn, Major Gift Division; and, John Motta and Sheila Miller, Special Gifts Division.

United Way board president, Ken Howe joined Melissa and Chris Vacek, 2010 campaign co-chairs, and United Way Executive Director Ashli Bowen to honor and recognize the outstanding achievements that went into the 2010 campaign.

The following awards were presented at the dinner:

- Director's Bronze Award to internal campaigns with a 50 percent or more employee participation rate and 3 percent increase in employee pledges over last year: Miller McDonald; Paul Bunyan Broadcasting; Rural Minnesota CEP.

- Director's Silver Award to internal campaigns with a 60 percent or more employee participation rate and 6 percent increase in employee pledges over last year: RiverWood Bank, Sexual Assault Program, .Target

- Director's Gold Award to internal campaigns with a 70 percent or more employee participation rate and 9 percent increase in employee pledges over last year: Boys and Girls Club of Bemidji Area, FedEx, North Country Business Products, Northern Safety and Security, Northwest Minnesota Foundation, Pinnacle Publishing, RP Broadcasting, Widseth Smith Nolting.

- Employee Participation Awards for more than $15,000 in employee gifts and fundraisers to Bemidji Area School District,, Beltrami Electric, First National Bank Bemidji, North Country Business Products, North Country Health Services; for more than $20,000 in employee gifts and fundraisers to Sanford Health.

E President's Awards to businesses and corporations with contributions of $1,000 or more. President's - $1,000 to $4,999 to Ameripride Services, Bemidji Co-op, Bemidji Noon Rotary Club, Dondelinger GM, EAPC Architects, Hills Plumbing and Heating, JCPenney, Ken K. Thompson, Kraus Anderson Construction, Lueken's Village Foods, North Country Business Products, Northway Insurance, Otter Tail Power Company, Paul Bunyan Communications, Potlatch, Renaissance Hearing Center, Sanford Health, Target, Wells Fargo. President's Plus -$5,000 to $9,999 to Enbridge, Knife River Materials, Norbord Minnesota, Inc., RiverWood Bank. President's Plus Plus - over $10,000 to First National Bank Bemidji.

- A new award, the Live United award, was presented to 24 area businesses and workplace campaigns that had a 25 percent increase in giving over last year, but didn't reach the Director's or President's award level. Six individuals also were honored with the Live United award for their generosity and creativity in raising support for United Way. The following received a Live United award: Ace on the Lake, American Family - John Carlson, Bemidji Theatre, Brad's Sanitation, CD Haugen Trucking Inc., Citizen's State Bank, Country Kitchen, Countryside Restaurant, Dairy Queen, Dunn Bros Coffee, Eldercare of Bemidji/Havenwood, Edward Jones - Jeremy Fayette, Hampton Inn & Suites, Harmony Food Cooperative, Heidi Boyd and "Pizza Man Dan," Itasca Naturopathic Clinic, Judy Comstock, Kenny's Clark & Goodyear, Kevin Cease, Liquor Lodge, Log Homes MN, Inc., Morrell's Chippewa Trading Post, Paul Bunyan Communications, Port-able John Rental & Service, Tom Hruby and Associates, Up North Sports, Wally Treat & Dave Johnson and Wes' Plumbing and Heating.

Johnny Lee Walker and Jean Baer were announced as the United Way Campaign Chairs for 2011. Walker is an advertising consultant and on-air radio personality with RP Broadcasting and has served on United Way's communications committee for more than 10 years. Baer is a regional compliance coordinator with Dominium Management Services and has served on United Way's communications committee for the past four years.

Contributions to the 2010 United Way's campaign will be accepted through Dec. 31. Those wishing to contribute can mail a contribution to United Way, PO Box 27, Bemidji, MN 56619 or visit to give online. All contributions will be receipted for tax purposes.