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United Way wraps up campaign

Following a theme of "Thanks a Brady Bunch!", the United Way of Bemidji Area held its 2009 Victory Dinner Monday night at the Hampton Inn & Suites. The "Brady family" announced the total raised - $406,703 - during this year's campaign. From right are Mike Beard, JC Penney, as Mike Brady; Sheila Dockendorf, Wells Fargo, as Carol Brady; Johnny Lee Walker, RP Broadcasting, as Greg; Ashli Bowen, United Way, as Marcia; Brian Bissonette, Paul Bunyan Telephone, as Peter; Melissa Vacek, Hampton Inn & Suites, as ...

On Monday evening, 150 guests gathered at the Hampton Inn & Suite's Southshore Conference Center to celebrate the close of the United Way of Bemidji Area's fall fundraising campaign for the community.

During the "Thanks a Brady Bunch" Victory Dinner, the United Way's communications committee dressed as Brady Bunch family members and characters from popular 1970s TV shows revealed the campaign total to date of $406,703.

Seventy-five businesses ran and completed United Way internal workplace campaigns this year.

The United Way's campaign cabinet, which is divided into 11 divisions and chaired by 18 volunteers, worked tirelessly to help the United Way reach 97.5 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 and Rebecca Hoffman, Agency Division; Susan Flicek and Kim Kusler, Bemidji Area Schools; Troy Haluptzok and Scott Kurtzweg, Commercial Division; Scott Turn, Major Gift Division; Sheila Miller, Public Service Division; Joe Czapiewski and Lisa Bruns, Bemidji State University and Northwest Technical College; John Motto, Special Gifts Division; and Penny Echternach and Judy Comstock, Pillar Division.

Victory Dinner emcee Johnny Lee Walker joined Mike and Pam Beard, 2009 campaign co-chairs, and United Way Board President Dane Jones to honor and recognize the outstanding achievements that went into the 2009 campaign.

The following awards were presented at the dinner:

- Directors Awards

Bronze awards were given to internal campaigns with a 50 percent or more employee participation rate and 5 percent increase in employee pledges over last year: Boys & Girls Club of the Bemidji Area, Deerwood Bank, Miller McDonald, Security Bank USA and The Evergreen House Inc.

Silver awards were given to internal campaigns with a 60 percent or more employee participation rate and 7 percent increase in employee pledges over last year: Headwaters Regional Development Commission, Northwoods Interfaith Volunteer Caregivers, Potlatch. Gold awards were given to internal campaigns with a 70 percent or more employee participation rate and 10 percent increase in employee pledges over last year, Bemidji FedEx Express, Dondelinger GM, Northwest Minnesota Foundation, Paul Bunyan Broadcasting, Pinnacle Publishing, RiverWood Bank, Widseth Smith Nolting.

- Employee Participation Awards - More than $10,000 in employee gifts fundraisers, Bemidji Area Schools, Beltrami Electric Cooperative, Bemidji State University, North Country Business Products, RiverWood Bank; more than $15,000 in employee gifts and fundraisers, First National Bank Bemidji, North Country Business Products; more than $20,000 in employee gifts and fundraisers, MeritCare Clinic, North Country Health Services.

- President's Awards - Given to businesses and corporations with contributions of $1,000 or more - $1,000 to $4,999, Ameripride Services, Bank Forward/Insure Forward, 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, MeritCare, North Country Business Products, Northway Insurance, Otter Tail Power Company, Paul Bunyan Telephone, Potlatch, Renaissance Hearing Center, RiverWood Bank, Target, U.S. Pipeline, Wells Fargo; $5,000 to $9,999, Enbridge, Knife River Materials; more than $10,000, First National Bank Bemidji.

In addition, United Way Executive Director Ashli Bowen recognized Enbridge and U.S. Pipeline employees working on the Alberta Clipper Spread 3 and Southern Lights Spread 5, and Blake Olson, technical supervisor, Enbridge (Bemidji), by presenting them with the Director's Award of Excellence. The award recognizes the efforts of those who go above and beyond to support United Way. Olson runs the United Way workplace campaign at Enbridge (Bemidji) and was instrumental in helping United Way secure support from the pipeliners. Enbridge and U.S. Pipeline along with the pipeline employees working on the Alberta Clipper Spread 3 and Southern Lights Spread 5 contributed $11,756 to the United Way's campaign for the community.

Melissa and Chris Vacek were announced as the United Way Campaign Chairs for 2010. Melissa is event coordinator at Hampton Inn & Suites South Shore Conference Center. She has served on United Way's communications committee since 2004 and the allocations committee since 2006. Chris is media consultant at RP Broadcasting and began volunteering with the United Way this year, serving on the communications committee.

Contributions to the 2009 United Way's campaign will be accepted through Dec. 31 at United Way, PO Box 27, Bemidji, MN 56619 or visit to give online. All contributions will be receipted for tax purposes.