‘A true blessing’: United Way of Mower County celebrates 60th anniversary; Raises $1.26 million from campaign

Published 8:30 am Friday, April 19, 2019

It’s been a great year for the United Way of Mower County as the nonprofit celebrated 60 years of community service on Wednesday night.

A small crowd gathered on the second floor of the Austin ArtWorks Center as the United Way held a social hour and talked to community partners, city officials and agencies about the various events and fundraising goals that the organization was able to meet this year.

For more than six decades, the organization’s reach has grown and evolved. The organization has 26 community partners and offers 55 programs. Since 2000, the United Way of Mower County invested more than $15 million into local programs, with more than 3,000 volunteers, and has served 14 communities. The United Way of Mower County also held 20 fundraising campaigns that impacted “countless lives,” according to Molly Lanke, interim director of United Way of Mower County.

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Lanke  highlighted various events and initiatives that United Way was a part of, such as the coat drives and Days of Giving, and also acknowledged Community Connect, which is not a United Way program, but was mentioned because of its inspiring volunteer efforts.

“It’s really cool to see how much we’ve evolved over the years,” Lanke said. “We want to thank you all for the support.”

Among attendees included Amy Baskin, who previously served as director for the United Way in 1995 and joined the board of directors in 1997 until taking a job with Austin Public Schools in 2005. She recalled the fundraising opportunities with the organization and how much the United Way had supported various community initiatives that promote education and public health.

“It was fun to be a part (of the United Way),” Baskin said. “Thank you for the last 60 years.”

Diane Baker

During the celebration, outgoing United Way of Mower County director Diane Baker revealed that this year’s fundraising campaign raised about $1.26 million, which falls a little short from the previous $1.275 million fundraising goal. However, this was still a proud moment for the nonprofit, as it has consistently seen an increase in funding over the last five years. According to Baker, the United Way of Mower County is only one out of four statewide chapters that can boast that accomplishment.

Not going without goodbyes, Wednesday night was also an emotional conclusion for Baker, who will now be assuming the role of the executive director of the YMCA in Austin. For the last five years, she helped lead the United Way and felt called to help the community in various ways.

Although she’ll be serving in another capacity, Baker said she’ll miss working with the same staff that she considered family during the last few years.

“It’s been a true blessing and it’s been such an honor working with you,” Baker said. “I’m passionate about our community, because we care and I hope we can make an impact. All is well.”