United Way of Brevard celebrated its 60th anniversary in Brevard County on Thursday, as well as a successful fundraising campaign for 2016-17 that brought in almost $6.1 million.
More than 300 people gathered at a Thursday night banquet at Hilton Melbourne Rialto Place to remember the past and look to the future.
“The mission of the United Way is to create a caring and sharing community,” said Nick Heldreth, chairman of the 1996 United Way Board. He was one of nine past board chairs who talked about the agency’s impact on Brevard.
“There’s a lot of nostalgia,” said Rob Rains, president of United Way of Brevard, as a soundtrack of music from the 1940s and 1950s provided by Swingtime Lite played in the background.
Rains has led Brevard’s United Way for 23 years, he said, which means he’s celebrated the 40th and 50th anniversaries of the agencies, too.
“We’ve raised more than $165 million in our 60-year history,” he said.
The local United Way has 43 partner agencies, he said. Through the work those agencies do, “people that needed help are getting help,” Rains said.
Therrin Protze, CEO of the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, served as the 2016 campaign chair.
“United Way is so dynamic and part of the community,” he said before the ceremony. “I wanted to be a part of it.”
Adrian LaLaffitte, Board chair in 2014, said he sees Brevard County as a family. United Way makes it possible for the community to come together to support one another, no matter how big or how small their contribution.
“Small donations add up to big donations,” he said, “whether you’re a high-level executive or a cashier at Publix.”
Several awards were handed out during the ceremony.
Harris Corp. and its employees were honored for being the largest contributors to the campaign for raising $1.38 million. This is the 10th year Harris has hit the $1 million mark.
Bill Potter, who has served as the agency’s pro bono attorney since 1976, was honored with a 2017 Bridge Builder award for his service to United Way.
FLORIDA TODAY president Jeff Kiel, a past Board chairman, gave the 2017 Chairman’s Award to the Brevard County Public School District. The district has raised $1.4 million for United Way in the past six years.
Businesses running first-time campaigns were UBS Financial Services, Millennium Engineering and Integration Co., Whittaker Cooper Financial Group and River Oak Dental.
“Sixty years ago, a small group of concerned business leaders came together to address the growing needs in our community and how best to meet them,” Rains said in a press release. “Since that time, more than $165 million has been raised, numerous community initiatives developed to address needs, and hundreds of thousands of lives have been changed. While we’re proud of our accomplishments, we’re also acutely aware that none of this would have been possible without the generosity and support of this community.”
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