United Way of Mid Coast Maine kicked off its $1.8 million fundraising campaign in Brunswick Wednesday. Among those involved in the endeavor are, from left, campaign chairman Steve Bailey, United Way of Mid Coast Maine Executive Director Barbara Reinertsen, and campaign director Tom Blatz. The red paper over the fundraising thermometer was later pulled away to reveal that the campaign has already raised more than $261,000. Alex Lear / The Forecaster

BRUNSWICK — As Steve Bailey bent down to lift an inflatable barbell, deceptively marked “5,000 lbs.,” he told the crowd at Wednesday’s United Way of Mid Coast Maine campaign kickoff that he’d need a little help.

That humorous gesture was a nod to United Way’s 2019 fundraising campaign theme – “People Power for Local Change” – which kicked off that afternoon in a ceremony held outside Independence Association, one of the organization’s partner agencies.

“Together, our people power is enormous,” Bailey, this year’s campaign chairman, said after a few audience members gave him some help lifting the symbolic barbell.

The goal of this year’s campaign, which concludes Nov. 6, is $1.8 million. United Way raised $1.77 million last year, exceeding its $1.75 aim.

“We just always want to go further if we can, because we know it can be put to good use; there’s a lot of need,” United Way of Mid Coast Maine Executive Director Barbara Reinertsen said Wednesday. “We’re talking about everything from basic needs, improved economic stability, to the best start in life for children, and to healthier, more connected lives.”

That entails food for the hungry, shelter for the homeless, aid to prevent homelessness, using Big Brothers Big Sisters to help youth who face adversity, one-on-one matches for elders who are isolated, and childcare, Reinertsen explained.

As of Wednesday, the campaign had already raised more than $261,000 – 14.5% of its goal.

“We have what we call pacesetters,” campaign director Tom Blatz said. “Companies that commit corporate gifts before we actually kick off the campaign. We like to have that, because we can then recognize them at this event. It’s always good to have a little bit going out of the gate.”

Early corporate gifts came from Midcoast Federal Credit Union, L.L. Bean, and Norway Savings, while employees of Mid Coast-Parkview Health and Bath Iron Works, dubbed “sustained givers” for their continual donations, are contributing $127,000 together, according to United Way. Area schools also launched campaigns at the end of this school year.

Those not reached through a workplace campaign can send a donation to United Way of Mid Coast Maine 34 Wing Farm Parkway, Bath ME 04530. They can also call 443-9752 or visit uwmcm.org to give each month or just once via credit card, or they can ask to be billed.

The organization serves 25,000 people from Brunswick to Waldoboro, and the donations pay for services and initiatives at 37 partner agencies.

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