United Way Commemorates 60 Years of Impact at Annual Community Celebration

United Way of 1000 Lakes held its annual Community Celebration on Thursday, May 25th, 2023. Supporters gathered at the Timberlake Lodge Hotel for the evening event, which commemorated the organization’s 60th anniversary of making an impact in Itasca-area communities.

Community Celebration attendees mingled and visited Decade Lounges that highlighted moments from United Way of 1000 Lakes’ 60-year history.

Attendees enjoyed a cocktail reception sponsored by the Timberlake Lodge, where they had a chance to mingle and enjoy music by Adessa, Keith, and Koho from Adessa + The Beat. Attending community members also had the chance to visit six Decade Lounges hosted by sponsors, which spotlighted significant moments from United Way campaigns of the past. The evening’s program also featured a look back on the decades, spotlighting some of United Way’s longstanding community partners.  

United Way’s Community Celebration functioned as a 60th birthday celebration for the nonprofit, complete with a cake cut by (from left) Board President Leanna McBride and Executive Director Kimberly Brink Smith.

The presentation of the Volunteer of the Year award is always a highlight, and this year didn’t disappoint. Four volunteers, nominated by the organizations they volunteer with, were recognized: Geneva Francisco, ElderCircle; Greg Frazier, Second Harvest North Central Food Bank; Gwenn Smith, Grace House; and Ellen Teigland, Grand Rapids Area Library. Members of United Way’s Community Impact Committee revealed that Gwenn Smith was the winner of 2023’s Award for her history of service to Grace House.  

Gwenn Smith (center) won the Volunteer of the Year Award in honor of her service to Grace House over the past decade.

 United Way also recognized its most significant company partners of the 2022-2023 campaign, revealing the Top Ten Most Generous Companies and Workplaces. Executive Director Kim Brink Smith also noted that, while workplace campaign totals fell short of its projection, more than $330,000 was raised in the current fiscal year. In addition, the organization recently hit a milestone worth celebrating: raising $13 million over its history to support community organizations in the Itasca area.   

Attendees of the Celebration commemorated United Way’s birthday by taking part in a pop-up volunteer experience, packing Birthday-in-a-Box kits for local families. Over the course of the evening, supporters packed just under 100 kits with cake mix, candles, and party supplies, which were then distributed to food pantries and shelves in the Itasca area. The project helped the organization get a jump start on its 60-for-60 initiative, which will encourage community members to take 60 actions to support the organization’s 60th birthday.  

Community Celebration attendees shared the birthday festivities by packing close to 100 Birthday-in-a-Box kits for local families.

United Way’s Community Celebration was generously sponsored by the Timberlake Lodge Hotel & Restaurant at the Platinum level; and by the Blandin Foundation; Danielle Witherill, Edward Jones Financial Advisor; Essentia Health; Grand Dental Center; Paul Bunyan Communications; and Yanmar at the Gold level. Kayla Lee Photography + Design was the Event Photography sponsor, and L&M Fleet Supply and Minnesota Power sponsored the Birthday-in-a-Box volunteer project.  

To learn more about United Way’s work, and to get involved, visit uwlakes.org or call 218-999-7570. Find information about upcoming events at uwlakes.org/upcoming-events.