United Way Celebrates Community

United Way of 1000 Lakes brought the community together to celebrate the power of giving back. On Thursday, May 26th, supporters gathered at the Timberlake Lodge Hotel for the organization’s annual Celebration, happening for the first time in two years. 

The evening opened with a reception, with attendees chatting, enjoying drinks and light bites, and competing for raffle items while Minneapolis-based band The 4onthefloor played an acoustic set. 

Celebration attendees had the chance enter raffles for items donated by local businesses.

Kyle and Kari Hedlund led the evening’s programming, which spotlighted organizations and individuals who made a significant impact through United Way. ‘Best of’ Awards were presented to Minnesota Diversified Industries (MDI) for Best Trailblazer; Itasca County for Team of the Year; and Grand Itasca with the Everday Hero Award. Angie Tanner was recognized with the Best Ambassador award. The Blandin Foundation and Minnesota Power received special recognition for their staff and leadership’s outstanding commitment to United Way, with each receiving a unique glass sculpture by local artist Brenda Miranda of Glass Art by Bea.

A highlight of the evening was Itasca County resident Corrin Tiwari, who shared her experience with the YMCA’s Childcare Scholarship program, which receives approximately $20,000 each year in funds from United Way, one of the organization’s largest community investment grants.

Kyle (pictured) and Kari Hedlund emceed the evening’s programming, which featured impact stories, reflections on United Way’s recent work, and the presentation of ‘Best of’ Awards.

United Way also announced the much-anticipated winner of the Volunteer of the Year award. All nominees were honored on stage, and Cheryl Shepherd, a dedicated Grace House volunteer, took the top honor. United Way’s Community Impact Committee announced that they’d granted each nominating organization (ElderCircle, Grace House, Itasca County Habitat for Humanity, and Project Care) with a $1,000 grant earmarked for volunteer program support. 

United Way also released a list of the Top 10 Most Generous Companies and Workplaces based on total contributions to the 2021-2022 campaign.

Top 10 Most Generous Companies

2. Blandin Foundation
3. J.M. Huber Corporation
4. ASV Holdings, Inc.
5. Lake Country Power
6. Park State Bank
7. Timberlake Lodge
8. Grand Dental Center
9. Paul Bunyan Communications
10. Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union; Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation; Itasca Economic Development Corporation; Members Cooperative Credit Union

Top 10 Most Generous Workplaces

2. Minnesota Diversified Industries
3. Itasca County
4. Woodland Bank
5. Grand Itasca Clinic & Hospital
6. ASV Holdings, Inc.
7. Lake Country Power
8. UPS
9. Blandin Foundation
10. Target

United Way took the opportunity to provide an overview of its future impact strategy, which takes a holistic approach to community impact.

“As United Way turns the page on this new chapter in our work, our overarching goal is to make community investments in programs that prioritize a two-generation, or parent/guardian AND child, approach to boost upward mobility of the entire family unit for sustained, long-term change” said incoming board president Leanna McBride. 

United Way capped off the night with an after-party at Rapids Brewing Co., where community members came together as The 4onthefloor played.

“If we’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that meaningful, measurable change does not happen alone,” says United Way executive director Kimberly Brink Smith. “This event celebrates the positive impact that’s made possible thanks to the leadership and dedication of members of our community.”

To learn more about United Way’s work, visit uwlakes.org or call 218-999-7570.

Volunteer of the Year nominees were recognized onstage, where Cheryl Shepherd of Grace House was announced as the award winner.

United Way’s Community Celebration was generously sponsored by Essentia Health, Paul Bunyan Communications, and the Timberlake Lodge at the Platinum level; ASV, North In Bloom, and Park State Bank at the Gold level; and numerous table sponsors.