United Way Honors Supporters During Celebration

United Way of 1000 Lakes Campaign Celebration and Best of Awards was held on Thursday, March 21, at the Timberlake Lodge Hotel. United Way board of directors warmly welcomed guests during the complimentary reception with musical guest Actual Wolf.

The evening featured a panel conversation led by past United Way board president and co-founder Untapped, Inc., Laura Connelly. Panelists included Mike Ives, Ives Realty president; Chad Evans, Deer River Schools special education; Carson Smith, a kindergartner at Murphy Elementary School; and Chesli Drobnick, youth worker and program recipient. The discussion centered on how to unite passion and purpose to make a difference in a community.

United Way executive director, Kim Brink Smith, announced that the community has generously raised a total of $302,439 to the 2018-2019 fundraising efforts. The amount announced reflects pledged estimates and not the final results of companies that are still conducting campaigns or individuals who have not renewed pledges in writing.

This is the second consecutive year the campaign has surpassed the $300,000 mark, which United Way leaders credit to generous friends, neighbors, and coworkers from across the region and the outstanding support from corporate, small business, and nonprofit partners.

“The success of this year’s campaign will support the continuation of United Way’s work, which includes a funding commitment through 2020 to more than 30 programs and initiatives provided by United Way and our partner agencies,” Amanda Kluge United Way board president. “Allocations are determined by a Community Investment Panel that reviews and visits organizations before allotting funds. The panel is comprised of local volunteers and United Way board members.”

Volunteers were also recognized during the program. Kluge announced that volunteers have contributed more than 4,000 hours to local projects for a total impact of more than $108,767 in the community since 2013. United Way volunteer programs such as Day of Action (June 21) continue to make a difference in the lives of thousands in our community. The Grand Rapids Farmers’ Market was honored with the 2018 Day of Action community partner award.

Suzanne Koprowski, Project Care founder, and Dee Bretti, KOOTASCA Community Action board member, were also recognized with Volunteer of the Year Awards, for their dedication and continuous years of service to our community.

Best of Awards were presented to Klockow Brewing for Best Year Round Partnership; Grand Itasca Clinic and Hospital for Best Campaign Innovation; Deerwood Bank for Best Community Engagement; MDI for Best Employee Engagement; and Marsha Green of Essentia for Best CEO/Leadership.

Special Recognition awards, illustrated by local artist Whitney Leming-Salisbury, were presented to Blandin Foundation and Minnesota Power for being a leader for social change and creating a culture of caring among their employees, retirees, and trustees.

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

Top 10 Most Generous Workplaces

Minnesota Power



Blandin Foundation

Woodland Bank

ASV Holdings, Inc.

Grand Itasca Clinic and Hospital

Essentia Health

ISD 318 – Grand Rapids/Bigfork schools

Itasca County

Top 10 Most Generous Companies

Minnesota Power

Blandin Foundation

Essentia Health

Wells Fargo

Paul Bunyan Communications

ASV Holdings, Inc.

BOLDT Company

Lake Country Power


American Bank of the North

United Way hosts the event annually to celebrate the community members, businesses, partner agencies and more who support its mission to fight for the education, health, financial stability, and basic needs of every person in the Itasca County area.

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