Mardi Gras came a little early at the annual United Way dinner on Wednesday, Sept. 18.
The celebration at Morris Country Club was the culmination of a year’s worth of support provided to Grundy County residents and nonprofits, United Way Executive Director Karen Nall said.
“Through our grant program, we support 50 nonprofit organizations covering birth to death and everything in between,” Nall said. “We don’t cover the full budget of organizations, but many of them use our contribution to secure other grants that need them to match their donation.”
The night also doubled as United Way’s primary fundraiser, with attendees participating in a silent auction and raffles for sports memorabilia, gift baskets and local goods.
“The prizes that really warm my heart are the ones that focus on the local community. Animal Care Hospital gave a prize for a kid to be a veterinarian for a day, and the Morris and Minooka police and fire departments gave prizes to have kids escorted to school by fire engine or police car for a day,” Nall said. “When the prize is in the community, we can follow up and really see the smiles.”
Tables also are part of the fundraising, with businesses paying $600 and agencies $400 to reserve a spot.The table that has the best costumes that match the theme gets to pick an organization to have a free table at next year’s event. This year, First Midwest Bank won and selected Morris YMCA to have a free table next year.
When the annual celebration was first organized nine years ago, Nall said, the members didn’t want to have another formal dinner where attendees were required to wear business clothes.
“We had enough of wearing business clothes to everything and decided that every year we would pick a theme and guests could have the option of wearing costumes that fit that theme,” Nall said. “We’ve had Hawaii, ’50s and all sorts of other themes.”
This year, United Way raised more than $21,000 during the dinner, up from $16,000 last year. Nall attributed the revenue increase to three new sponsors, three additional tables and the silent auction.
United Way of Grundy County looks to promote the building blocks of life through fulfilling urgent and basic needs, improving financial stability, helping youth succeed, and increasing independence and self-sufficiency.