The United Way Blackhawk Region met online Thursday for its Day of Caring and Campaign Kickoff event. 

United Way Day of Caring volunteers at Edgerton Community Outreach, September 25, 2020

The United Way Blackhawk Region (UWBR) nonprofit organization raises money to distribute to other local nonprofits. The organizations it works with tackle local community issues of poverty, food shortages, homelessness, family violence and addiction. 

The normal Day of Caring event is a community-oriented effort where volunteers from local businesses that donated to the United Way go and do community service activities. These can include painting, cleaning up waste, or working at local homeless shelters. 

However, due to the COVID-19 virus pandemic and, in the interest of maintaining safe social distancing practices the Day of Caring and the Campaign Kickoff events were combined into a single online gathering. 

During the event, around 150 United Way volunteers and contributors watched the live presentations given by United Way leadership and award recipients. 

The first speaker and event coordinator, Mary Fanning-Penny, executive director and president and CEO of United Way, opened by outlining the effect that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the United Way’s efforts in 2020. It started the COVID-19 Action Fund back in March at the beginning of the lockdowns. The fund works with Blackhawk communities in the Rock County region disproportionately affected by the pandemic. This largely includes districts of Janesville and Beloit with higher than average poverty levels. The UWBR’s Day of Caring serves the purpose of organizing a response to such issues as homelessness via community service projects submitted by local nonprofits.

City of Milton administrator Al Hulick, one of three UWBR board chairs addressed the event explaining briefly the Rock County COVID-19 task force. The task force’s job entails a campaign that helps local nonprofits raise money for hardships caused by the COVID-19 virus pandemic. Nonprofits were able to apply for grants which the task force used to determine the hardest hit organizations in need of immediate financial assistance. The task force set a $2.4 million goal this year.     

“When we work together, no task is too big and no job is too daunting,” said Hulick, “if we fall short, our programs will fall short, and if our programs fall short then our communities will not get the resources they need.”

Additionally, Hulick presented the Excellence in Advocacy award to Focus. Focus board member and Janesville City Manager Mark Freitag accepted the award. Focus is an informal coalition of over 35 local nonprofits, businesses, and volunteers that focuses on homelessness in Janesville.  

Beloit City Manager Lori Luther highlighted the installation of interactive learning trails in both Janesville and Beloit over the summer to encourage outdoor learning for kids. Each trail features ten signs with language activities for Spanish and English. 

The President and CEO of First National Bank and Trust Company David McCoy accepted the 2019 Live United award. First National Bank and Trust supports regular pledge campaigns and makes annual donations to the United Way and its nonprofit affiliates.

“We are so appreciative of the United Way Blackhawk Region and all that they’ve done for our community here,” said McCoy, “We look forward to many more successful years with the United Way Blackhawk Region.”

The final award for the event, the Geraldine Hedberg Volunteer of the Year award was presented to Amy Lokrantz. Lokrantz is the manager of financial analysis and forecasting for ABC Supply Co. Inc. She was selected for the award for her loyalty and years of dedicated service to United Way campaigns and projects. Lokrantz has also made significant donations to the nonprofit every year. 

“Giving is the greatest gift we can provide our community,” Lokrantz said. 

The UWBR continues its COVID-19 virus response initiatives and encourages the Blackhawk region’s involvement in strengthening local communities. Volunteers are always welcome. For more information on its current projects, or its social media platforms are the best way to keep up to date. 


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