Over 800 people celebrated the Kick Off of the United Way of Lee, Hendry, Glades, and Okeechobee’s 2019-2020 Campaign at the Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall on Tuesday. The enthusiastic crowd cheered the announcement of the winner of a 2-year lease on a Scanlon Acura, and the total of $6,523,389 raised toward the $10,783,563 goal.

Beth Hendry, United Way Board Chair, welcomed the large crowd. “On behalf of the United Way Board of Directors it is with great pleasure that we welcome all of you to the 63rd annual United Way of Lee, Hendry, Glades, and Okeechobee campaign kick-off.  We thank everyone for coming out this morning and helping to get this year’s campaign off to such a great start.  It’s wonderful to see such a large turnout. It looks like we have over 800 people here this morning affirming how we all Live United. By your attendance it is easy to see that we have all come together to make sure that United Way and the United Way network of partner agencies continues to be there for our community, providing critical services to those in need.”

“Over the past 63 years our United Way has raised and distributed over $177 million dollars and has helped our community’s social service network change the lives of countless numbers of people in our community,” Hendry concluded.

Children from Child Care of Southwest Florida let the Pledge of Allegiance. Caira Everly, of the Lee County Sheriff’s Office and ReUnite Program, sang God Bless America, and Major Carlyle Gargis, of The Salvation Army, gave the invocation.

Rachel Pierce and Clay Miller, NBC-2 morning anchors and Masters of Ceremony, called the final five contestants up to the stage for the drawing for a 2-year lease on a new Lexus from the John Scanlon Auto Group. Everyone who gave $240 or more to last year’s campaign was entered into the random drawing.

United Way Campaign Chair Roger Desjarlais, Lee County Manager talked about the campaign and the campaign theme: One Way, United Way. “Our community’s issues are too large and complex for any one individual or organization to solve alone. But UNITED, we can make a difference for today and for generations to come.  United Way brings local organizations together to tackle the complex roots of conditions such as hunger, school readiness, health issues, job readiness, financial stability, domestic violence, veteran’s needs, and the challenges seniors face.  These are the issues that have the greatest impact on our community’s social well-being and economic health.”

“Working together for one goal, we can make a huge difference!  That’s why we say: ‘One Way, United Way’. Every contribution to the campaign whether large or small has the power to make a difference in the lives of our residents. To make our ambitious goal of over $10.78 million we must pull together to make that a reality.”

Desjarlais added, “Let me assure you, United Way’s work is personal enough to change individual lives, and working together, we are powerful enough to improve conditions across our community. Our 100 Partner Agencies collaborate, truly work together, to help more people in meaningful ways, thus affecting real change in our community.  At the same time, giving to our United Way is one great investment. Our United Way keeps overhead costs extremely low.  92.3% of all money raised goes directly to programs and initiatives, while only 2.4% is administration and 5.3% for fundraising.  Our United Way has also received the coveted Perfect 100 score from Charity Navigator, for demonstrating fiscal responsibility while adhering to the principals of good governance.

United Way Pacesetter Chair Bob Beville of Waterman Broadcasting announced the Pacesetter results.   Pacesetter Companies – those who run their campaigns early to demonstrate United Way support and to encourage others – along with early leadership gifts, have already raised a total of $6,523,389. This represents 60% of the goal, the highest dollar amount ever reported at Kick Off.

The top 12 Pacesetter companies include the following:

  1. Publix Super Markets 2019 – $1,732,096
  2. Bonita Bay Group – $552,352
  3. FineMark National Bank & Trust – $240,000
  4. ENTERPRISE Rent-A-Car – $210,453
  5. Chico’s FAS – $200,000
  6. Lee Health – $198,145
  7. LCEC – $190,001
  8. Lee County School District – $134,165
  9. Lee Board of County Commissioners – $125,500
  10. Zachry Group – $123,955
  11. McGriff Insurance Services – $113,601
  12. Gunterberg Charitable Foundation – $100,000


All money raised in the United Way Campaign stays in the local community to help support the local human service network of partner agencies. United Way Partner Agencies such as Harry Chapin Food Bank, Alvin A. Dubin Alzheimer’s Resource Center, Abuse Counseling and Treatment, Children’s Advocacy Center, Literacy Council Gulf Coast, and Boys and Girls Clubs serve a diverse range of needs in our community.

In addition to raising funds for human service organizations in our community, the United Way promotes partnerships and collaborations among agencies, helping them to work together focusing on issues that continue to improve lives.  The United Way’s mission is “The United Way of Lee, Hendry, Glades, and Okeechobee is a volunteer driven organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for all people in our community. Our United Way supports and helps coordinate the human service network in our community so that the network can provide high quality social service programs that make a difference in people’s lives.”