On October 22, 2021, United Way of Indian River County returned to host its annual Community Leaders Breakfast. After a brief hiatus due to the pandemic, the board of directors welcomed back community leaders, business owners, nonprofit executives, and friendly faces of regular campaign supporters, only this year, virtually.
Attendees were greeted with a slideshow of photos and videos from years past – depicting what it means to LIVE UNITED. Presenting sponsor Florida Power and Light Company kicked off the event with a brief update from Bart Gaetjens, External Affairs Manager.
Jeff Schlitt, Board Chair, shed light on the vital work of United Way throughout the pandemic and the last 60 years. “Since the pandemic hit 18 months ago, your United Way has been working overtime to help our community. With your support, we have raised, leveraged, and distributed more than $5.2 million for this crisis response work.”
Initially, the COVID-19 Community Response Fund raised over $1.4 million in donations. And as a trusted partner, Indian River County, allocated $3.8 million to the United Way to serve as a conduit for local organizations responding to the crisis. As a result, United Way helped facilitate and distribute financial assistance to address the critical needs of those suffering from the health, economic, and isolation crisis – work that continues today.
Keynote speaker Jeff Johnson, State Director of AARP Florida, discussed the importance of making communities more livable for all ages. There is a major demographic shift with 55+ residents in Indian River County, and projects there will be over 90,000 seniors here by 2045. Mr. Johnson and his team of staff and volunteers across the state fight for and equip Floridians aged 50+ by advocating at the local, state, and federal levels on health and financial security.
Meredith Egan, United Way CEO, reflected on United Way’s common agenda and mutually reinforcing activities benefiting the community through the interconnected areas of health, education, and financial stability. United Way’s shared measurement systems and focus on results-based accountability progress toward making real change in our community. The partner agencies, the backbone support organizations, and special initiatives we support all work to serve our neighbors.
Each year United Way has the esteemed privilege to recognize those making a notable difference in our community. As a virtual event this year, Board Chair-Elect, Jeff Petersen, United Way staff, and a camera crew honored the Richardson Spirit of Indian River County Award winners by surprising them at their places of business.
The Prize Patrol follows United Way throughout the county to thank and honor award recipients. Staff members chosen at random at each organization had the opportunity to spin the Wheel of Excitement for their chance to win a gift card, swag, coffee, or snacks.
“It’s really the staff that we want to show our appreciation. They give with every paycheck, and when it’s coupled with the community’s goodwill, utilized effectively and efficiently, real change can happen. It truly is a community-wide effort, and we could not do what we do without their tremendous support,” said Meredith Egan.
Awards are presented to companies, agencies, and volunteers who give their time, talent, and resources to make the community a better place. These prestigious awards were presented to the following honorees:
- The Richardson Spirit of Indian River County Award for Workplace Campaign: School District of Indian River County
- The Richardson Spirit of Indian River County Award for Partner Agency Workplace Campaign: Substance Awareness Center of Indian River County
- The Richardson Spirit of Indian River County Award Community Champion: Jeremy Odom
The final award of United Way’s most distinguished honor, the Ralph T. King Award, was presented to Jeff Smith for his long-term commitment over 32 years, outstanding achievement, and dedication to our community. Jeff Smith has taken on many roles within the nonprofit organization, from immediate Past Board Chair to current Campaign Co-chair. This prestigious lifetime service award was created in honor of its namesake, Ralph T. King, who dedicated much of his time and passion serving as treasurer and director of United Way of Indian River County.
The event concludes with a message from Campaign Co-chairs, Sheriff Eric Flowers, Clerk of the Circuit Courts Jeff Smith, and Wesley Davis Property Appraiser.
Watch the entire Community Leaders Breakfast on-demand or skip to the Prize Patrol at https://youtu.be/V51IYjGYNoE.
To contribute to the annual campaign, please visit https://unitedwayirc.org/donate.