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United Way Celebration says thanks

Pinatas are a part of the United Way Celebration, which is scheduled for Thursday at the DL Pavilion.

Almost a decade ago, the board of the United Way of Becker County decided to change the way it conducted its annual residential fundraising drive.

Instead of having volunteers go knocking on doors in their assigned neighborhoods, the United Way would hold one big celebration for the community each September, with representatives of all of the agencies it supports on hand to talk with attendees about the services they provide to the community.

“We used to do a door-to-door campaign… we just decided this would be a better way,” said LuAnn Porter, executive director of the United Way of Becker County.

“It’s a way for us to say thank you to all of the residents in Becker County who have supported the United Way programs and all the people they serve,” she added.

At the same time, it’s an opportunity for the public to find out exactly how many different programs and services are supported through their donations to the United Way, Porter said.

The ninth annual United Way Community Celebration gets underway this Thursday, Sept. 19, at the Detroit Lakes Pavilion, starting at 4:30 p.m. and continuing until 6:30 p.m.

Each of the 33 different non-profit agencies and programs supported by the United Way will have a representative manning an information booth at the celebration (with each of them offering a different door prize to be given away during the festivities).

In addition, there will be inflatable games, piñatas, face painting, clowns, live entertainment on the Pavilion stage and a picnic-style meal featuring Sloppy Joes, chips, beverages and cookies — all free of charge, though free will donations to the United Way will be gratefully accepted throughout the evening.

All donations received will go toward the United Way’s 2013 fundraising drive, which has a goal of $228,000. The employee payroll drive is already well underway, and the business drive is scheduled for a “one-day blitz” on Oct. 1, Porter said.

One popular tradition at the Community Celebration that will be continued this year is a bicycle helmet giveaway, courtesy of Tim Gordon, former Becker County sheriff.

“Tim Gordon will be giving away 80 bike helmets this year,” said Porter, adding that the helmets will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis, though Gordon and other volunteers will be available to ensure that the helmets are properly sized and fitted for each child who receives one.

In addition, two new bikes will be given away during the evening, Porter added.

Last year’s celebration had an estimated attendance of “between 800 and 1,000 — that’s both kids and adults,” Porter said, though only about 500 of them stayed for the meal.

“It’s grown every single year,” she said, and hopefully, this year will be no exception — though the weather will probably play a part in that.

“Everything is ready to go — now we’re just hoping for good weather,” Porter said.

Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454