Oct. 4, 2003 — The United Way of St. Thomas-St. John began its 25th annual fund-raising campaign with a bang at its 2004 Kickoff and Appreciation Breakfast on Saturday at the Ritz Carlton Hotel.
The 2004 campaign, which runs from October to the end of January 2004, has set the largest ever goal in the organization's 25 years of service in the community: $800,000. This is a significant increase over last year's goal of $650,000.
In his welcoming speech, United Way president Cornel Williams told the approximately 120 individuals in the audience, "The board set this year's goal at $800,000, not because it can be easily reached, but because the community needs that and more."
In response, more than 68 companies, organizations and individuals reached into their coffers and came forward to announce their donations, helping the organization to raise $282,300 — 35 percent of its goal.
Steve Baker, the 2004 campaign chairman, praised the early donors for their generosity and thanked them for their confidence in the United Way.
Setting the pace for others to follow, the newly formed Virgin Islands chapter of the Alexis de Tocqueville Society, a United Way major giving program, made the largest contribution of $70,000. Individuals who contribute at least $10,000 annually to the United Way are eligible to become members of the Tocqueville Society. Society chapter members Ira Lubert, Joe Papa and John Fries each pledged $20,000 and Hurdle "Trip" Lea III pledged $10,000. These initial members of the society are associates of Margate Management, LP. Lubert and Lea serve as co-chairs of the V.I. chapter.
Following the lead of the Tocqueville Society, the Prosser ICC Foundation pledged $20,000. Other big donors included the West Indian Company with $15,000; the Bank of Nova Scotia with $8,000; FirstBank with a pledge of $7,000; and Consolidated National Corp. with $5,800. A.H. Riise, Baker Magras & Associates, Caneel Bay and Topa Properties each contributed $5,000.
Individual donors included Ambassador and Mrs. Henry Kimelman, Dr. & Mrs. Al Heath and Randy Knight all pledging $5,000 each. The board of directors and staff members of the United Way also pledged $18,500.
"In these times, every little bit helps," Williams said. "Your contributions this morning will go a long way in alleviating the deeply rooted ills in our community."
In celebration of the anniversary, a documentary was shown, which chronicled the history of the United Way of St. Thomas-St. John. The United Way St. Thomas-St. John was started in 1978, when Community Chest, a local organization that had started in 1937, decided to change its focus from supporting individuals to supporting community organizations. Past president in 1980 and 1981,Alton Adams Jr., was the guest speaker at the program.
Andrea Martin was awarded the Volunteer of the Year Award. Her award, executive director Thyra Hammond said, was not for just a year's service, but "for 21 years of exceptional committed and dedicated service." United Way has a policy, Hammond said, that board members may serve only two three-year terms. Martin early in her volunteer service became a board member but, after her six years were served, she continued to be a tireless volunteer, working with the Communications committee. Then she became a board member again, and again was rotated out, in a two-decade cycle of continuous volunteering.
Dudley, Topper and Feuerzeig LLP and the West Indian Company were each awarded "Corporate Supporters of the Year" awards.
The monies raised by the campaign will support the organization's 16 member agencies: American Red Cross, V.I. Council of Boy Scouts of America, Catholic Charities of the Virgin Islands, Civil Air Patrol, Downstreet People's Youth in Action, Dial-A-Ride St. John, Dial-A-Ride St. Thomas, Ebenezer Gardens, Friends of Volunteers in Public Schools, Girl Scout Council, Legal Services of the Virgin Islands, Lutheran Reformation Summer Program, St. Thomas Reformed Church Summer Program, Shaky Acres, V.I. Institute for Teaching and Learning and the Yellow Cedar Group Home. Some of the funds will also support the United Way's Venture Grant program.
Since its inception, the organization has raised more than $9 million in support of its member agencies. "In many ways, to say that we have raised over $9 million for the past 25 years is an understatement," Williams said. "This figure does not include the endless hours of work by our volunteers."
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