Weather Forecast


United Way to kick-off its campaign Wednesday

STAPLES — The goal? To raise $275,000.

This is amount the United Way of Crow Wing and Southern Cass County would like to raise for calendar year 2013 to help 31 nonprofit organizations that will in turn help those in need in the community.

The United Way will kick off its campaign with the Chili Cook-Off which will be conducted from 11:30-12:45 p.m. Wednesday at the Westgate Mall in Baxter.

The theme for this event is “Live United Hollywood Style.”

For $5 members of the public may sample a variety of chili and help the United Way kick off this year’s community campaign. Spectators may cast their vote for the Community Choice Winner for the best chili recipe. At 1 p.m. the chili awards ceremony will begin on the main stage. Awards will be presented for the top finishers in the Community Choice, Corporate, Restaurant, and Nonprofit categories; as well as awards for the Best Booth, Best Costumes, and Best Gimmick Giveaway. This year’s event is being sponsored by BlackRidge Bank and Cuyuna Regional Medical Center.

This year’s event includes two new additions; a live performance by Tim Mahoney and ice cream. Consolidated Telecommunications Company will provide vouchers for one free small cone at the Westgate Mall DQ valid during the event.

Celebrity judging includes: Stacy Waidelick, R.W. Carson’s Jewelry; Kevin Thesing, Lakes Printing; Anne Bandal, community member; Jessica Gangl, Junior Achievement; Kathy Binder, Winner’s Trophy and Engraving; Tom Norman, US Bank; Todd Dahl, Crow Wing County sheriff; Jim Haakonson, CliftonLarsonAllen; Darren Larson, BlackRidge Bank; Mavis Verville, Riverwood Bank; Bill Goers, Cygneture Title; Steve Rose, Nor-Son Construction; Michael McConkey, Wells Fargo; Eric Klang, Pequot police chief; Baxter Mayor Darrel Olson; Kevin Stunek, Brainerd fire chief; Kevin Oslin, Grand Casino; Scott and Sue Fisher, North East Liquor; Father Daniel Weiske, Brainerd Catholic church; Ryan Rosenwald, CTC; Brett Steiff, Weichert Realty; Rebecca Flansberg, Moms Squad; Debbie Riley, United Way volunteer; Robin Loftis, Clow Stamping; and Jana Shogren, Bridges of Hope.

Monica Nieman, United Way executive director, said this year’s campaign goal is $20,000 more than last year.

“Our goal is based on the needs in the community,” said Nieman.

Nieman said the United Way now funds organizations for two years instead of one year. There are more than 30 organizations the United Way helps including Bridges of Hope, Confidence Learning Center, area food shelves, Kinship Partners, Crow Wing County Victim Services, Crisis Line, Lutheran Social Services and the Lakes Area Restorative Justice Project.

All the money the United Way raises stays in the Brainerd lakes area. Nieman said when people donate they are helping a person or family with all of their needs, such as food, heating and transportation, not just one need.

Nieman said the United Way appreciates all the support it receives from area businesses, organizations and residents. In 2011, Nieman said U.S. Bancorp, one of United Way’s supporters, was honored with the Spirit of America award, one of the United Way’s worldwide highest honors it bestows on a company. In 2011, more than 62,000 U.S. Bancorp employees worked on more than 200 United Way campaigns worldwide, with the Brainerd office of 18 employees supporting the lakes area’s needs.

Nieman said this year United Way bestowed the honor to Bank of America and there are no local branches in the lakes area.

People can donate to the United Way campaign through monetary donations or have money taken out of their pay checks through their employer. Nieman said people can have the United Way use their money to focus on education, income or health needs or allow the United Way Vision Committee decide how it’s allocated.

“Our focus is to support all the needs in the community,” said Nieman. “Giving through United Way assures the donor that they are helping the whole person towards self-sufficiency.”

Tom Norman of U.S. Bancorp, who also serves on the United Way board, said the $275,000 campaign goal will only be enough money to fill about half of the needs that the non-profit agencies requested for.

Norman said the big push for donations will be from Wednesday through the end of this year.

Nieman said even though the money is not enough to fulfill all the needs, the United Way has been able to give more as it has been financially prudent with its overhead costs.

“We’ve lowered our staff and cut out some programs and are able to give more to the community,” said Nieman. “We’ve worked hard to cut.”

To learn more about how to make a donation or to learn more about the United Way go to

JENNIFER STOCKINGER may be reached at or 855-5851. Follow me on Twitter at