OWATONNA – The “backbone of the non-profit ecosystem” gathered Thursday night to celebrate those known throughout Steele County for their generous hearts and selfless hours of volunteerism.

“We are all United Way, everybody here in this room,” said Kim Schaufenbuel, the president of the United Way of Steele County. “Together we make people’s lives better because of the intentionality of giving to the community.”

The annual Leaders in Giving event celebrated the 2019 Community Volunteer and Small Business Live United Awards at the Owatonna Country Club that night. Joalyne Mohs received the Community Volunteer Live United award, while HomeTown Credit Union was named the recipient of the Small Business award.

Mohs was described as someone who “takes the initiative to make a long-term, significant impact” on her community through the various boards she serves on as well as her everyday random acts of kindness.

“My parents showed me that’s what you do,” Mohs said to the crowd, noting that she found community service to be a personal passion. “It’s what I’ve always known; it’s the fabric that’s woven into me.”

“If it’s not us then who is it?” she continued, directing her gratitude to the United Way. “You can count the dollars that you give, but the impact you have on the kids, the elderly, and families – you can’t measure that.”

HomeTown Credit Union Kim Westphal accepted the Small Business Live United Award on behalf of her company, but made it no secret that it is the employees that make the biggest impact. Each year, HomeTown Credit Union allows their staff to take eight hours to volunteer in the community, but Westphal asserts that her team does much more beyond that.

“They are on boards like the Habitat for Humanity and the Steele County Clothesline. We have a volunteer firefighter, people involved in the Human Society and Transitional Housing,” Westphal said to name a few. “I am so proud of all our employees for what they do in the community. They really step up.”

During the event, the 2019 campaign goal was also announced at $800,000. Schaufenbuel said that it may seem like a large goal, especially considering the current struggles of United Ways all around them.

“Some of these struggles have resulted in United Ways closing,” Schaufenbuel said, explaining that the United Ways in Faribault and Northfield recently had to consolidate. “A United Way in the Twin Cities metro area didn’t meet their goal and had to reduce funding to their human services agencies, which has snowballed into this crisis event.”

“That’s not happening here,” she continued proudly. “We’re going to continue to care about our neighbors and our community because it is the right thing to do and if we don’t do it, who will?”

In 2018, the United Way of Steele County served 14,252 people. Of that number, 60% of the people helped were children or elderly.

“We all share this sense of responsibility because you all know you can do something to help,” Schaufenbuel added, stating that the new $800,000 goal is keeping up with inflation on a 3.5% trend. “We are heading towards $1 million because we need to; many of our programs have not received a funding increase for 10-15 years if ever. They really need our support and rely on us to fundraise.”

Reach Reporter Annie Granlund at 507-444-2378 or follow her on Twitter @OPPAnnie. ©Copyright 2019 APG Media of Southern Minnesota.

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