The attire for the evening was jeans, bolo ties and cowboy boots and hats.
If guests could temporarily effect a Western drawl in their speech, all the better.
The United Way of Indiana County kicked off its 2013 fundraising campaign Thursday evening at the Indiana Country Club with a Wild West theme, and urged everyone in attendance and in Indiana County to follow the “Pony-Up Express” route — running alphabetically through every town and village from Advance to Willet — and contribute to the annual fund drive that benefits 15 agencies in the county.
Michelle Fryling, the 2013 campaign chairwoman, dressed in a white cowboy hat, red bandana and holster with six-guns, said the choice of the Wild West theme for the launch of this year’s campaign was a natural.
The folks who lived in the Old West, she said, “really had to work together and watch each other’s backs. … This community has always helped each other,” and the annual United Way drive really amounts to “neighbors donating to neighbors.”
More than 3,000 donors supported last year’s United Way fund drive, Fryling said, and one of her goals for the 2013 campaign is to grow the number of contributors.
“We know we can do more if we have more donors participate,” she said.
Similarly, 57 businesses last year had programs enabling their employees to donate to the United Way in some form, and Fryling wants to get more businesses involved with on-the-job opportunities for employees to contribute.
Again this year, businesses that have 100 percent of their employees donating to the United Way will be recognized with the Roger Reschini Award.
“One of every two people in Indiana County is helped by the United Way in some way,” Donna Griffith, a United Way board member, said while welcoming the event’s guests from a podium decorated with a wagon wheel and saddle.
The United Way not only cares about collecting money but also cares about how the donated money is spread around the county to help people in need, Griffith said.
All of the money raised by the Indiana County campaign stays in the county, and each year the community partners receiving money are asked to substantiate how they used their share of the donations from the previous year’s fund drive.
The kickoff event offered participants several ways to start contributing immediately. Just inside the door was a mercantile shop where guests could buy cowboy hats, bandanas or feather boas if they hadn’t come in the proper attire and felt out of place.
At a booth called “Gunfight at the U. Way Corral,” tenderfoots were tossing and bouncing quarters into glasses to try to win prizes.
A “bank” nearby was selling rolls of $10 worth of quarters for $20. The extravagant exchange rate, the bankers said, was for a good cause.
More cash was raised through live and silent auctions of gift baskets.
To help keep the energy level up, in the center of all the activity was a spread of vittles (folks back East call them hors d’oeuvres) and Rivertown Brewery hosted a beer-tasting table.
It was also announced at the kickoff that the goal for the 2013 campaign will be $735,000, up slightly from last year’s goal of $725,000. The 2012 campaign raised $748,131.
A multitude of United Way fundraising events around the county are planned before the campaign ends in early 2014.