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Becky and Anne Wagnon, The Wagnon Sisters, perform at the United Way luncheon Friday. The sisters are former RCA recording artists.
Daily photo by Emily Saunders
Becky and Anne Wagnon, The Wagnon Sisters, perform at the United Way luncheon Friday. The sisters are former RCA recording artists.

Morgan United Way names Jim Fincher top volunteer

By Paul Huggins
phuggins@decaturdaily.com 340-2395

Good thing Jim Fincher missed two storms on his flight home from Minnesota on Thursday.

Otherwise he would have missed the big surprise when the United Way of Morgan County honored him with its annual Ira Lay Award recognizing the organization's top volunteer.

The award, named for a past United Way director, visibly stunned the 3M site manager. His emotions made speaking difficult as he thanked his fellow volunteers who gathered at the Holiday Inn to celebrate the end of the 2006 campaign.

In a brief acceptance speech, he said he was grateful that he could live and serve in a city that has such a "big heart" for helping the less fortunate.

"A community, like a person, is not known for what they do, but what they feel in their heart," he said.

Fincher's past service includes acting as board chairman and campaign chairman. Under his guidance in 2004, the campaign raised more than $1.9 million, the most in Morgan County history and nearly $300,000 more than the previous year.

Fincher's co-workers were worried Thursday he might not get back to Decatur in time to accept the award. He had to fly out of Minneapolis/St. Paul as a snowstorm approached. His plane took off a few hours before the storm closed the airport. He arrived at Huntsville International Airport a couple of hours after severe thunderstorms swept across Alabama.

In addition to honoring Fincher, United Way recognized Tiffany Davis of 3M with the John Abbott Award as the loaned executive of the year. She oversaw several company accounts, including BE&K, which tripled its giving from last year to $19,000.

As has been expected for months, the 2006 campaign failed to reach its goal of $2 million, coming in at more than $1.7 million. That's the fifth-highest total in campaign history.

The amount is about $200,000 below last year's campaign, so many of United Way's 32 agencies can expect cutbacks.

George Pollitt, United Way director, said the board will determine cutbacks in April, and he expects cuts to be between 8 and 12 percent.

Though the goal wasn't reached, Sam McMullen, campaign chairman and Publix manager, said the $1.7 million still is an achievement worth celebrating, and he pointed out a number of campaign highlights.

  • Daikin America raised $387,582.

  • 3M employees significantly increased giving to $125,000.

  • Maundy Industrial more than doubled its giving from last year with more than $11,000.

  • Austinville and Walter Jackson Elementary schools each had 100 percent campaign participation.

  • Giving from Alabama state government employees increased to almost $25,000.

  • Emerson/Copeland made a corporate gift of more than $40,000.

  • ITW Sexton employees gave $17,000, which the company matched dollar for dollar.

  • Decatur Utilities raised $25,000 with 100 percent participation and gifts from retirees as well.

  • Publix Supermarket had eight leadership givers (people who donate at least $1,000) and combined with corporate matches, raised more than $42,000. The Decatur store had more leadership givers than any Publix in its region.

    McMullen gave Ground Breakers awards to South Western Communications and Cargill.

    SWC conducted its first employee campaign, raising $3,391, which the company matched for a total of $6,792. Cargill, absent last year when the plant shut down, returned after reopening. Employees there raised $9,700, which combined with company and corporate matches to total $29,000.

    Jon Sedlak, who will chair the 2007 campaign, said setting high goals for the campaign is more important than reaching those goals, and he said the campaign staff will again go after that elusive $2 million mark, which had escaped the campaign for the third time.

    "It seems like every year, it gets harder to raise money," he said. "There are so many worthy organizations, and a lot of them are United Way agencies."

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