TERRE HAUTE —
The tip buckets have been collected and the donations are being tallied from the seventh annual United Day for United Way event in the Wabash Valley.
Friday’s all-day event at businesses throughout the area was expected to bring in about $20,000 in a final push to meet the fundraising goal of $1.86 million.
Local celebrities pumped gas and bagged groceries at Baesler’s Market, where store owner Bob Baesler was offering a 6 cent per gallon discount on fuel.
United Way of the Wabash Valley executive director Troy Fears said Friday’s pleasant weather helped draw shoppers and motorists to Baesler’s, where tip buckets received a steady stream of coins and currency. Volunteers were also stationed at various businesses throughout the Wabash Valley. And several area restaurants participated in the Dine United event that was also a part of the fundraising effort.
“It’s been a steady stream of donations,” echoed Sally Whitehurst, assistant vice president of marketing at First Financial Bank. At all 36 FFB locations, tellers encouraged customers to make donations to the agency, and especially at the drive-thru windows, the contributions were adding up, she said.
At the bank’s Springhill Road location, the drive-thru was seeing more donations than the lobby, but that was expected.
“We’ve always participated in United Day,” Whitehurst said. “We want to help the United Way make its goal.”
A final tally of the fundraising effort will not be known until all participating locations turn in their donations, Fears said. He noted that he was anticipating a sizable donation from the Vigo County schools that conducted their own fundraisers, such as paying to wear a hat during the school day.
United Way campaign chair Claudia Tanoos said that Friday’s pleasant weather brought out a lot of people to the collection sites.
“I think people are really starting to recognize United Day more and more,” she said. “And this year we have more locations in the outlying counties. It was a goal to reach into the surrounding counties and touch families served in the Wabash Valley.”
A fun aspect of the campaign blitz featured the celebrity gas pumpers and grocery baggers at Baesler’s, where they worked for tips.
Phil Garrigus, vice president in retail product sales at First Financial Bank, both sacked groceries and pumped gas.
“I would say that it’s harder than I thought it would be,” Garrigus said of properly sacking groceries. “It’s faster paced than I thought it was, but it was a lot of fun to do.”
At the gas pumps, people were very generous with their tips to both the pumpers and those cleaning windshields.
“I saw people do as much as $20 tips today,” Garrigus said. “I saw at least 10 of those, and I was very appreciative of people coming out to do that.”
It was obvious that many people planned to donate to the United Way at the pumps, he said.
“You can buy gas anywhere at any time, but you knew people were going to Baesler’s today because of the United Way,” Garrigus said. “There’s not a cash sale there at the pump. It’s with a credit or debit card. But they knew in advance that they wanted to tip, and it was heartwarming. Someone made a $12 gas purchase and put in $20.”
On Friday morning, James Taylor of Alorica got a taste of bagging groceries.
“It’s a really great cause for a good community,” Taylor said as he stood at the end of a checkout counter.
“This is very hard work, this bagging,” Taylor joked with a customer. He had already completed an hour of pumping gas, and was thankful to be indoors out of the chilly weather for a while.
“Last year when we did this, it was really cold,” he said.
Cashier Monica Williams said the United Day effort at Baesler’s draws a lot of customers. While the morning sales are usually slower, she said traffic was sure to pick up by midmorning.
United Way board member Nancy Rogers, who was manning a table near the front of the store to accept donations and distribute information, said the busiest donation time for the annual bagger/pumper event usually occurs between 3 and 7 p.m. That is when people on their way home from work make a stop at the grocery.
Out at the gas pumps, Jeff Malloy made sure to stop for fuel on his way to work at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. It was by no coincidence that he stopped at the pump where college president Dottie King was pumping gas.
King jokingly said she had seen 20 percent of the university staff fill up their tanks during her shift at the pumps, and she was wondering when the other 80 percent were going to get there.
Some celebrities included Vigo County Sheriff Greg Ewing, school Superintendent Dan Tanoos, Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett, Indiana State University Provost Jack Maynard, and Lynn Hughes, director of the Terre Haute Children’s Museum.
Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at (812) 231-4254 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.