Submitted by: United Way of Whatcom County

United Way of Whatcom County hosted their annual campaign celebration last week at Bellingham Technical College. The United Way model is based in workplace giving campaigns, encouraging businesses to make corporate gifts, match employee gifts, and offer payroll deduction as a giving option for their employees. The event gave donors and volunteers the chance to see the impact of their contributions to United Way and honored two individuals and four companies who have displayed an exceptional support for social services in our community.

Workplace giving campaigns are led by volunteer campaign coordinators at each respective participating business. Two campaign coordinators were honored this year for their invaluable volunteer efforts. Devlin O’Dell of Peoples Bank was honored as Campaign Coordinator of the Year, while first time coordinator Kelly Pedersen of Samson Rope was honored as Rookie of the Year.

Businesses of all sizes have found success with the United Way model. Premier/School Specialty received this year’s Inspiration Award for their small, but mighty local team. They nearly doubled total giving and their number of donors this year, even with a handful of long-time donors retiring. Leslie Sweeney, a proofreader at School Specialty, reflected on their success by saying, “We had some new employees this year, and some returning regular givers, and the new people seemed to ‘get it’! … I think we just did it by hope, and confidence, and the truth!”

The LIVE UNITED Award was presented to PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center for the way in which they give back to our community not just through their monetary donations, but through their work every day by providing respectful, quality care to Whatcom County residents.

BP Cherry Point Refinery has a long history of support for United Way. With help from their employees, they have donated more money to United Way of Whatcom County than any other business. They lend countless staff hours to United Way’s campaign team, grant review team, and Board of Directors. BP Cherry Point Refinery was awarded this year’s Impact Award.

The McClain Award was established to pay tribute to the McClain family and recognizes a business who shows impressive loyalty to United Way and to our community. This award was presented to Bellingham Cold Storage. Doug Thomas, President and CEO of Bellingham Cold Storage, said, “We have a wide range of people employed here – from programmers and administrative staff to manual laborers.  Our teams of people range in life experience from those with various levels of education to those with less opportunity.  They are all good salt of the earth folks, some of whom have struggled and been recipients of United Way benefits.  We strive to provide a positive work environment where people are praised and appreciated for their hard work.  For some of those people it may be the first time in their lives put into such an environment.  That is why we give to the United Way.”

By harnessing the collective power of these businesses and more than 100 others throughout Whatcom County, as well as support from non-workplace givers, our local United Way is able to help fund 34 non-profit programs providing services in Whatcom County. Services assist families and individuals who are struggling financially by offering free or affordable access to basic needs, such as housing and food; economic mobility through vocational readiness training; and parenting support, affordable childcare, and academic support to youth in order to help break the cycle of poverty.

To learn more about United Way of Whatcom County and how you can help make a difference, visit

The United Way of Whatcom County Campaign Celebration was made possible with sponsorship and in-kind gifts, preserving donor dollars for local human services programs. Sponsors included: BP Cherry Point Refinery, PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center, Samson Rope, Matrix Service, Whatcom Educational Credit Union, Boeing, PowerTek, Anvil Corporation, Mills Electric, Phillips 66 Ferndale Refinery, and US Bank. Additional gifts and services came from: Bellingham Cold Storage, Bellingham Technical College, Dunham Cellars, Kulshan Brewing Company, and OhSnap! Event Photo Booths.

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