United Way celebrating anniversary at banquet

By Argen Duncan: PNT senior writer

United Way of Eastern New Mexico is celebrating the last 50 years and looking into the next half-century at its annual banquet Thursday at Eastern New Mexico University.

The event celebrates the end of the annual fundraising campaign and, this year, the organization’s 50th anniversary.

Erinn Burch, executive director of the local United Way, expects more than 160 people.

“This banquet is a way to wrap our arms around everything it means to be United Way, from giving to volunteering to advocating for a cause,” she said. “Everyone who participates in United Way is part of what United Way accomplishes.”

Burch said it’s exciting for the organization to be 50 years old and to imagine what the next five decades hold and how United Way can help.

“It’s not just about last year; it’s about where we’re going,” she said.

Besides a reception at the ENMU president’s house and a dinner featuring sirloin steaks, the banquet promises speeches by outgoing board President Kevin Bond and incoming President Thom Moore of Farmers’ Electric Cooperative Inc. Groups that partner with United Way, 50 years of board members and the winner of a Lifetime Achievement Award will also be recognized, Burch said.

The Lifetime Achievement Award honoree won’t learn he or she was chosen until the banquet, she said.

Moore said his speech would be a rally cry, letting people know United Way isn’t just board members and staff but “all of us.”

In the future, Moore said, he wants United Way to focus on education, income and health in addition to raising money. He also wants to teach people about the organization and its efforts and engage them in improving their communities.

“It’s one thing to feed a hungry child,” Moore said, explaining the direction he wants to take. “It’s another thing to make sure that child never goes hungry.”