Campaign Celebration 2020

For Immediate Release: 7.20.2020

Donna Swaffar, Communications Director


COVID-19 forces new tradition online

 TOPEKA, KS, July 20, 2020—In a year overrun with novel things, United Way of Greater Topeka took it in stride when COVID-19 restrictions forced their first-ever Campaign Celebration online.

Screen capture from the live Facebook broadcast of the Campaign Celebration. Campaign Chair John Fager and VP for Resource Development Angel Romero flank a screen showing the 2020 total amount raised of $2,438,628.24.

Campaign Chair John Fager and United Way Vice President of Resource Development Angel Romero.

In addition to presenting several brand new workplace campaign awards throughout the hour-long Zoom broadcast on July 9, United Way also announced the final total for the campaign year that officially ended June 30: $2,438,628.24.

The online event was shared live on Facebook and emceed by WIBW news anchor Melissa Brunner. The combination live and recorded program featured profiles of companies receiving awards as well as a special profile of the United Way-funded tutoring initiative at Meadows Elementary.

“The Celebration was our way of refocusing some appreciation on our workplace campaigns,” United Way CEO Jessica Lehnherr said. “This kind of fundraising is the traditional backbone of United Way, and it’s truly a collective model of community support. One donor, one company alone can’t ever hope to create the kind of change that lifts a community. But put them all together and big things are possible.”

Lenherr also said, “It would have been really easy to just cancel this event rather than figure out how to make it happen online, but our Resource Development staff and volunteers refused to let COVID-19 keep them from giving credit to the businesses in our community that make the work possible. We also were able to have a little fun and challenge people to donate a portion of what they might have spent on lunch to United Way’s support of Basic Needs—including food insecurity. We’d never really done something like this, and it was really inspiring to reach our goal of $1,000 in the one hour of the program. Melissa was so enthusiastic about getting people to give—she really made it happen!”

Campaign Chair John Fager, who will be serving again in that capacity for the upcoming year, was grateful for the opportunity to thank businesses for running campaigns. “I’m not sure everyone is really aware of the critical fundraising support that United Way provides to our broader nonprofit community. Their grants and especially their donor designations to more than 30 aligned partners provide critical income that would otherwise have to be generated by nonprofits and their own staff. United Way does the legwork during workplace campaign—getting the information out there and connecting donors from more than 300 employers through payroll deduction to causes they care about—this year to the tune of almost $2.5 million.”

Preparations are underway for what will surely be a unique yearn for United Way campaigns. Businesses and nonprofits alike struggle daily with COVID-19 limitations and impacts. But the pandemic has also provided unexpected opportunities, according to Workplace Campaign Director Martinez Hillard.

“In a funny way,” Hillard said, “COVID has pushed us to finalize some projects that have been on the back burner. We’ve talked for a long time about creating a virtual campaign toolkit—some videos and other resources for companies with challenges to running a traditional workplace campaign. We had to get creative this spring and do our own internal campaign completely online, so it felt like the perfect time to start putting resources together so other companies can use their United Way campaign to help reconnect their employees this fall. Coming together to make a difference, even if we have to do it on Zoom or (Microsoft) Teams, is going to give us all much needed boost as we deal with COVID-19.

The recording of the Campaign Celebration is available on UWGT’s Facebook page at:, and the program for the event with the award nominations is online at

Campaign Awards

Anything But Chili (ABC) Award
(Outstanding Food Event)

  • Small Business
    Key Staffing and Premier Employment Solutions
  • Large Business
    Security Benefit
  • Honorable Mention: BNSF Railway

“You did WHAT?!” Award
(Unique Special Event)

  • Capitol Federal

Momentum Award
(Increase in total raised and/or participation)

  • Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.

People’s Choice Award
Voted on by registered attendees

  • Small Business
    Fidelity State Bank & Trust
  • Large Business
    Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas