It wasn’t a trivial celebration – far from it: More than 200 people attended the United Way of North Central Massachusetts’ 30th campaign recognition and thank-you event at the Four Points Sheraton Thursday evening, and United Way trivia questions were there for them.
Dr. Bruce Man, chairman of United Way of North Central Massachusetts, kicked off the celebration by thanking the community for its support. “Over the past three decades, thanks to our donors, we have helped create opportunities for a better life for tens of thousands people,” he said.
United Way recognized three of its volunteers for outstanding service:  Deb LaPointe from Enterprise Bank and Trust; Abbie MacCallum of Bemis Associates, and Herb White of Workers’ Credit Union.  They were lauded for going the extra mile as volunteers for the organization.
Robert Antonucci, president of Fitchburg State College and a United Way board member, filled in for this year’s United Way Campaign Chairman, Patrick Muldoon, president of HealthAlliance. Antonucci recognized Steel-Fab, Inc. of Fitchburg, Mass.; Sterilite Corp. of Townsend, Mass.; and the Wal-Mart Store in Gardner, Mass. with the Chairman’s Extraordinary Effort Campaign award, acknowledging their outstanding workplace campaigns.
United Way Community Builders, launched during the organization’s 25th anniversary to promote volunteerism, presented two fellowship awards, which help individuals to implement their ideas to improve the community through mentoring and a financial stipend.
Barbara McGowan of Leominster, Mass., will help senior citizens in assisted living programs by supplying donated items through her initiative, The R.O.S.E. Project. Nancy Shippen of Acton, through her fellowship, will work to recruit, support and expand the role of volunteers in Shirley and Concord prisons.
In addition, four individuals were recognized for outstanding volunteerism: Mona Holforty of Leominster, for her work through HealthAlliance in Leominster; David Savoie of Gardner, Heywood Hospital, Gardner; Dadgie Scott of  Royalston, Mass., H.O.P.E., Gardner; and Helen Obermeyer Simmons of Lunenburg, Mass., Rollstone Studios in Fitchburg.
United Way Community Builders also awarded four grants to nonprofits for their volunteer projects as part of National Volunteer Week, April 18-24. The community was asked to vote for their favorite projects, which generated over 750 votes.
The grand prize, $1,000, went to the House of Peace and Education in Gardner (HOPE), to revitalize their pavilion. Sholan Farms of Leominster received $500 to create a handicapped-accessible u-pick apple orchard. Beacon of Hope Community Services of Leominster received second place, $250, for their peace rally. Third place, $250, went to Leominster Trail Stewards, for trails cleanups.
Collectively, the projects will mobilize 447 volunteers during the week, which will touch the lives of 29,000 people, according to Karin Oliveira, director of United Way Community Builders.
United Way Youth Venture, a program with more than 1,000 youth who are creating positive change through their school-based initiatives, presented a series of awards and scholarships.
The 2009-2010 Changemaker Awards went to the following United Way Youth Venture teams for making a significant impact on their cause: “Puppy Love” at Francis W. Parker Charter School in Devens, Mass., which is working to raise awareness of, and propose legislation barring the sale of puppies through puppy mills.
Shirley Middle School’s “Group 5” is changing the school culture at Shirley by raising funds to purchase new equipment to replace outdated technology for Shirley’s Technical Education Department.
Fitchburg High School’s “Prom Dress Express” collects, dry-cleans and distributes free prom dresses to local area youth.
Memorial Middle School in Fitchburg, through the 21st Century After-School Program, “PATH,” provides peer tutoring. Volunteers donate their lunch period to support the academic growth of their younger peers.
Winchendon’s Murdock Middle-High School “Wii Care” uses video games to bridge the intergenerational gap at assisted living facilities, with a focus on fitness through the interactive Wii experience.
Leominster’s Skyview Middle School’s “Freedom Venture” supports local troops serving stateside and overseas through care packages, letters and cards.
The Ally of the Year award went to Mary Cooper of Shirley, who works with “The Rolled Up Newspaper 2” team at the Lura A White Elementary School in Shirley.
Phil Grzewinski, president of United Way of North Central Massachusetts, awarded $1,000 United Way Youth Venture college scholarships to four students for their outstanding participation in the program:
Abigail Capone, a senior at Fitchburg High School, participates in “We’ve Got You Covered,” with the United Way Youth Venture Team. They plan to build roofs on the softball dugouts at the high school to provide shelter from foul balls and weather, and start a scholarship for young, underprivileged girls who want to play softball in Fitchburg’s Lassie League.
Erin Hodge, a senior at the Leominster Center for Technical Education Graphic Communications program, participates in the United Way Youth Venture team, “Art for Random Kindness” (ARK), which utilizes members’ artistic abilities to support their community. They have painted murals, provided local businesses and other Venture teams with free marketing materials and logos, and have successfully held numerous fundraisers, including one for the victims in Haiti.
Kathleen Craigen is a senior at Fitchburg High School and participates on two teams, “Our Family to Yours” (OFTY) and “Intergenerational Project.” She is the lead Venturer of OFTY, which launched in 2009 through the Fitchburg State College’s Upward Bound program, whose aim is to provide school supplies to needy families within the Fitchburg community.
Marcus Provost is a senior at Murdock High School. His initiative, the “Sound of Murdock,” launched in 2008 and provides deejay services for his school and local community. Part of the profit goes to into a scholarship fund and the school’s Key Club.
The evening concluded with the 2009-2010 Champion of the Year award, which went to Garrett Zecker of Fitchburg. Zecker has been a champion for the past three years, cultivating and supporting the launch of eight United Way Youth Venture teams, with three more teams planned.