United Way of Marathon County Hosts Recognition Luncheon

The United Way of Marathon County hosted it's annual recognition luncheon Wednesday. It celebrates people and organizations driven to improve our community and create lasting change.

Awards for Volunteer of the Year, Retired Volunteer of the Year, and Advocate of the Year were all presented at the luncheon. Jacki Gessler won the Volunteer of the Year award. Gessler serves on The Emerging Leaders Board, a group of next generation leaders and professionals who want to make a difference in the community. She's also chair of United Way's Career Closet, an organization that helps men and women in Marathon County get clothes for interviews or jobs. Gessler says that although being honored with an award is awesome, that's not why she volunteers.

"It's so cool because the work that you do as a volunteer, it's not that you want any award. You just do it because it feels good," Gessler told NewsChannel 7.

Carl Drake won the Retired Volunteer of the Year award and Deputy Chief Bryan Hilts walked away with the Advocate of the Year award.

One lucky donor also won a new car. Four local companies stepped forward to donate the money for the car. More than 6,000 people donated to United Way in order to qualify for the drawing. In December, the board narrowed the field, randomly drawing 10 names. Wednesday, those 10 people got the chance to see if their key was the key to the 2012 Honda Civic. Jerry May of Rhinelander was the lucky winner.

In 2012 The United Way of Marathon County raised more than $2.8 million locally. This year they also started four new coalitions to address what they say are their top priorities in the community: health, education and income.

"There's opportunities for people to get involved in United Way and it really is about volunteerism and people stepping forward to live united by giving, by advocating and volunteering and that's what really brings our community together so the have a better place to live," United Way of Marathon County Executive Director JoAnne Kelly said.

Kelly added that the thing that makes Marathon County such a great place to live is that the community has a high rate of volunteerism and that during tough times the people in the community really come through to help one another.

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