Merrill Area United Way to celebrate 75th Anniversary with Community Celebration

TINA L. SCOTT
EDITOR

The Merrill community is invited to join the Merrill Area United Way (MAUW) for a fun-filled family-oriented Community Celebration on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the Agra Pavilion, 100 S. Park St. in Merrill.
At 10:00 a.m. Mayor Steve Hass will kick off the celebration with a Mayoral Proclamation, and then families are invited to walk the River Bend Trail to receive a participation token. A juggling show featuring John Kilgust, live musical entertainment by Paul & Matt Waid and also Carl Jackson, story time, yard games, a bouncy house, face painting, Zendor the Comic Magician, free cookies and lemonade, and official Green Bay Packer door prizes will all be packed into four hours of fun for the whole family. In addition, there will be agency displays for guests to peruse, WJMT Bluejay Radio will be doing a live broadcast, and food will be available on the grounds from Amazin’ Blazin’ BBQ and a hot dog stand.
It’s a day guaranteed to be a lot of fun for the families that attend, and after 75 years of serving the Merrill community, such an exciting celebration is warranted.
The Merrill Area United Way (MAUW) was officially founded on Oct. 27, 1947, according to Dee Olsen, current Executive Director of the Merrill Area United Way, Inc. Most of us can’t remember a time when the MAUW wasn’t a quiet but essential part of our community, working to provide assistance to other agencies at many levels.
“What would our community look like if United Way didn’t exist and help our agencies?” Olsen said. “The agencies would struggle, and some may not exist. We could see more impoverishment, more crime, more shoplifting, more childhood delinquency, more children undernourished or going to school hungry.”
The MAUW has been instrumental in supporting many agencies that exist to serve the Merrill area community in a wide variety of ways. Their fundraising efforts have, in turn, impacted the lives of many people within our community, for four generations.
“Since just 2010 to 2022, with the generosity of our community, United Way has disbursed just over $2.1 million to partner agencies as they serve the local community,” Olsen said.
The needs in the community continue to grow. “This year United Way is anticipating receiving three new agency applicants,” she said, from the “Boys and Girls Club, The Nest, and Food For Kids.” All three agencies provide support to area children in a variety of ways, from providing necessities to high school students, to food for children to eat on the weekends when hot school lunches are not available, to after-school activities to engage youth in positive ways.
“United Way focuses on the basic building blocks for a good life – a quality education that leads to stable employment, a solid income to support a family through retirement and meet cost of living standards, and good health with available and affordable health care,” Olsen said. “These aren’t always achievable, but our agency support helps.”
United Way stepped up and was one of two major organizations raising dollars to help the tornado victims in 2011, she added, working along with the Chamber of Commerce Foundation. “United Way raised over $100,000 to help people,” she said.
More recently, “When COVID 19 hit, United Way assessed the impact on our agencies, their services, and their funding and made eight additional agency grants to assist them,” Olsen said.
Then, “affected by COVID 19, in 2020, Merrill’s Christmas gift giving for children and families in need was in jeopardy.”
“Within a matter of 6-7 weeks United Way developed a ‘Children’s Christmas Project’ and quickly raised $38,000.00 to provide a drive-through Christmas to help 133 families, totaling 360 children,” she said.
“United Way also organized and operated the first homeless shelter for two years during the winter months,” Olsen said. “United Way held community conversations regarding homelessness and, with the help of Habitat for Humanity and Robbie and Trina Johnson, was the impetus for getting the current MAC Home established. MAC Home is its own operation now.”
Untold numbers of people in the Merrill community have been positively impacted by the Merrill Area United Way over the course of 75 years. Come on down to celebrate with the United Way this Saturday.

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