The good-natured schism dividing the local United Way fundraising campaign’s co-chairs reached its widest point Thursday morning when Iowa State graduate Jan Powers wrapped “Voice of the Hawkeyes” Gary Dolphin in a red-and-gold Cyclones flag.

Laughter and cheers filled the Diamond Jo Casino’s Harbor Room, which was the site of the fundraising kickoff event for the United Way of Dubuque Area Tri-States. The event drew 200 people.

Bantering with each other on stage ahead of Saturday’s Iowa-Iowa State football game in Ames, Powers and Dolphin then set aside their football rivalry to enthusiastically promote the United Way campaign.

“We have a $1.5 million goal, which I think is very obtainable,” Dolphin said. “My goal is to make goal. I hate falling short. I hate losing.”

Powers added, “Today is about getting us all in the mindset to reach that goal.”

The local United Way organization attempted to raise $1.625 million in its annual campaign launched in September 2018, but ended the campaign at $1.57 million, said Danielle Peterson, the organization’s president and CEO.

The organization raised about $1.7 million in both 2015 and 2016 and $1.55 million in 2017.

“We set our goal a little bit lower (this year) because we want to make sure we can exceed our goal,” Peterson said.

Campaign proceeds support 25 organizations and 35 programs that seek to improve health, education and income stability in the tri-state area.

The fundraising initiative relies on workplace giving, individual donations and a variety of events.

“Jan and I have known each other a long time, and we both have a marketing background,” Dolphin said. “We’re hoping that will help in our campaign.”

Donations to last year’s fundraising campaign helped serve 28,881 meals to and cover 1,407 hours of mentoring for area youth, and provided 391 people with shelter or domestic violence recovery services, according to the organization.

“United Way is obviously a pillar in the community and has helped so many people,” Dolphin said. “It fits right in with what Dubuque is and who the people in the community are. They’re always willing to give a little extra to great causes like this.”

Peterson said campaign organizers hope to reach the goal in part by broadening knowledge about United Way and the nonprofit groups it helps to fund.

“People who think they know what United Way is, maybe know what it was 10 or 20 or 50 years ago,” she said. “They don’t necessarily know how we have evolved to address our communitywide issues.”

Peterson said this year’s campaign theme, “United we rock,” reflects new approaches to raising awareness of community needs and the fundraising to help address them.

“We’re still doing workplace campaigns, and that’s always going to be the opportunity where people can give, often through payroll deduction,” she said. “We’re also doing one event a month this calendar year with a band and a local venue. We’re also doing some volunteer events, and we’re going to do Over the Edge again for 2020.”

In June, more than 40 people participated in the inaugural Over the Edge fundraising event, during which top fundraisers rappelled down the side of Hotel Julien Dubuque. Each participant raised a minimum of $1,000 to earn a trip down the side of the hotel, and about $60,000 was raised for United Way’s community impact fund.

“Times are tough, and everybody’s got their hand out, but there’s something about Dubuque that endears us all to it,” Dolphin said. “That’s why we live here. That’s why we work here. So, I’m asking our community to give once again.”

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