Wednesday, November 21, 2007

One Last Blog

So, yesterday, Julie Talbott and I turned in the last of the courthouse's United Way materials.

And here we are after victory. We made it, and I feel terrific. The goal's met. The campaign's over. And we had a great victory on Friday.

And now the good's to be done.

And I'm glad I signed up to be campaign chairman now. I'm ecstatic I did it. If you'd have asked me last Monday, I probably would have had a different answer! Seriously though, it was great. And now I'm a past campaign chair, and we were the first United Way in this area to finish its campaign on-time. No other United Way in the mid-East Tennessee area has to my knowledge.

Ya' know, I went into this thing with no clue what kind of commitment it was or what it would mean internally working toward goal. And there we were and hadn't made goal at 4:00 o'clock Thursday the day before victory. Then we got the last bit of pledges in that put us over the edge, and it was like a giant weight was lifted off my shoulders – just hours before I was going to announce we made victory. Now I know that wasn't the latest we ever did it, but it sure ain't the earliest we ever made it either.

But the good thing is that the money is going to do so much good.

Like I said at the victory, there's going to be somebody sitting at the kick-off breakfast next year whose life has been forever changed, and my life has been forever changed by being a part of this. I appreciate Sandra and the staff for their hard work. It's just been a wonderful experience, and I'm so excited to be the immediate past chairman.

I want to make it clear I don't want to take any of the credit for this campaign because it's the campaign cabinet and the staff who made this happen. I said from the very beginning, I'm just the head cheerleader – no offense to Bryan Daniels. But it feels great to make goal.

And ya' set goals in life so that ya' have to reach hard. On Monday, I was kickin' myself for not setting the goal at $2,100,000 at the campaign cabinet retreat back in May when we were talkin' about it. And I was like, "Aw, come on. Let's do $2,150,000," and last week, I thought, 'What an idiot was I! Cause we'd have made goal Monday if we'd set it at $2,100,000.' But think about the good that extra $50,000 will do in the life of a child, or a victim of a fire, or a domestic abuse victim, or an elderly person needing a meal.

I'm glad we set it where it was, but we barely went over. But it's like bein' pregnant – either ya' are or ya' aren't. It's one or the other. And last Monday, I said to Sandra, "Why did ya' let me open my big mouth and set that goal so high?"

When ya' really think about it with the 5.1 % increase over last year, with the state of the economy the way it is, with the mortgages, and with the gas prices. The list goes on and on, and with the community to step up the way it did. I guarantee ya' there were many people out there who thought, 'That bunch is crazy if they think they're gonna' raise that much money over what they did last year.' It's proof positive that this is the greatest community in the world to live, and the people in Blount County are truly giving people.

I really appreciate Sandra's confidence in me. I know she has a lot of say in who campaign chairs are. I know they're selected by a committee, but obviously as president and CEO she's not going to let any bonehead do it. She just let this bonehead do it. It's been fun, the most nerve-wracking I've ever been involved in – especially these last two weeks when we're eight days out and we're $175,000 short. But we made it, and I just want to say a final thanks to my campaign cabinet. I have a lot of good friends on there, and I appreciate their help.

This campaign has been a long journey. We started with touring all of the community partners, had a great pacesetters campaign, then had the kick-off breakfast, had a very successful Day of Caring. Then we moved into the campaigns, had the mid-campaign report meeting where we were right on-target, then had the most successful hamburger luncheon where I did those deep-fried Twinkies, then we had Gas Day which was also the most successful Gas Day we've ever had, and then we moved into victory (and I'll never live that down with Twinkie the Kid showin' up), and we're the only United Way in this area to make it on-time and on-goal.

Again, I don't want to take credit for us makin' goal, but I'm glad I could play a small part in that.

Thank y'all for readin' the blog. It's been great to be able to share my thoughts with ya' on here. This has been an incredible journey, and I'm glad I could take y'all with me.

All blogged out,
Dave Bennett

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

11th Hour

Y'all know how I said it was crunch time a couple of weeks ago? I lied.

Now it's really crunch time.

We're going to make goal, and several of us are here at United Way reminding folks to get their pledges in.

And it's crazy right now wrapping this campaign up.

We have about a dozen of us volunteering right now to make sure
everyone who wants to contribute to United Way gets their pledges in.

But here we are at the end of this campaign, working to make a difference for Blount County.

So, how am I feeling right now?

I'm nervous. I'm excited. And I'm anxious.

I'm nervous. I'm excited. And I'm anxious.

But it's going to be wonderful come Friday when we hold our victory. We're down around $90,000 to go. Hopefully, by the end of the day we'll have around $70,000 to go for the campaign.

It's been one heck of a ride, especially these last two weeks. I never thought a volunteer job could be so stressful and rewarding all at the same time. And ya' know how I said I was sleepin' a couple of hours a night? That's gone. I'm gonna' sleep like a baby come Friday.

To anybody that's not turned in their pledge, now is the time to get it in, create lasting change and do what matters, and thank you to those who have pledged and made this a successful campaign. We couldn't do it without you.

Blog ya' later,
Dave Bennett

Friday, November 2, 2007

I Ain't Sleepin' Anymore

Hey everybody,

We're two weeks away from wrapping this campaign up, and I'll tell ya' I ain't sleepin' right now. I might get two hours a night, but to me that ain't sleepin'.

I go to bed dreamin' about the United Way logo. I wake up seein' the United Way logo. This is all I think about:

I can't get this campaign out of my head. But that's a good thing with me being campaign chair.

Of course, it's not all because I'm stayin' up worryin' about this campaign. Some of it's just me runnin' around to meetings tellin' about United Way. I've gone to Denso meetings at 6:00 at night. I've gone to the Sheriff's Office at 5:30 in the morning. I've got one 5:30 in my day, but I tell ya' for United Way I'll have two!

We had our campaign cabinet meeting this morning, and things are lookin' pretty good:

Then we did a projection where we took what we have in and what we think is going to come in, and right now if all of the outstanding accounts come in at the exact same level they were at last year, we're runnin' a shortage of $3,295. I tell ya' that $3,295 is gonna' keep me awake for two weeks straight. But we're gonna' work hard these last two weeks findin' new folks and businesses to give so we can not only meet, but beat our goal. I'm confident we can do that, but it’s gonna' take every one of us doin' our part.

I feel like that song from Smokey and the Bandit where it says, "We got a long way to go and a short time to get there."

If y'all wanna' help, just make sure you get your pledge in, and if ya' know someone who doesn't contribute, tell 'em about United Way. Get 'em on-board.

I want to let y'all know that restaurants in Blount County are pitchin' in, too.

They're doing a campaign called "What Matters on Your Platter" where customers can contribute to United Way at the restaurant through November 11th. Restaurants helpin' out are Aubrey’s Restaurant, Foothills Milling Company, Gracie’s Restaurant, Huddle House, Lemon Grass, Shoney’s Restaurant and Sun Up Diner.

Just click here to read Blount Today's article about it, and click here to see what the Daily Times ran on it. Some of those restaurants are even doin' tear-off sheets where you can sign your name, and the restaurant will post it up on their walls.

I better go for now. Y'all have a good one. And contribute to United Way so that I can get some sleep at night!

Blog ya' later,
Dave Bennett

P.S. Our blog has just recently become a part of the World's Biggest Blog Party. Maryville businessman Tim Richardson came up with the idea to link up 1,000 bloggers in the hopes to raise $1,000,000 for nonprofits. They saw the blog and asked us to join. They're gonna' have a link to us from the site and everything.

Friday, October 19, 2007


Hello everybody,

Well, y'all, here we are four weeks away from the end of this campaign, and it's crunch time. Right now we're sittin' at 61.1% with $1,314,955 of a $2,150,000 goal. Not too bad. We're gettin' there. These last four weeks are when a lot of magic happens, and we just got to stay focused.

We had our mid-campaign report meeting a few days back, and we had all of the reporting chairs with the exception of Bryan Daniels, who was away on business – so he says. I think he was still embarrassed by the funny video.

Just so everybody knows, Andy White's General Business Division came in first place, raising almost 75% of their goal. (General Business is up to 82.8% of their goal to date.)

Here's a picture of him accepting his blue ribbon.

I'm proud of Andy. He's become a true politician.
(Now don't tell him I said that.)

But it was a great report meeting, and each of our campaign chairs reported being on target to meeting our goal, which is wonderful.

Anyway, here we are with a little less than a month to go in the campaign. The hard work starts now. We've got a little more than $827,000 left to raise, and we're down to weeks left. And we've got a long way to go and a short time to get there.

It's time to get energized and refocused. That last lap is the hardest one to run, and it's time to run.

Blog ya' later,
Dave Bennett

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Got Gas? I Did!

Hey everybody,

Gas Day was Friday. That was good to get out there and get gas. Aw, you know what I mean.

First of all, I want to thank the hundreds of volunteers we had at E-Z Stops, KenJo Markets, and Mr. Gas locations. And we couldn't have even done Gas Day without the gas companies, like Calloway Oil, Downey Oil, and McNutt Oil. They allowed us to pump gas, wash windshields, and accept tips, and I want to thank them for their community spirit for giving United Way some of the money they make off of the gas from the sales that day. Plus, Coke and Pepsi helped out, too.

We got a total on the tips. We raised $6,197.19 in TIPS alone on Gas Day. That doesn't include the money from the gas sales or the soda sales. That's strictly tips, and it's over $2,500 more than what was made in tips last year.

It was a great opportunity for those of us who volunteer with United Way to get the word out about what we do. I saw several people who did not know about United Way, and it gave me the opportunity to tell them about what we did.

At our station we even had a guy from New Orleans who had never heard of United Way, and he was so moved by our United Way and what we do, he said he was going to go back to New Orleans and make a contribution.

And we touched a lot of people who don't get to hear about United Way, and hopefully, they'll go home and check us out on the internet. And of course, you know me, I didn't talk up my blog at all.

Our station did $561.86 in tips. We had about fifteen volunteers from our office for the station, and I thank them for taking the time to do that. And I appreciate the mayor coming out and spending some time with folks. I didn't strong-arm the staff too much, I hope.

WATE came out and did a news story about us for their 10 o'clock news, and the mayor was out there pumping gas and washing windows, being the good public servant that he is.

And the beauty of this is we're out there doing this for United Way. I think we're going to surpass our estimates for the day, and what that means is we'll be able to make goal, beat goal, and when allocations rolls around, we'll be able to make that much more of a difference in Blount County, and that's where it really matters.

Well, thank y'all for comin' out to Gas Day. I'll blog again soon about our mid-campaign report meeting we had, too. So stay tuned for that!

Blog ya' later,
Dave Bennett

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Hey everybody,

I just finished up with the Hamburger Luncheon a little while ago, and let me tell ya'...I'm tired. But what a good day it was.

We sold out of the 200 deep-fried Twinkies right at the end, and that line stayed about ten people deep from 11:00 - 2:00.

Ken Scwall from WBIR couldn't believe how good those fried Twinkies were. We'll be on the news tonight around 6:25 on Channel 10. Be sure to tune in. [UPDATE: If you missed it last night, just click here to see us on Schwall's segment!]

I was on my feet for over three hours.

But I love it. This is one of the funnest events that we do every year with all of the community. Look at the people who came. We sold all of these hamburgers and raised all this money for United Way. It just don't get any better than that. With all the fun we've had, I just have to say a special thanks to Julie Talbott, Deb Parker, and Kim Kirkland who helped me out tremendously. I was just the fry boy, but they got them ready, put the powdered sugar on, and served 'em up to folks.

All of the totals aren't in yet with all of the tickets people sold out in the community, but the deep-fried Twinkies alone raised $500 for United Way.

We sold over 1,000 hamburgers in three hours. By noon, we had sold 800 hamburgers with the carry-out and delivery orders. It was amazing.

But it's been a great day, and everybody came in and fellowshipped for a good cause.

One person dropped a hundred dollar check for their $2 Twinkie.

Thanks to everyone for coming out and the 40 volunteers who gave up several hours of their time for this event.

A special thanks to our sponsors who raised a tremendous amount of money for this event: Alcoa, Inc., AT&T, Attorney Craig Garrett, Blount County Government, City of Alcoa, City of Maryville, Johnny's Outboard, Kissel & Whitlock, CPA, ORNL Federal Credit Union, Parks and Rec, and Twin City Dealerships.

And I want to thank companies that provided items for the luncheon: Chik-Fil-A, Coca-Cola, East Tennessee Electropolishing, Heritage Propane, Hope Photography, IJ Company, Pepsi, R Chatfield and Company, Sonic Drive-in, Tarpley Signs, US Foods, Wal-Mart: Alcoa and Maryville. If I'm forgettin' anybody, let me know, and I'll be sure to add them.

A lot of companies donated door prizes, and there were a ton of those.

So many people came together for this thing, and we can't thank you enough.

Well, I'm gonna' go for now. I'm worn out.

Blog you soon,
Dave Bennett

Monday, September 24, 2007

Burgers and Twinkies for United Way

Hey everybody,

This Wednesday we're doing the Hamburger Luncheon for United Way over at First Baptist Church of Maryville across from the courthouse, and first of all, I wanna' say a special thanks to Blount County Circuit Court Clerk Tom Hatcher and his entire committee who have worked so hard on this thing. This is their fourth year doin' this thing, and when Tom was Public Service campaign chair four years ago, he had this idea about a hamburger lunch. He put it together, thinkin' it may be something that could take off, and it's exceeded any expectations any of us had.

And I'm going to be doing fried Twinkies for $2.00. I deep-fried Twinkies for Relay for Life, and the committee asked me if I could come by and deep fry some Twinkies for the luncheon. And you know me, I love anything deep-fried. Anything deep-fried is good – except for squash. And these deep-fried Twinkies are gonna' be $2.00 each, so you better come early because we are gonna' sell out.

I don't think there's any doubt we're gonna' sell out of burgers, too. You can get carry-out and delivery (for ten orders or more). But if you can, come to First Baptist Church because there'll be a lot of fellowship. And for $5.00 – you can't eat lunch anywhere in town for $5.00. You get a burger, chips, drink, and a cookie for only five bucks, and be sure to come see me for a fried Twinkie.

We'll see if Joe Dawson at Blount Memorial can offer cholesterol tests with the purchase of a deep-fried Twinkie.

Rumor has it Ken Schwall from WBIR Channel 10 might shoot a Positively Schwall story for the 6:00 o'clock news. Ken heard about me frying Twinkies, and thought it might make a good story – especially with me having heart surgery several months back. To the rumors that Ken might be there, I think me frying Twinkies fits into his stories perfectly – especially with me and my Twinkie King hat!

Well, I'll see y'all at the burger luncheon this Wednesday! By the way if you want to place a carry-out or delivery order, just email or call 661-9341.

Blog you soon,
Dave Bennett