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United Way announces campaign chairs

Energizing the collective power of those who live and work in the Quad Cities area and the companies located in the region will be a key focus for two individuals selected to chair this year’s United Way of the Quad Cities Community Campaign.
United Way announced today Mara Downing of John Deere and Mike Parejko of the Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center will lead the United Way effort that officially kicks off in September with a goal of raising $7.5 million.
“United Way of the Quad Cities focuses on achieving maximum impact to help create a community that enables and encourages people to lead happy and successful lives,” said Parejko, CEO of the Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center.
“Local initiatives and organizations that receive United Way support are critical to strengthening and growing our community as a great place to live and work,” said Downing, Deere’s vice president of global brand management and corporate communications and president of the John Deere Foundation.
The campaign chairs said this year’s marketing and outreach efforts will tell the transformative stories of everyday people whose lives have been changed by organizations that receive United Way support.
Both John Deere and the Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center and their employees were among more than 350 companies and nearly 13,000 individuals who contributed nearly $7 million in last year’s campaign.
“United Way is fortunate to have Mara and Mike lead this year’s campaign. Both have a strong personal commitment to improving our community and helping people,” said Rene Gellerman, president and CEO of United Way of the Quad Cities.
Downing and Parejko are United Way Board members and both say they are inspired by United Way’s Bold Goals initiative that focuses on improving the education, income, and health of Quad Cities’ residents.
The Bold Goals effort aligns with priorities for the Q2030 Regional Action plan that target academic achievement, financial stability, and access to trauma and mental health support services. Those goals include raising high school graduation rates, ensuring more adults obtain access to post-secondary education, and increasing the well-being index score.
An example, Parejko said, is the Quad Cities Data Exchange, a United Way-driven initiative focused on enhancing student academic achievement in the Quad Cities area.
Parejko said, “By bringing together eight different school districts to meet with community leaders and representatives of St. Ambrose University, the initiative helps to identify and begin addressing gaps in the academic achievement of our local students.”
Downing said citizenship and volunteering to help others are core values important to a vibrant community. “I am hopeful that thousands of people and business leaders will join us to make a critical difference for our neighbors throughout the region.”
This year’s United Way of the Quad Cities campaign details will be announced at the official kickoff, scheduled for September 5 at The Rust Belt in East Moline. Doors open at 3:30 p.m. and the program starts promptly at 4 p.m.