By Jack Molitor
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
When the local United Way board of directors was in the process of choosing a Volunteer of the Year for 2014, last year's winner, Mike Austin, said one person easily stood out.
That was Mike Collette.
Collette, an Anderson University professor who has been a part of the United Way since the1980s, was handed the organization's top award at the social service agency's annual dinner Tuesday night.
United Way of Madison County President Nancy Vaughan credited Collette with helping to reorganize the umbrella volunteer entity into something that would better suit Madison County, a community that was starting to suffer from dire financial straits.
She said Collette helped make UW what it is today in Madison County. In return, Collette thanked the organization and the university that allowed him to devote time to volunteer work.
"This is a county that really needs United Way. We need to prepare the young people here for success," Collette said after receiving the award at the Anderson Country Club. "I'm proud to be a part of an organization that serves this county and to work with so many people that love this county."
Collette was one of several to be honored Tuesday. Three new awards were handed out to individuals and businesses that made significant contributions. Awards went to Hoosier Park Racing & Casino as well as Stefanie Leiter for creativity in donation campaigns. United Way Campaign Director Kim Williams said that Hoosier Park pulled in nearly $10,000 for United Way in its Rockin' the Runway show in November.
The Spirit of United Way Award, another new honor, was handed out to Star Financial Bank. Williams said the award was created to recognize a smaller business that went above and beyond to increase donations and participation from within. Finally, Jim Gwynn was given the RSVP Volunteer award. Gwynn has volunteered with Habitat for Humanity and has aided in building 27 homes for the organization over the years.
United Way chairman Tom VanOsdol acknowledged the agency's 2014 numbers were down slightly from 2013 when the organization put about $1,092,000 into community programs. He said the organization would redouble its efforts in the next year to bring the numbers up and encouraged those at the dinner to step up.
"The challenges we face in this year's campaign are a reflections of the challenges of the community in general, and it just indicates how much the United Way is needed," VanOsdol said.
Like Jack Molitor on Facebook and follow him @aggiejack4 on Twitter, or call 640-4883.