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Noah Seys got a big surprise Wednesday night, Sept. 14, when he was handed a red envelope that contained a $100 bill. “I was really confused about it. Why would anybody give me $100?” asked Mr. Seys, 20, a student at Western Illinois University Quad Cities in Moline. He was one of 50 area students to each receive $100 – or “seed money” – to help them do good work in the community. The money is part of the QC Caring Assignment highlighted during the kickoff celebration for United Way Quad Cities’ annual community campaign. That celebration, held at the Quad Cities Waterfront Convention Center, Bettendorf, brought together several hundred civic, business, labor and philanthropic leaders to launch the campaign to bring in money and volunteers to help the region. Next year’s campaign goal is $7.3 million. The kickoff’s rallying themes were “together we can” and “make caring famous.” In fact, during Wednesday’s event, Visit Quad Cities President and CEO Dave Herrell, who also is co-chair of the United Way campaign, had the crowd shouting out the “together we can” theme to help launch the campaign. “We have to be vocal. There is nothing wrong with shouting from the rooftops. … We have to challenge our colleagues to do the right thing,” he added. In addition to Mr. Herrell, other community leaders at the event included: United Way Quad Cities’ President and CEO Rene Gellerman; Mara Downing, vice president of Global Communications at John Deere and United Way’s board chair; and LaDrina Wilson, owner of Iman Consulting and CEO of the Quad Cities Chamber. Ms. Wilson also is co-chairing the campaign. This year, challenges persist in the areas of education, economic mobility and health that were magnified by the coronavirus pandemic, several speakers said on Wednesday. And those needs are on top of decades-long systemic social and racial inequities in underserved populations. One of the highlights of Wednesday’s kickoff was that big surprise for 50 young people, who each received $100 in seed funding to multiply and invest in a local cause, person, purpose or group that they are passionate about and report back to United Way what they did within 120 days. The college and high school students, labor apprentices and young professionals, referred by professors and business and organized leaders, signed up for the “Caring Assignment” project without knowing the full scope of their assignment. Most participants are primarily age 25. Ms. Gellerman cheered on the students as she handed out $100 bills. “This will take a willing heart, but when we have a community — this community of friends who are rooting for you and helping when needed — we can do amazing things,” she said. There are four conditions to the assignment:
- The money belongs to the community. The participants can't spend it on themselves and it should stay in the Quad Cities.
- They should try to multiply it.
- The money is to be invested in some cause, person, purpose or group about which the participant has a passion.
- Report back to United Way in 120 days on what they did.
- 5,000 volunteers recruited;
- 50 companies and unions increase their annual United Way investment by 50%;
- And 5,000 new or existing donors to give $10 or more a month than they did last year, which would result in $650,000 of new investments in our community.