With a concert and a call to the community for support, the United Way of the Quad-Cities launched its “Amplify Quad-Cities: The Soundtrack” campaign Thursday, when about 700 people gathered at The Rust Belt, East Moline.
On stage, Quad-City musicians performed original music about people United Way agencies have helped, with those who inspired the songs on hand, too.
Rene Gellerman, president and CEO of the United Way of the Quad-Cities emphasized the United Way's areas of focus — education, income and health — and why each has an impact on the Quad-Cities.
For example, currently 83.6% of children graduate from high school, she said. The goal is for 90% to graduate. “The price of not graduating is too high,” she said.
“Today is about possibilities that come from reaching out to those in need and helping them have a more fulfilling life,” said John May, CEO of Deere & Co.
Challenges, he said, mean different things to different people. Some people might be challenged by deciding what to have for dinner.
“That seems trivial in relation to the obstacles our neighbors face each and every day,” he said.
Speakers also included Mara Downing of Deere & Co. and Mike Parejko of the Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center, leaders of the 2019 campaign to raise $7.5 million by March 2020.
Melissa Pepper, president of Total Solutions, shared the story of Mindy Glade. Five years ago, Glade was driving her boyfriend to work when an argument ensued and the boyfriend hit Glade in the face. “He broke her nose, orbital bone and lacerated her cornea,” Pepper said “She was four months pregnant at the time.”
“Her strength inspires me,” Pepper said. “She took her kids and left everything else behind.”
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Glade enrolled in the Born Learning Academy, a Women United-funded program. “Like all parents, Mindy wants nothing more than to give her children a chance at a better life,” Pepper said. The academy, she said, taught Glade the importance of reading and how children are literally born learning.
The audience gave Glade a round of applause. Among other speakers was Rhiannon Bell, who briefly took the stage with her story that inspired the song “Grow.” “This is so cool!” Bell said.
She talked about being a high-school dropout and developing a drug addiction to meth, which led to a “criminal lifestyle.” With the help of the United Way agency the One Eighty recovery program, she is working and attending school at Scott Community College.
“I just want to say thank you for being a part in my future,” she said, to great applause.
When the musicians took the stage, it didn’t take long before people were clapping along. Musician BethAnn Heidgerken told Glade’s story in “Counting Sheep,” whose lyrics include “Each night I read to you so someday you’ll read to me.”
Among the other musicians was Delores Westbrook-Tingle, who brought the house down with notes so high many in the audience gasped. After her performance, she was delighted it was so well-received. She performed with spoken-word artist Aubrey Barnes in “Together." The song was inspired by the Rev. Mason Parks, who mentors young men at his church as well as those in the Well-Suited and STARS program in Quad-City schools.
The Amplify Quad-Cities: The Soundtrack campaign is a partnership with River Music Experience and Quad-City songwriters.
Last year, the United Way of the Quad-Cities campaign funded 36 partner agencies with $7 million raised (United Way received requests for $13.8 million).