Local United Way support exceeds $2 million

Local individuals, businesses, and organizations united to raise more than $2,600,000 in support of United Way of Northeastern Minnesota (UWNEMN) last year.

The regional nonprofit announced its record-breaking total during its Annual Celebration March 21st.  UWNEMN fundraises throughout the year primarily via workplace campaigns and events to support nonprofits and its own direct service programs throughout the Iron Range, Koochiching County, and Lake of the Woods County.

UWNEMN Executive Director Erin Shay called the fundraising results “something to celebrate indeed.” It’s the second year in a row local support has exceeded $2 million.

“Not only does this mean we are able to increase our reach and impact, but it also shows our region's commitment to creating thriving communities,” Shay said. “At a time when United Ways nationwide are seeing decreasing donations through workplace campaigns, our United Way is bucking the trend - and that's all because of local people who give where they live.”

Funds raised will be reinvested this year in more than 60 local nonprofits and programs including UWNEMN’s Bright Beginnings, Buddy Backpacks, Comforts of Home, Imagination Library, Lunch Buddies mentoring program, Meet Up and Chow Down, Smiles United, and United for Veterans as well as UWNEMN partner agencies, all local food shelves, and all local libraries with summer reading programs.

Top volunteers and donors were recognized at the event for their contributions to UWNEMN and the community over the past year:

  • Lifesaver Award - Ashley Kjenaas (NorthRidge Community Credit Union)
  • Lifesaver Award - Joyce Vesel (Community Member)
  • Lifetime Lifesaver – Mike Silvers (Community Member)
  • Campaign Award – Conveyor Belt Service Inc.
  • Campaign Award – Cleveland-Cliffs Hibbing Taconite/USW Local 2705
  • Leadership Award – Cleveland-Cliffs Inc. 
  • Spirit Award – 218 Partners (Hibbing Fabricators and Trison Solutions)
  • Spirit Award – U. S. Steel Minnesota Ore Operations

In addition, awards were presented to Backus Community Center, UWNEMN Agency of the Year, and the winners of the first annual Youth United contest.

Keynote speaker, Minnesota Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Commissioner Ida Rukavina, said those recognized during the event – and all UWNEMN donors and volunteers – exemplify the “helping spirit of the Iron Range.”

“I congratulate United Way, their staff, volunteers and supporters who have helped uplift people and communities across the northland,” Rukavina said. “A strong community depends on having support systems in place to help individuals and families get back on their feet when life presents strenuous circumstances. Our region is so fortunate to have this incredible organization.”


Incoming and retiring board members were also announced during UWNEMN’s Annual Celebration:

Simon Charter (NewRange Copper Nickel), Sunnie Hardy (AMSOIL, Inc.), Shari McGregor-Overbye (AMCAST), and Jennie Rowland (Bois Forte Band of Chippewa) joined this year’s UWNEMN Board of Directors. Retiring from the board this year are Marci Knight (Park State Bank), Dan Kotnik (Community Member), Frank LaMusga (Community Member), Laura Rosier (Community Member), and Samantha Silcox (Yanmar Compact Equipment).

Returning board members include: Chrissy Bartovich (U. S. Steel Minnesota Ore Operations), Chad Buus (U. S. Steel Minnesota Ore Operations), Eric Clement (Minnesota Power), Jennie Cornwell (Cleveland-Cliffs Northshore Mining Co., USW Local 1955), Dean DeBeltz (Twin Metals Minnesota), Alicia Dick (St. Louis County School District), Jennifer Ford (Entrepreneur Fund), Jack Furlong (Ameriprise Financial), LaTisha Gietzen (Kalenborn Abresist Corporation),  Matt Hiti (Cleveland-Cliffs Hibbing Taconite, USW Local 2705), Paul Janssen (Paul J. Janssen CPA), Jaime Johnson (Cleveland-Cliffs Minorca Mine), Breanne Katrin (Delta Air Lines), Ashley Kjenaas (NorthRidge Community Credit Union), April Klander (Fairview Range), Stacy Kuusinen (BlueCross BlueShield of Minnesota), Julie Lucas (MiningMinnesota), Jeannie Nobens (Hillcrest), Mike Norton (Retired, Cleveland-Cliffs United Taconite), Robb Peterson  (Cleveland-Cliffs United Taconite), Amanda Pihlaja (Park State Bank), Nick Renollet (Lakehead Constructors Inc.), Greg Schulzetenberg (Lake Country Power), Jim Skalski (Iracore), and Nikki Skifstad (Packaging Corporation of America - PCA).

Gietzen was elected 2024 UWNEMN Board President. Outgoing president DeBeltz welcomed Gietzen to the role and thanked UWNEMN staff, donors, volunteers, and partners for the successes of the past year.

“I believe this team represents a microcosm of exactly what the United Way started over 135 years ago:  building stronger, more resilient communities,” he said.