Written by Heather Arnold as featured in the Northwest Herald June 25, 2017


Fifty years ago, a gallon of gas cost 32 cents. Fifty years ago, the mini skirt became the height of fashion and Pampers created the first disposable diaper. Fifty years ago, Star Trek debuted on television, the same time that color TV’s became popular. Fifty years ago, the United States had nearly 500,000 troops in Vietnam. Fifty years ago, the Community Chest, now known as United Way of Greater McHenry County, was formed.

It is with great pride that on Tuesday, June 6, United Way celebrated that milestone of 50 years of giving back to McHenry County at our annual dinner at Boulder Ridge Country Club. Not only was it a special night of reminiscing about the past few decades and reliving our achievements, it was a night of awarding companies and individuals who give back to our community in remarkable ways.

Putting on such an important event is quite an honor, yet quite an undertaking! If you have ever stood at the helm and faced this kind of task- you know it can be exciting and terrifying at the same time. You want to do justice to those who led the way before you. You want to capture and relay every important detail of history. You want to honor the right people. You want the attendees to be entertained. And above all, you want to make your night memorable. It’s a tall order, not including the fact that everything must go off without a hitch or a hiccup, right?

You go through the motions, you work hard to get it “right”, you burn the midnight oil and then, somehow, the evening you’ve been planning just magically comes together. You realize as you pack up the easel, take down the signs and you tuck your camera safely back in its bag, that it was marvelous. That sentiment is just what the staff and board members felt about our much-anticipated event. And we recognize at the end of the night, it was and always is about the people, those who have been involved during the last 50 years and who make up our community, which truly brings it all together.

So many people will remember John O’Hagan, former United Way executive director, with a great fondness. He epitomized United Way and according to those who have shared countless memories with me, he had a tremendous soul and was a true leader in our community. Though he has since passed, we were fortunate enough to have his wife, Mary O’Hagan, join us as a guest speaker and share a bit of history. She made us laugh, and then she made us cry, at her touching words about their fight together to help the members of our community.

We were also lucky to have Chuck Follett and Ann Hughes speak about their time with United Way, giving their reasons as to why they were board members and why being involved with our organization meant so much. Of course the evening wouldn’t be complete without another familiar face, previous board member and executive director, Dave Barber. He charmed us with hilarious anecdotes and the number one memory he will never forget- the reason that made it all worth it to him. And we ended our night with Jeff DeHaan, current board member and our newest campaign chair who has been a part of United Way since he was little, through his parent’s heavy involvement. He is now repeating the pattern, and for that we are forever grateful.

One of the best parts of every annual dinner is handing out awards to our community leaders and givers. We recognize every year those who truly help elevate what we do and inspire us. This is one of the best parts of the evening- clapping and cheering for companies and employees as they receive an award for all their hard work in raising money for McHenry County. Congratulations and thank you to the following winners:

The Landmark Award Winner – Brake Parts, Inc. (McHenry) for raising $168,000

The Milestone Award Winners

  • TC Industries (Crystal Lake) for raising $52,400
  • Baxter & Woodman (Crystal Lake) for raising $55,200
  • Illinois Tool Works (McHenry County) for raising $57,900
  • UPS (McHenry County) for raising $59,900
  • ComEd (McHenry County) for raising $60,000

The Breakthrough Award Winner – Snap-on Tools (Crystal Lake) for elevating their campaign dollars by 41%

The UNITED Participation Award Winner – PolyOne Corporation (McHenry) for having 100% employee participation in giving to their campaign

The Paul Schipp Volunteer of the Year Award Winner – Sherry Bennett

Our celebration would not have been possible without the following amazing and supportive sponsors: Brake Parts, Inc., TC Industries, Charter Dura-Bar, Clearwater Capital Partners, American Community Bank & Trust, Caldwell Consulting Group, Corporate Disk Company, Crystal Lake Bank & Trust, Countryside Flower Shop, Exemplar Financial, Just 4 You Treats and Jumpshots.biz. Thank you!