The United Way of Pekin started its campaign Thursday with a goal of $450,000 — the same as last year.

This is the first campaign for new United Way Executive Director Aaron Lohnes. He said the goal is based on community need. The organization exceeded its goal last year with $452,000 collected. The United Way Board, he said, wants to keep “an achievable goal that is still significant, and it’s going to be able to help the community. That’s the big thing.”

The campaign kicked off this year with $55,000 in donations and collections from the six pacesetters companies leading the endeavor this year — Pekin Insurance, First Pekin Savings Bank, Pekin Community Bank, Ray Dennison Chevrolet, Schnucks and Tazewell County Resource Center.

Lohnes said he is looking for ways to bring new funding to the United Way. There are hundreds of foundations locally and nationwide. The criteria for many is very specific and there are many other organizations competing for the funds.

“If there’s something we can apply for that will help us locally then I’m going to apply for it,” he said. Volunteers over the summer also applied to some foundations for additional funds. 

Lohnes is also considering various events to raise funds, but said he can’t share those yet because he wants to run them past the board. He doesn’t want to duplicate anything already happening.

The organization provides funding for 18 local charitable agencies — Gifts in the Moment Foundation and the Pekin Academy of Fine Art. The academy will receive $2,112 for scholarships to the art studio for children. The gitm Foundation will use the $5,568 from the United Way to fund its Uber for Food, which gathers unopened food from caterers, bakers, and so on and delivers it to charitable organizations for distribution.

“The Hope Chest here in Pekin benefits from that,” said Lohnes. “Michael’s Homestyle Bread, when they have bread that they’re not going to be able to use, they donate large bags of that. One of their volunteers from Gift’s in the Moment will pick it up and take it to the Hope Chest and it’s distributed here locally.”

Follow Sharon Woods Harris at Twitter.com/sharrispekin