Alicia Carter has volunteered for a variety of organizations throughout high school and college, but upon moving to Tacoma several years ago, she was inspired to take her efforts to the next level.
After discovering Project: U – a community service program of the United Way of Pierce County geared to twenty and thirtysomethings – she found her niche. Three years later she is serving on a committee to plan the program’s first large-scale fundraising event taking place at the Tacoma Art Museum Nov. 5. The Get Involved Gala (The GIG) is designed to engage, excite and inspire young people to make a change and, much like the name suggests, get involved in the community.
“We’re trying to dispel the myth that established, wealthy families are the only ones with the ability to make an impact on our community,” Carter said. “Young people are always trying to find ways to connect, and they’re eager to make an impact. It’s important for us to show that we as individuals have the power to do that.”
For $35, GIG attendees will not only have an all-too-rare chance to suit up, but they can also dance the night away with the peace of mind that their hard-earned cash will stay local and support people in the community who need it most. All proceeds from the night will go directly to the United Way’s Community Solutions Fund, which supports 117 charitable programs in the Pierce County area.
Raffle tickets will be available for $5 each, allowing guests the chance to win prizes ranging from six-month memberships to Expand Yoga, a free stay in Cabo San Lucas (airfare not included), a variety of gift certificates to local restaurants and much more.
Some of the best and brightest local businesses are slated to appear at the GIG, including desserts by Hello, Cupcake!, brews by Mac & Jack’s, a signature drink from The Mix and beverages from Cork! A Wine Bar.
“What I’m already hearing from people is that it sounds like a really fun event,” said planning committee member Sopang Men. “When you think of fundraisers, you often think of something that’s too dry, or too adult. But I’m hearing that people are looking at this as an adult prom, and I think that’s kind of a fun vibe.”
Local businesses are getting involved as sponsors, such as Cascade Eye & Skin Centers, Trendy Event Rentals, Jonz Catering and more. Many of these sponsors will be donating products to swag bags that will be given to attendees, as well.
“The GIG is going to be an amazing chance for young people to get involved in the community and meet one another in a social, fun setting,” said Veronica Larson, United Way’s campaign relationship manager and staff lead for Project: U.
Throughout the event, attendees will have a chance to learn about the specific programs supported by the United Way, and a keynote speaker from FISH Food Bank will discuss the need for these services in Pierce County.
“We want to educate our volunteers and attendees about the need in our community and ways they can help,” Carter said. “The power of one individual grows exponentially when you capitalize on strength in numbers – whether that is donating time, money or goods and services.”
To purchase tickets and learn more about The GIG, visit www.getinvolvedgala.org.
Project: U – From the ground up
In late 2005, four friends were having fun over drinks while discussing how to get their friends more involved in the community. Two of them were already employed by the United Way, but realized the organization was not reaching potential volunteers and donors in a younger age demographic. After some discussion, the idea to form an organization that would help the United Way reach younger, newer donors was developed.
“We wanted the group to be very grassroots,” said Sean Armentrout, one of the original members. “We recognize that most people in our age group are building their lives and looking to connect with people and the community.”
Today, Project: U holds a variety of unique volunteer events, as well as social events that benefit the United Way. “Every person is different – some are more volunteer oriented, and others would rather have a drink at one of our social events, and know their money is going to the United Way,” Armentrout said.
Many other groups in the community geared to this age demographic include some sort of professional development aspect, but Project: U focuses on allowing participants to connect with the community and each other in any way they choose.
“There is a lot of need in Pierce County, and it’s great to be able to give back and see the results right in our own neighborhoods,” said Chris Gibeault, a longtime Project: U volunteer and leadership team member.
So far this year, the group has donated 225 pounds of food to local food banks, served 234 hours of community service, and donated nearly 700 diapers for families in need.
“We’re living in a time where 45 percent of Pierce County residents are relying on DSHS support, so charities are forced to do more with less,” Armentrout added. “Volunteer work is instrumental in making a difference for a small organization with big goals to change people’s lives.”