Robert Abernathy and Dean Gruner receive the Wes Urch Volunteer Service Award

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Robert and Dean

Wes Urch Volunteer Service Award Recipients: Robert Abernathy and Dean Gruner

Contributor: Peter C. Kelly, President & CEO at United Way Fox Cities

During our Annual Report to the Community, we had the chance to honor two outstanding United Way volunteers by awarding the Wes Urch Volunteer Service Award to Robert Abernathy and Dean Gruner. This is more than "volunteer of the year" recognition; the award is given to an individual for their years of volunteerism helping us achieve our mission of building a stronger, more caring community for everyone. The award is named in honor of Wes Urch, the first Executive Director of the Neenah-Menasha Community Chest. Wes was the face of United Way in Neenah and Menasha for twenty years and remained an active community volunteer after his retirement in 1987.

Robert Abernathy enjoyed a 32-year career at Kimberly-Clark. Throughout this time at Kimberly-Clark, he was a strong supporter of United Way. In fact, Robert was involved in or led 32 United Way campaigns at Kimberly-Clark. In 2008, Robert moved back to Neenah as the Senior Executive for Kimberly-Clark. When we first met that spring, he pledged his commitment, not just to financial support, but his personal desire to help Kimberly-Clark grow with United Way. With Robert at the helm, Kimberly-Clark experienced 155% growth in Leadership Giving from 2008 to 2013, 215 Kimberly-Clark employees became Emerging Leaders (individuals 40 or younger who give $500 or more to United Way Fox Cities) and the number of Alexis de Tocqueville donors (individuals who give $10,000 or more to United Way Fox Cities) increased from 21 to 29 in the two years Robert committed to leading its growth. In addition, from 2008 to 2013, Kimberly-Clark's employee and corporate giving increased 24%, from $1.9 million to a record $2.3 million, during several years of the most challenging economy we've ever experienced.

Dr. Dean Gruner has volunteered for United Way for many years. He served on our board of directors from 2000 to 2006, chairing the board in 2006. Dean helped lead United Way Fox Cities during some of our most significant changes as we moved to what we call the "community impact model" - changing the focus to investing in programs that are aligned with an identified community need. His devotion to making community impact a reality is best expressed by the fact that he began to serve on the Community Impact Council in 2006 and continues to this day. In 2009 and 2010, Dean was the campaign co-chair and helped us raise nearly $14 million those two years. In 2009, Dean joined the Leadership Giving Committee and has agreed to chair the committee in 2014. Dean Gruner has given tirelessly and without any desire for accolades. He's been involved in all aspects of our work and has made a significant difference for United Way Fox Cities.

Thank you, Robert and Dean, for your outstanding commitment to United Way. Your contributions have helped create a better life for all in the Fox Cities.