United Way kicks off $5 million campaign in Gwinnett

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Working toward a goal of $5 million for the United Way is a lot like last year's Falcons-Saints game, fullback Ovie Mughelli said.

"It was about going against the odds and doing what you have to do," he said, comparing his job running the football and "keeping Matt (Ryan) from being knocked on his butt" to the determination needed to raise needed funds. "The desire to hold up my end of the bargain motivated me (at the game). ... When you start fighting for each other, that's when you guys get stronger."

Mughelli, a Pro-Bowler for the Falcons who is a Gwinnett resident, inspired a crowd Tuesday at the kickoff breakfast for the annual United Way campaign.

"You have that spirit that I desire so much. You have that passion I want to see," he said. "I'm not the strongest. I'm not the fastest, but I am the hardest working. You guys are the hardest working. ... That's why you are going to reach your goal. That's why you are going to be trailblazers."

In such a hard economic time, fundraising can be difficult, but the United Way's Demetrius Jordan said the need is also great.

In Gwinnett, he said, 95,000 households are not meeting all their financial obligations.

The $5,010,500 the organization hopes to raise will go toward early learning and after-school programs, financial assistance, foreclosure prevention and other programs to help local families.

"It's going to be tough," Jordan said. "But the Gwinnett community has never given up on any challenge it has faced."

To contribute to the campaign, ask your employer about a workplace campaign that can include payroll deductions or call 211 to contact the United Way directly.

This year, the group is also partnering with the Gwinnett Coalition for Health and Human Services, encouraging people to participate in the Gwinnett Great Days of Service, which are scheduled for Sept. 30 and Oct. 1.