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Seeing your investment at work makes all the difference in Terry McClain’s eyes.

McClain, vice president and chief financial officer at Valmont Industries, said during the 2013 Fremont Area United Way campaign kickoff event at the Midland University Event Center Thursday, that it’s important to understand what your donations are doing for the community.

It’s a lesson he learned from Valmont founder Bob Daugherty 40 years ago when McClain went to work at Valmont.

“He said, as you get into the community and you learn how to give, and you see all the needs, you take a completely different perspective of what this is all about,” McClain said of Daugherty. “Giving for the United Way is a community giving back to itself, but to those in need.”

McClain and his wife, Linda — this year’s campaign chairs — have a combined 67 years of involvement with the United Way.

Linda McClain is a former human resources executive and an active community volunteer who also serves on the board at Fremont Area Medical Center.

The McClains are involved in numerous community organizations, including Lutheran Family Services, Habitat for Humanity, the YMCA and Boy Scouts. They are former members of the United Way board.

Linda McClain recalled how she became involved with the United Way when, at age 25, her boss appointed her to head the campaign.

She went out to meet firefighters, police officers and other city staff to generate support.

“It really instilled in me this deep passion for what we do here at United Way,” she said.

She was thinking about this year’s theme, “Investing in the Long Run.” while running one day.

“I was thinking that what we’re doing is kind of like that, it’s like training for a marathon or a long run. We’re getting ourselves in order for the future,” she said.

“It’s all about making changes that will affect our community in the long run, helping kids who really need help, helping families who really need help, and there’s plenty of needs, we all know that,” she said.

Brett Richmond, chairman of the United Way board, said last year’s campaign broke new barriers, raising more than $600,000 for the first time.

“Tonight we embark on another ambitious goal to raise $625,000 for the United Way, our partner agencies, and most importantly our friends and neighbors in need,” he said. “Raising $625,000 won’t just happen, it will take all of us working together collectively to make it happen, but it starts with strong and committed leadership.”

The first step, Terry McClain said, is encouraging participation.

“It doesn’t matter the amount, it’s the fact that they participate,” he said. “We always to try to get our people at Valmont giving a dollar a week. ... Then the next thing is to get them to know where that dollar goes.”

He explained how Valmont employees visit with United Way agencies at work and at the agencies to see how their donations are used.

“That’s so important,” he said, “because if people meet the agencies, they see what’s done, they get to interact, and better yet, if they can go out and visit the agency, it makes all the difference in the world. Those needs become real. Those dollars become not giving dollars anymore, but giving to a cause, and I think that’s very important.”

United Way Executive Director Shawn Shanahan showed a video illustrating the difference early childhood programs can make, and talked about how the United Way, through local programming, changes lives by getting involved in a child’s early years.

The United Way is funding and supporting in-home teaching programs in 2013, working with teen parents, funding students to attend Head Start, and leading the Early Childhood Coalition, among other things, Shanahan said.

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