LEOMINSTER -- United Way of North Central Massachusetts recognized donors and volunteers with an evening of laughter and festivities at its annual thank-you celebration, held at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel.

Phil Richards, senior vice president, IC Federal Credit Union, and volunteer campaign chairman for United Way of North Central Massachusetts, thanked the nonprofit organization's volunteers and donors for contributing to this year's fundraising efforts.

"Because of the generosity of thousands of donors, United Way will be able to fund over 100,000 health and human services in our local community," Richards said.

The annual community campaign, which includes corporate gifts, employee giving and individual donations, benefits health and human service programs focused on education, health and income.

The evening also celebrated United Way's initiatives: United Way Community Impact Fund, which supports over 35 programs in the area of education, health and income; Dolly Parton Imagination Library, which provides a free book every month to children up to five years old living in Fitchburg, Leominster, Gardner, Templeton or Winchendon; United Way Youth Venture, which unites over 2,000 students participating in community projects through the local schools; Mass 211, a free information and referral network for health and human services; FamilyWize, a free prescription card that helps reduce the cost of medicine; and United Volunteer Center, which connects residents with volunteer opportunities in the community.


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Local companies were recognized for conducting outstanding workplace employee-giving campaigns. United Way presented its Extraordinary Effort Chairman's Award for the Nashoba region to Bemis of Shirley; the Twin Cities award went to Hannaford Supermarkets; the Greater Gardner region, SimplexGrinnell of Westminster; and for the Athol region, the Athol Area YMCA was recognized.

Karin Oliveira, from United Way Volunteer Center, announced winners of The Star Projects Competition, which coincided with National Volunteer Week, which began April 6. Community members voted for their favorite Star Projects. Kylee's Kare Kits for Kidz in Leominster received the Grand Prize of $1,000, with $500 going to the runner-up, Karing 4 Kidz of Fitchburg and $250 each to the Templeton Council on Aging and TEAM Fitchburg.

United Way Youth Venture awarded $1,000 scholarships to four students for outstanding participation in the program:

Parker Charter seniors Zayna Basma, of Shirley, and Shannon Gaudereto Tucker, of Ayer; Leominster High School's Jeffrey Dike, of Leominster, and Remie El-Hayek, of Leominster; and Marina Scheid, of Ashby, from North Middlesex Regional High School.