PITTSBURG — United Way of Southwest Missouri and Southeast Kansas launched its 2019-20 “Faces of Change” campaign Wednesday with a breakfast in Joplin, followed by a luncheon in Pittsburg at Kansas Crossing Casino.

“Donations raised during the campaign help United Way of Southwest Missouri and Southeast Kansas fund 33 programs at 28 partner agencies that address health, education and financial stability, which are three key targets that contribute to poverty, family crises, unemployment and Underemployment,” according to a press release for the campaign kick off.

United Way Executive Director Duane Dreiling said the timing of the Wednesday event on the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks was coincidental, but could also be seen as significant.

“We bring together funders and the nonprofit community, just like after September 11th everybody in the country came together, and that’s what United Way is all about as well,” Dreiling said.

United Way has set an overall campaign goal of raising $825,000, Dreiling said, but has also set a goal specifically for fundraising in Southeast Kansas.

“The goal for Southeast Kansas, which includes Crawford, Cherokee and Labette counties, is $200,000,” he said.

In addition to Dreiling, Pittsburg State University Professor Mark Johnson, who is serving as 2019 campaign drive chair for Faces of Change, also spoke at the Kansas Crossing luncheon.

“The good news is, with an organization like United Way investing your dollars, you can be guaranteed it will do all the good it can in as many ways as it can better than you ever could with your limited time and resources,” Johnson said. “It gives us the opportunity to become the faces of change of the community we want Pittsburg and Southeast Kansas to be, because we are the faces of change.”

Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce President Blake Benson attended the luncheon and discussed the chamber’s support for the charity.

“Unemployment is near a 20-year low in our area right now, so we need everyone part of the workforce that wants to be,” Benson said, “and the United Way agencies do a great job of doing some career readiness for people to enter the workforce, so we’re very supportive of those efforts.”

Following the luncheon, United Way Director of Resource Development and Community Engagement Bob Burk, said it was a successful event.

“Our campaign chair, Dr. Mark Johnson, I thought really delivered a powerful message about not just giving to United Way and being part of the United Way campaign, but supporting the agencies, and just how important that support is,” Burk said.

Throughout September, restaurants in Pittsburg and Joplin will donate a portion of the proceeds from customer purchases to United Way on certain days. In Pittsburg these include Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburgers on Sept. 18 from 4 to 9 p.m., Rib Crib on Sept. 19 from 4 to 10 p.m., Buffalo Wild Wings on Sept. 25 from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Colton’s Steak House and Grill on Sept. 26 from 10:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.