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United Way of Allen County honors three for major contributions to the organization and community

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United Way award recipients

United Way of Allen County honored the following people with special awards at its Goldstine Leadership Reception on Tuesday evening at The Embassy Theatre:

Bill Latz Award for Leadership: John W. Rogers

Rogers and his wife, Suzanne, are longtime supporters of United Way of Allen County. They consistently give above the Tocqueville level ($10,000 or more annually) and have given for more than 20 years. Rogers serves on United Way's board of directors and was chairman in 2003. He has volunteered on Day of Caring service projects; served on the agency's finance, governance and executive committees and its campaign cabinet, and currently co-chairs a leadership-level initiative. Rogers also helped create the Men's Night Out event, an annual fundraiser that generated more than $27,000 in 2012.

Loyal Donor Award: John Guingrich

Guingrich is a longtime leadership donor ($1,000 or more annually), and his gift has increased each year since he began in 1990. Guingrich, who works at Community Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Indiana, serves on United Way's 2-1-1 call center committee and has volunteered through Day of Caring. He also has been a speaker for United Way at workplace campaign meetings and other events.

George W. McKay Award for Devotion: George McKay

McKay has contributed to United Way annually for 75 years, making him the longest local donor on record. He started giving through his family's grocery business, Bursley, which later merged with another company to become Food Marketing Corp. McKay recruited other groceries and small businesses in Allen County to hold workplace giving campaigns for United Way. Food Marketing was purchased in 1965 by SuperValu of Minneapolis, and McKay became SuperValu's chief operating officer and donated to the United Way there. He and his late wife, Nancy, have been leadership donors ($1,000 or more annually) since returning to Fort Wayne in 1979.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013 - 6:13 am

The question was a simple one: Could someone really have given annually to United Way for 75 years?

That's what George W. McKay of Fort Wayne wrote on his pledge card when he sent it in last year to United Way of Allen County.

It turns out he could have — and did.

United Way honored McKay and two other longtime donors — John W. Rogers and John Guingrich — during the Goldstine Leadership Reception at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Embassy Theatre, 121 W. Jefferson Blvd.

McKay's dedication to giving so inspired local United Way staff, they created a new Devotion Award and named it after him, said Rena Burden, local United Way donor relations manager. The award probably won't be given out every year, but will be reserved for those who have given for an unusual length of time.

McKay, now 96, started giving at age 21 after graduating from college and starting work at his family's grocery business, Bursley, he said. That company later merged with another area grocer to form Food Marketing Corp., which was purchased in 1965 by SuperValu of Minneapolis. McKay spent 15 years in Minneapolis, where he served as SuperValu's chief operating officer, but continued donating to the Minneapolis United Way, he said.

McKay moved back to Fort Wayne in 1979, and he and his late wife, Nancy, became leadership donors — $1,000 or more annually — to United Way of Allen County. He has maintained that level of giving since, even at an age and stage in life when most people would think he has done enough.

“The need is still out there,” he said.

Just as when he started donating 75 years ago, he still also believes the United Way model of bringing various social-service organizations under one umbrella for fundraising is a good way to address needs in the community.

Rogers, who received the top honor, the Bill Latz Award for Leadership, started giving to United Way in much the way McKay did: His family's grocery company already held an annual United Way donation campaign when he started there full time after college graduation, so he began donating.

He served on the United Way board of directors in the 1990s, and really deepened his connection after serving as chairman of Day of Caring, an annual United Way event that sends hundreds of volunteers into the community to do service projects.

Rogers, who now is president of The Rogers Co., since has served on the United Way board, including as chairman in 2003; on numerous United Way committees; and on efforts to increase leadership-level giving of $1,000 or more a year.

Guingrich also has been an active donor and volunteer, giving more than $1,000 annually and serving on United Way's 2-1-1 call center committee, with Day of Caring and as a speaker for United Way at workplace campaign meetings and other events.

Rogers said he enjoys helping at United Way because he meets people, makes new friends and learns new skills.

He also sees United Way as a keystone to the future success of the community. Through its fundraising and work with local nonprofit organizations, United Way can ensure services are provided to address needs and improve lives.

“Fort Wayne is as good a community as there is, but there is need out there,” he said.