Wings surrounded the festivities at Thursday's United Way kickoff party, and it is wings that United Way seeks to provide.
With antique airplanes and cars as the backdrop, United Way held its third annual Luau at Western Antique Aeroplane & Automobile Museum.
"We give tonight because there are many who need our help," Hood River United Way council member Bob Francis exhorted the more than 425 people attending the sold-out luau.
Overhead, the Hawaiian phrase "Mahalo nui loa" - thank you - remained on the screen during often spirited oral auction bidding for art work, wine dinners, vacations and other donated items. (The usual silent auction also took place.)
The event raised $34,000 in net proceeds in 2010, and while the numbers are still being counted, United Way chairman Dave Scarborough said he is optimistic the 2011 luau will surpass the 2010 level. That will position United Way for a successful 2011 campaign, which begins now.
United Way, the umbrella organization representing dozens of nonprofits in the Gorge, allocated $140,000 to those groups in 2010.
This year's goal is $180,000, and it will take all the communities in the Gorge to achieve it.
"It would be a good improvement and realistic," Scarborough said.
In the coming weeks, coordinators at large employers will convene employees to ask for payroll deductions in support of the United Way campaign. Meanwhile, at smaller employers, United Way council members will make their appeals at staff gatherings.
Anyone interested in making a donation to United Way can go through its website:
United Way seems to garner more and more support every year, but the agency recognizes its own need to develop a year-round outreach program, "beyond the luau," as Scarborough puts it.
"We know we need to build a better database and outreach all year long, and build on the luau and the (December) holiday concert, which are our two events that the community has really responded to."
He called the year-round outreach and awareness, including a possible spring event, "the third leg in the stool.
"We need to make more of a year-round effort so we are staying more in the forefront of people's minds," Scarborough said.
The umbrella metaphor is an apt one, and not just for Hawaii, where rain is a daily occurrence.
Virtual bad weather, those financial and social stresses that storm so many people's lives in the Gorge, happen every day, and that is why United Way is there: an annual cost-effective way of raising money for organizations in need, and distributing it to them in a coordinated fashion.
As the 2011 campaign gets under way, consider making a donation, for the benefit of your neighbors throughout the Gorge. Mahalo nui loa in advance.