Number by number, the total was unveiled.

In front of a packed house at Garment Factory Events in Franklin, representatives from the United Way of Johnson County built the tension. They had all come to put a close to the organization’s annual campaign — the fundraising drive that serves as the engine for 23 community programs and local agencies.

When the final tally of $1,476,974 was unveiled, the room erupted in cheers.

“Another ambitious goal, another ambitious year, another great accomplishment,” said Steve Powell, campaign chair.

A sense of accomplishment hung over the United Way of Johnson County’s annual celebration on Thursday, as supporters came together to recognize the impact they’ve made throughout the community. With more people than ever needing help in Johnson County, and the cost of living continuing to go up, the contributions made this year will change lives, said Nancy Lohr Plake, executive director of the United Way of Johnson County.

“We are really excited about that final number. We had some companies who really just stepped it up,” she said. “In light of the high cost of living, our donors continue to come through.”

The United Way of Johnson County is a nonprofit organization looking at the needs of the community, raising the funds and allocating those funds appropriately in order to meet the pressing needs of county residents. They support 16 agencies agencies, including Gateway Services, Johnson County Senior Services and KIC-IT.

In addition, the group helps put on seven annual programs, from the Christmas Angels holiday giveaway to the Operation Bundle Up coat distribution to the Fast Track school supply drive. Those programs help the neediest and most vulnerable members of the community.

“These services teach young girls and boys to grow up to be confident and smart so they can change the world. They provide transportation for senior citizens so they can enjoy another day with family and friends. They comfort those who are homeless and work with them to find a permanent place to live. They give backpacks and school supplies to children, so their parents can afford to buy food,” said Darin Hoggatt, board president for the United Way of Johnson County.

The annual celebration is an opportunity for the United Way to thank hundreds of volunteers, spotlight companies that ran outstanding fundraising campaigns and recognize board members who have led the organization.

“All of us have made a commitment to United Way: by volunteering our time, donating every week through our workplaces, working tirelessly as a staff member for the agency or serving on a committee to give out coats or Christmas presents,” Hoggatt said. “No one person or group can impact a community alone, but together, we have helped make Johnson County a better place.”

This year’s celebration was themed around the county’s bicentennial, which is being celebrated throughout 2023. Emcee Rob Brown peppered the presentation with historic facts and trivia, while Main and Madison Market Cafe provided miniature pies to recognize the county’s “pie”-oneering spirit, Brown joked.

David Pfeiffer, director of the Johnson County Museum of History, gave some background on the county’s founding and events coming up to recognize it. He also implored those attending to volunteer for the many programs planned for the 200th anniversary.

“We’ve got a lot of great things planned, but we can always use some more help,” he said.

At the core of Thursday’s event was a look back at the year. The United Way gave recognition to the companies and groups who led the way on fundraising. Outgoing board members and longtime volunteers received applause and awards.

But everyone was waiting to see the fundraising total. The goal for the 2022-2023 campaign was $1.5 million. Though the campaign fell short of that number, it still was an increase from last year’s efforts, which was $1,466,949.

“I want to thank each and every one of you for not only the contributions you’ve made, but the contributions and support you’ve given me,” Powell said.