United Way of Greater Chattanooga Chairman Tom Glenn announced Tuesday the campaign goal is to raise $12 million in 2014, with a stretch goal of $12.2 million.
Pacesetter companies already have raised about $1.63 million, Glenn said. Last year the campaign raised just over $12 million -- a record.
Glenn also announced at the campaign kickoff luncheon that United Way will not fill the campaign chairman position formerly held by Jason Taylor. Taylor, former president and general manager of the Times Free Press, who resigned earlier this year.
"By the time you get to the kickoff today, you've already got a lot of momentum," Glenn said.
He said the gap will be filled by volunteers and campaign committee members.
"It's really in the true spirit of teamwork," he said.
Tom White, senior vice president of investor relations for Unum, gave the keynote address. In his speech, he emphasized the need for Chattanooga to focus on education.
"I'm of the belief that focus on education and training for all is the best long-term answer [for bridging economic disparity]," said White, who is chairman of the United Way's Invest in Children & Youth Committee. "That has to start in a child's earliest year."
White emphasized the need for children and youths in Chattanooga to have adequate literacy skills.
"You look at a lot of different studies, and what a lot of them come down to is how important it is for a child to have age-appropriate literacy skills by third grade," he said. "If you miss it at that age, it's very difficult for them to catch up."
The United Way of Greater Chattanooga has several programs focused on literacy, including afterschool and summer programs, free books through "Project Ready for School," and Lexia, a literacy-focused software program available in area schools, community centers and churches.
Glenn said he is confident the United Way will make the campaign goal and continue to expand its work in the community.
"There are some new things," he said, "but I think a lot of it is continuing what we're doing and doing it better."
The luncheon was co-sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of Chattanooga and the Rotary Club of Chattanooga.
Contact staff reporter Hannah Smith at email@example.com or at 423-757-6731.