A seasoned campaigner will serve as honorary chair of United Way of Calvert’s 2011 effort to raise funds. The money raised is subsequently distributed to over 30 umbrella agencies that help local residents.

On Wednesday, Sept. 28, United Way officially began its annual drive with its annual awards ceremony. The event, held at the Solomons Holiday Conference Center in Solomons, was dubbed “Be the Magic” and featured a performance by magician/comedian Reggie Rice, who is known as “Super Magic Man.”

Local United Way Board of Directors Chairman Robert McWhirt spoke about members of the Calvert community “who struggle. Some of them struggle in school, some struggle with their finances and others struggle with their health.”

In recent years, the local United Way’s strategy has focused on and directed resources toward those agencies that aid in education, income and financial stability, and health.

“We’ve had some hard decisions to make and some policies to change,” said United Way of Calvert President and CEO Kelly Chambers, who thanked the agency’s board of directors for their work in implementing the strategic plan.

“It was a tough financial year,” said McWhirt of the previous drive to ramp up United Way’s revenue stream through pledges, contributions and additional participants in its payroll deduction plan. Nearly 50 companies currently participate in the latter program. The challenging economy was a recurring theme during the Sept. 28 program.

Chambers said the “financial goal for this year is $870,000 with revenues from the annual campaign being $600,000. We are very excited to start our five-year strategic plan focused on education, income and health. We have over 17 programs [facilitated by 16 agencies] that specifically received community impact grants to do this work for the next five years. Additionally, 15 other agencies are funded through designations received through the United Way campaign for a total of 31 agencies receiving funding. We also distribute three grants through the Women’s Initiative and in the next month we will be distributing “Basic Needs” grants.”

To aid in getting more contributions, Sue Kullen, a former member of the Maryland House of Delegates, agreed to serve as the drive’s honorary chair.

“I like the theme of magic,” sa