FORT RUCKER, Ala. (September 29, 2011) -- The Heart of Alabama Combined Federal Campaign began its 50th year Sept. 21 with an agency fair and keynote address by Russ Dunman, Executive Director of the River Region United Way.

More than 200 military and federal employees attend the event, which hosted 26 local charity agencies that receive CFC support. The agency fair is a new approach to the annual kickoff, intended to connect donors directly to charitable organizations, said Beverly Arnold, the Wiregrass Area Associate Heart of Alabama CFC.

"The agency fair is a wealth of information. It was nice having several of the CFC recipients here to let us get more insight into their programs and their needs," said Shanna Vickery, a military spouse and federal employee.

Attendants received an organizational bingo card, which they had stamped by representatives at the event. The cards were entered into over a dozen drawings for gifts donated by charities and local businesses.

"I think it's a fun part of the event. People understand the CFC and what a great thing it is.We see what goes on out there. Everyone should give, military or civilian," said Vickery.

In addition to the agency fair, the CFC held a formal ceremony, with guests Fort Rucker Garrison Commander Col. James A. Muskopf, and Col. Patrick N. Denman, U.S. Aeromedical Center commander, and Dunman.

Denman recognized the work of CFC staff and volunteers over the past 50 years, explaining that these people are doing their part to impact lives.

"Our project officers, key workers and other volunteers are the heart and soul of this campaign, because they truly perform community service -- connect willing donors with much deserving agencies," he said.

Denman and Muskopf expanded on the importance of combined efforts of CFC workers, federal employees and donors that has helped the CFC reach and exceed its goal year after year.

"What a profound statement about the CFC -- 50 years of making a difference in the lives of others. You can once again change lives. Let's work together once again to achieve our 2011 goal," Muskopf said.

He also encouraged donors to remember the importance of giving, even in times of financial hardship.

"All that it takes for each of us is to make a small sacrifice. This may be more difficult this year, due to the current economic environment. However, the need is greater than ever," said Muskopf.

In his keynote address, Dunman thanked troops, key workers and project managers, encouraging people to continue to give as they have for 50 years.

"Give from the heart and give until it feels good. More people will be served than you can ever imagine," he said.

Dunman also detailed his experiences with charitable giving, explaining that his Family's past struggles we're alleviated by organizations like the Wiregrass United Way and other CFC-supported organizations. Giving to charity is a way for individuals to help others and help themselves.

"It makes no difference whatsoever your status in life, someday, somehow, somewhere you're going to need someone to help you," he said.

To help the CFC reach this year's $1,125,000 goal, go to the CFC's website or visit Bldg 5700 Rm. 280. For more information on the CFC, call 255-9261.