As chairman of the 2004 United Way Campaign, Ratner has one thing on his mind.
"Beat Sandy Cutler," he says, referring to last year's campaign chairman, the CEO of Eaton Corp., who raised $46.5 million for United Way Services of Greater Cleveland.
This year's goal, says Ratner, is $50 million, a 7.5 percent increase. And it didn't take him long to get to work making requests for donations.
"The need is great," he told a Public Square crowd Sept. 1 at the campaign's annual pancake flip and kickoff, where dozens of Cleveland area CEOs, community leaders and members of the media cooked up more than 1,500 pancake breakfasts for charity.
"I am asking every person here today to look into your hearts and give as generously as you can. It is through your generosity that we can make a difference."
Beyond the official September kick-off, the campaign was already off to a strong start. A Pacesetter campaign began in June, when 147 companies set a goal of raising $8.9 million. Those campaigns ended last month when the regular campaign started. Results will be released soon.
Challenge grants totaling $550,000 from Eaton Corp., Forest City, KeyCorp, MBNA, Medical Mutual of Ohio and National City Bank also were pledged.
United Way Services of Greater Cleveland provides nearly 200 programs serving 400,000 people annually at its more than 130 partner agencies. The services cover the spectrum from cradle to end of life, and are available to everyone, regardless of age, gender, orientation, race or economic standing.