COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - For 35 years, Mike Gray has called the United Way of the Midlands his work home.
"I started out in Agency Relations and was there for about five or six years and an opening came up in Campaign," said Gray.
And with more than 26 years working to raise money for United Way of the Midlands (UWM), Mike has led more than 20 campaigns, raising more than $230 million.
"In a lot of ways Mike is responsible for many of the big things that we have pulled together in the community, United Way with other partners, to accomplish," said president and CEO of UWM Sara Fawcett. "Transitions, WellPartners, Vital Connections…," listed Fawcett.
For more than 10 years Vital Connections has continued to help serve low-income and homeless children in Richland County. Its inception included the building and sustaining of two childcare centers in underserved areas in the community.
That's a memory Gray says is among his favorite.
"To see the walls go up there when the building was finishing, and to see as families come through and kids go through and know that we had thousands of children who have gone through that center…that was a great experience for me," added Gray.
Gray will retire from his position as Senior Vice President of Resource Development in January and because his efforts have gone well beyond his job title UWM and Mungo Homes wanted to surprise him with a Community Builder award now.
Stewart Mungo presented Gray with the award at the Association of Fundraising Professionals National Philanthropy Day Luncheon.
"When someone doesn't put themselves in the spotlight sometimes you have to drag them into it and if anybody's accomplishments deserve recognition it's Mike's," said Fawcett.
After Stewart Mungo handed him his hard hat, Gray got another surprise when his wife of 41 years, two kids, and two grandkids were there, as well.
"For me to be able to do the kind of thing I've done for the last 35 years, it takes a lot of support from family," said Gray. "And they all have also been very much engaged in volunteering and giving."
And while Gray says he's looking forward to retirement, knowing Mike, it's likely his giving spirit isn't going anywhere.