By Shawn Kirkpatrick
Opelika Observer

Working for the city of Opelika isn’t just ‘punching the time clock’ for Community Relations Officer Leigh Krehling. It’s a job she loves, giving back to her community, and she does it with the heart of a volunteer.

Krehling was just awarded Volunteer of the Year by the United Way for her work on the city’s fundraising campaign. “I just feel so honored. I could not have done it without the committee that was behind me,” Krehling added. “I really had a good group of people here at the city that jumped in, rallied and got the competition going. I’m just honored. I really am.”

It all started when Krehling applied for the city position a little more than a year ago. “During my interview, the mayor (Gary Fuller) said, ‘the first thing I want you to do is to raise more money for United Way,’ Krehling said. “I’m challenging you to do better for the city. That’s the number one thing I want you to focus on.”

After she was hired, Krehling immediately set things in motion. She set up a committee, and they started brainstorming about what they could do to raise money. The group decided on a community yard sale, a Fair Share Giving contest and a Penny War.

“We had departments battling it out. Pennies were negative (points), and any nickel, dime or quarter counted as so many points. This went on for about a month,” Krehling explained. “On the last day, there were several departments that thought they had won, and then the police department comes in at the last minute. They had figured out that nickels gave them the most positive points. They came in with like $300 of nickels from their own pot. They hit it out of the park. They beat everyone with like 350,000 points, or something ridiculous.”

Krehling, along with United Way representatives, also went around to all the city departments to dispel some of the myths about the organization. “People think the executive director makes all this money, that it (money) doesn’t stay local. We tried to dispel the myths that are in people’s minds,” Krehling said.

“Through the two-month campaign, I also sent out emails each week to help educate people. For so long we just lay dormant. We just hoped people gave money. I really tried to stay in front of people.”

When it was all said and done, Krehling, with the help of city departments, raised more than $30,000 for United Way. “I was just really excited that we almost doubled our giving,” Krehling said.

While Krehling plans the next campaign for United Way, she is tapping into the needs in Opelika by using her “volunteer heart” to give her time at her son’s schools, to be a bell ringer for The Salvation Army and to help at Jean Dean RIF (Reading Is Fundamental), tapping into the needs in Opelika. “I love giving my time and giving back to my community,” Krehling said.