Bringing their appetites and good will, diners teamed up with Underwood’s Cafeteria for lunch Wednesday to kick off the Brown County United Way’s 2020 campaign.

The event raised just over $4,000 toward the United Way’s $225,000 campaign goal.

“Very, very happy!” Brown County United Way Executive Director Karen Lynch said via text message.

Underwood’s is normally closed on Wednesdays. For many years, the Underwood family has opened the restaurant for lunch on a single Wednesday in October to kick off the United Way’s annual campaign. Underwood’s employees volunteer their time for no pay, and the restaurant donates its profits from the lunch to the United Way.

It is a happy event, with conversations and community camaraderie on display. Representatives of the United Way and the agencies it funds work in the restaurant, performing tasks including serving rolls, keeping glasses and cups filled with beverages and busing tables. Radio personalities Randy Turner (KOXE) and James Williams (KXYL) pulled them aside, along with Underwood and Lynch, for live radio interviews.

“I want to thank the community for coming out today and supporting us,” Lynch said, taking a quick break from her duties to give media interviews.

“It’s very important. It helps create awareness in the community. We’ve gotten to spread the word a little bit about what we do.”

The community awareness created from the lunch is actually more important than the money that’s raised, Lynch said.

Underwood’s co-owner Paul Underwood said after serving on the United Way board, “that’s when you really start seeing the needs of the community and how they’re not being met, and all these agencies strive to meet those needs. And that makes you do whatever you can to help.

“We could write a check, obviously, for it and give to the United Way, or we could make it more of a community event and get everybody involved.”

Underwood said the restaurant has a “great staff” and 14 Underwood’s employees were donating their time.

Underwood’s employee Sarah Otto said she “absolutely” enjoys working on the United Way campaign kickoffs. “My husband (Joe) and I actually volunteer at the Salvation Army on Mondays as well so this volunteering and being part of the community is encouraging and fun,” Otto said. “We make it a fun day.”

Kiwanian Carl Boivin carried trays of hot, fresh rolls as he maneuvered through the restaurant, keeping diners supplied with all the rolls they wanted.

“I’ll tell you what, he’s going above and beyond today,” Underwood said of Boivin. “What a great job he’s doing.”

Boivin later posted on his Facebook page, “What a great event..... I had a great time. Hope I made Leonard proud. Thanks to all of those fine folks that came out to support the United Way and all they do for our community.”

Jessica Hardy, director of the Pearl Griffin Memorial Latch Key program, said Latch Key receives United Way funding. “With that funding we are able to provide parents with an after-school program for their children to go and be safe in the afternoons,” Hardy said, taking a brief break from her Underwood’s duties.

“I feel like this is the least I can do — to come out and help them.”

Katherine Palmer, CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Brown County, said United Way is “a big part of our funding. We are just excited to partner with them and I’m glad to be here today serving and helping clean up.”

Palmer said the United Way recently coordinated a project in which volunteers from the 3M plant did landscaping at the club.

Linda Heitman, executive director of Brown County Home Solutions, said United Way provides funding for her organization.

“We really, really appreciate everything that they do for us and the community,” Heitman said. “They’re an invaluable resource.”

The Brown County United Way 2020 Campaign will support 17 agencies that benefit the people of Brown County:

• American Red Cross

• The Ark Domestic Violence Shelter

• Boys & Girls Club of Brown County

• Brown County 4-H

• Brown County Association for Retarded Citizens

• Brown County Home Solutions

• Brownwood Area Community Garden

• Brownwood Community Resource Council for the benefit of TJJD youth

• Brownwood Public Library

• Cancer Services Network

• CASA

• Early Childhood Intervention

• Family Services Center

• Girl Scouts of Central Texas

• Pearl Griffin Memorial Latch Key

• The Salvation Army

• Texas Trails Council, BSA.