Detroit — As the sun rose behind them, United Way supporters held a torch lighting ceremony at Hart Plaza to kick off the 2015-16 Community Giving Campaign.

The lighting of the torch — which was attended by Mayor Mike Duggan, GM President Dan Ammann and newly appointed United Way President Dr. Herman Gray — symbolizes a public and private sector fund raising partnership to help address the metro area’s most pressing social problems.

“The torch lighting symbolizes the community coming together to raise funds to help the people of the Detroit area community,” Gray said. “We make sure kids get fed every day. We help families to pay their utility bills, and we teach skills to people so they can become employed.”

In 2014, the United Way reached its goal of raising $45 million, a goal they hope to surpass during this year’s campaign.

Doug Ferrick, vice president of donor relations for United Way, said the organization is focusing on establishing new partnerships in the metro area.

“We’re reaching out to people who will see and understand the importance of our work,” Ferrick said. “We’ll be relying on social media to show where your money goes and how important it is to the people of the region.”

In 1949, the United Foundation was established as an independent organization to raise funds for human service organizations through the Torch Drive campaign.

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