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United Way of Denton County presents Humanitarian Award

Six area partners recognized for dedicated contribution to agency’s mission of improving lives in Denton County

Left: File photo of Debbie & Mark Merki
Right: Dr. Bettye Myers presents Humanitarian Award to Mark Merki


DENTON, TX (Jan. 24, 2017) – United Way of Denton County Board Chair Greg Sawko announced that the organization’s annual fundraising campaign will raise over $2 million again this year. The announcement came at the organization’s fifth annual United TRIBUTE event on Saturday, Jan. 21.

Last year, 12,000 United Way of Denton County donors helped to improve the lives of more than 100,000 people in Denton County through our support of 20 partner agencies, 9 other local non-profit organizations, and 17 collective impact initiatives, said Mr. Sawko to guests attending United TRIBUTE.

“It has been exciting to see the progress United Way of Denton County has made improving lives in Denton County,” said President & CEO, Gary Henderson. “The community appreciates that we are tackling tough issues like mental health and homelessness while taking care of critical basic need gaps in the lives of people around us.  Donors respond positively when they see results and in turn are aggressively supporting our collective impact efforts.”

The Dr. Bettye Myers Humanitarian Award was presented to Mark Merki and his late wife, Debbie, for their dedicated and unassuming service to the community. Dr. Bettye Myers herself presented the award to Mr. Merki on behalf of the United Way of Denton County board of directors after Pastor Toby Slough of Crosstimbers Church, shared with the audience the impact they have made across Denton County in their lives. Debbie and Mark were recognized for their passionate advocacy and mentorship of at-risk youth and service on local non-profit and educational advisory boards.

United Way of Denton County also recognized several 2016 campaign partners with awards at the event. Award winners included:

  • Creating Lasting Change Award, James Wood Autopark
  • Advancing the Common Good Award, DATCU Credit Union
  • LIVE UNITED Award, Guaranty Bank & Trust
  • Better Tomorrow Award, United Parcel Service
  • Community Spirit Award, Galderma
  • Chairman’s Choice Award, Peterbilt Motors Company

For the evening’s entertainment, community members showed their support for 20 dancers from across the county nominated to compete in a Dancing With Our Stars competition:

  • John Alday, Cima Solutions Group
  • Josh Ashford, Commercial Insurance
  • Ashlie Bagley, Safran Electrical & Power
  • Scott Campbell, Discover Denton
  • Cristi Carothers, 5 Star Rental
  • Hillary Castillo, University of North Texas College of Public Affairs and Community Service
  • Jeanette CeBallos, Community Volunteer
  • Greg Coward, BCI Mechanical
  • Landon Ellison, University of North Texas Dean’s Office
  • Vanessa Ellison, City of Denton
  • Hope Galloway, North Central Texas College
  • Heather Hutmacher, Big Brothers Big Sisters
  • Hutch Ice, Wells Fargo
  • Christopher Johnson, Texas Woman’s University
  • David Layton, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Denton
  • Nick Person, Cross Timbers Church
  • Alana Presley-Taylor, City of Denton
  • Denise Roberts, CASA of Denton County, Inc.
  • Darlene Turner, Jazzercise of Denton
  • Kenneth Williamson, Links Construction

Above: Alana Presley-Taylor and Greg Coward hoist their mirror ball trophies

At the close of the evening, Alana Presley-Taylor of the City of Denton and Greg Coward of BCI Mechanical won the popular vote, taking home the coveted mirror ball trophies and joining prior community champions Joey Hawkins, Melanie Vest, Greg Johnson, Randi Skinner and Jackie Davis.

The evening was presented by United Way of Denton County’s first ever presenting sponsor, the University of North Texas.

In 2016, building on the success of the Denton County Behavioral Health Leadership Team, United Way of Denton County expanded its collective impact initiatives with the formation of the Denton County Homelessness Leadership Team through a public-private collaboration with the City of Denton. The 23 organizations represented on the team are already hard at work bringing to life their mission of making homelessness in Denton County rare, brief and non-recurring.

Collective impact work continued as well in the realm of behavioral health, with the awarding of a Texas Veterans and Family Alliance grant to the Denton County Behavioral Health Leadership Team, funding two Veteran Community Navigators who have already helped more than 100 Denton County Veterans navigate the social service system in order to preemptively avoid or emerge from crisis.

Concurrently, United Way of Denton County continued to help people in our community through both partner agency grants and direct service programs coordinated by United Way staff such as the Northwest ISD Back to School program, Mayor’s Summer Youth Jobs Program, and Volunteer Income Tax Assistance.

United Way of Denton County, Inc. is a local 501(c)3 non-profit community-based organization led by a governing board of community volunteers.  Through collective impact initiatives and collaboration with local non-profit organizations, we improve lives across Denton County by building bridges of support for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, youth at-risk of dropping out of school, individuals and families experiencing homelessness, people in crisis, Veterans in need, children and youth living in poverty and people affected by mental illness.  To learn more visit or call (940) 566-5851.