United Way launches fundraising drive

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United Way supporters throw grass seed Thursday at the United Way of the Tar River Region United We Grow 2019 Campaign Kickoff on the lawn of the United Way on Sunset Avenue.


Staff Writer

Friday, August 23, 2019

The front steps of the United Way Tar Region office off Sunset Avenue was the scene of the start of the organization’s annual community giving campaign, with the gathering culminating in a toss of grass seeds on the lawn.

As vehicle traffic whirred by on a warm Thursday morning, organization Vice President for Community Investment Jonathan Boone and returning campaign co-chairmen Rick McMahon and Zee Lamb urged support for the effort.

“United We Grow” is the theme for this year’s campaign, with the goal for 2019-20 being $1.2 million to help fund 24 agencies in Edgecombe and Nash counties.

Boone told the gathering of the effect of the United Way from a personal perspective, emphasizing he was a Cub Scout and his mother had been a client of the Meals on Wheels nutrition program for people 60 and older.

“And I can’t tell you what that meant to our family, having Meals on Wheels available to her in the latter years of her life, to make sure somebody was checking on her every day when we couldn’t be there,” Boone said. “Having that there really touched my heart.”

Boone played on former television comedian David Letterman’s top 10 list of items by reading aloud his list of why he supports the regional United Way.

His reasons include supporting charity as part of his faith and noting all of the well-known religions helping those in need; the regional United Way’s relations with community partners beyond finances; Boone feeling good knowing he, in a small way, is helping do the work of those partners; Boone’s opportunity to give back to the community and be part of the face of change that helps people in need; and Boone feeling like he is setting an example for his children.

Boone is Nash County’s director of public utilities and facilities.

McMahon is a former superintendent of Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools and Lamb is Nash County manager.

McMahon called for donor participation to be increased.

“We’re preaching to the choir here,” McMahon told the gathering. “We’ve got to look around in your circles of influence and we need to find people who are willing to pay it forward — and a little bit from a lot of folks can make a heck of a difference. It really, truly can.”

“This organization does more with every dollar than any other nonprofit I’ve ever been involved with,” Lamb told the gathering.

Lamb emphasized for every dollar coming in, only 13 percent is spent for marketing and staff.

“So you know your dollars are going back in the community,” he said.

United Way Tar Region Executive Director Ginny Mohrbutter, in an interview with the Telegram before the gathering, spoke of an uptick in the need for housing and food.

As for why she and her team thinks this is so, Mohrbutter said, “We cannot figure it out.”

Mohrbutter said there are some people who are not being touched by the reported nationwide economic recovery.

Mohrbutter also said many times people do not even know the Twin Counties have homeless children.

“At any given moment, we have over 400 children that are homeless in our schools,” she said.

She said this means these children might be staying at a homeless shelter or sleeping on the couch of a family member’s home.

“I’ll tell you, we’ve had people recently that are living in their cars,” she said.

Maj. David Phelps, who co-leads the Salvation Army of Rocky Mount, told the Telegram, “While people talk about ‘the economy is doing well’ or ‘is doing OK,’ for some people, they’re never going to get above their circumstances.”

Phelps said, whether the time is winter or summer, “Need knows no season. And so for the people who are living below the poverty line, it’s a struggle every day. And that’s why we need the United Way.”

American Red Cross regional spokeswoman Cally Edwards told the Telegram of the importance of the regional United Way helping to carry out the agency’s daily mission, especially of responding to house fires and disasters.

Edwards told the Telegram the agency responded to 70 disasters, mostly house fires, in Nash and Edgecombe counties. The figure was for the fiscal year from the start of July 2018 to the end of June 30.

Edwards said 38 of the disasters were in Nash County and 32 of the disasters were in Edgecombe County.

The regional United Way’s fundraising goal for 2018-19 was $1.2 million. Mohrbutter said about $1.25 million was raised.

Mohrbutter said the “United We Grow” theme was Lamb’s idea “because he was talking about the growth in the community — and how we can really be part of that growth.”