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United Way holds first report meeting of 2008 campaign

By Kathy Chaffin
kchaffin@salisburypost.com
When it comes to helping the Rowan County United Way, Ronnie Smith will do just about anything.
His trademark “Boy, do I feel good” has become a mantra for the annual fundraising campaign. Oftentimes, other volunteers end up doing Ronnie Smith impersonations at various campaign functions.
Last year, Smith helped provide the “vroom, vroom” for the cars used to track the progress toward the goal and wore a pack of Bounty paper towels with the word “Hunter” taped on them and a box of Frosted Flakes hanging on his back with a big knife stuck in it for his Halloween costume: “a Bounty hunter looking for a ‘cereal’ killer.”
Smith may have outdone himself Wednesday, however, when he appeared as Sheriff Billy for the first weekly report meeting of this year’s campaign held at Ben Mynatt Nissan. He was introduced by Uncle Sam himself (aka Tyler Weant of the Salisbury Kiwanis Club), who urged volunteers to “Vote for United Way” in keeping with the election theme.
Wearing an officer’s uniform with a pillow as belly padding, sunglasses and handcuffs hanging from his belt, Smith stayed in character, talking with a cigar stub gripped between his teeth.
Before turning the meeting over to Campaign Chairman Chuck Elliott, Smith said there may be other candidates making appearances at future report meetings.
Elliott said, “No one will surpass Sheriff Billy.” He added that any contributions to Sheriff Billy’s campaign will go toward United Way’s $1,971,200 goal.
There was lots of cheering as the county’s 16 United Way agencies were introduced and representatives of the Pacesetter companies announced their totals. With several of their campaigns unfinished, the total raised so far was $311,050 or 79 percent of the Pacesetter’ $394,000 goal.
That includes a $1,000 check from Kohl’s, the first store in the new Wallace Commons development, on its first day of business Wednesday. Elliott said United Way volunteers are excited about the donation and look forward to Kohl’s being a part of future campaigns.
Todd Rakes, general manager of Ben Mynatt Nissan, one of five Salisbury automotive dealerships teaming up for the fourth year in a row to give away a new car to a lucky contributor, welcomed volunteers and agency representatives to the dealership.
As host, he was also given the honor of drawing the first two finalists for the new car: Larry E. Johnson of Norandal USA and Jeff Pope of Chandler Concrete.
Dr. Jerry Chandler, vice president of Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, introduced the chairs for the Pacesetter companies.
– Mike Stewart, reporting for Cloninger Ford, said the dealership’s employees had contributed $8,340. That’s 106 percent over their goal, he said, and the campaign’s not over yet.
– Tim Mateer of Gerry Wood Automotive said the dealership had raised $8,539, which is more than last year’s contribution.
– Chandler, speaking for Team Chevrolet, said the dealership had raised $702 so far and is continuing its campaign.
– He also announced the $10,050 total for Community One Bank, which is also continuing its campaign.
– Elliott announced that $52,100 had been raised in the Miscellaneous category, which includes people who donate to United Way through employers in other counties, but earmark their money for Rowan.
– Chandler announced that Salisbury Motor Company had raised $1,200 so far.
– Wanda Mills reported that McKenzie Sports Products had raised $19,768 so far, which is more than the company raised last year but less than its current $20,000 goal.
– Elizabeth Cook said the Salisbury Post had raised $19,404 in its campaign, which is equal to last year’s contribution even though a fewer number of employees contributed.
– Suzanne Murphy and Julie Gainer reported that Rowan Regional Medical Center had raised $58,257 so far in its campaign.
– Chandler said $100,156 had been raised in the Special Gifts category.
– Jane Jackman, executive director of the Arc/Rowan, reported that employees of the 16 United Way agencies had surpassed their 2007 donations with $32,534.

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