Donor makes programs possible for United Way agencies

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 2, 2012

When an anonymous donor stepped in to make a sizable contribution to the Rowan County United Way campaign, it paved the way for young girls who dare to dream.

The Girl Scouts Hornets’ Nest Council, which serves 1,000 girls in Rowan, receives funds from the United Way.

The United Way was just short of its $1.78 million campaign goal. But during Wednesday’s final meeting at Carson High School, that donor made up the $24,263.77 deficit.

There are 16-member agencies that receive financial assistance from the United Way to help fund programs and reduce operating costs.

United Way funds help with financial assistance for Girl Scouts’ uniforms, books, membership dues, program fees and summer camps.

In Rowan County, 289 girls take part in volunteer-led troops and 340 girls are in staff-led or community outreach programs that receive financial assistance of some kind.

“We have a commitment to serve all girls who want to be Girl Scouts,” said Katherine Lambert, executive vice president of the Council.

The Girl Scouts program is a leadership development program.

“We are empowering today’s girls to be the leaders of tomorrow,” Lambert said.

“We want to make sure she develops her full leadership potential and the funding from the Rowan County United Way really helps us achieve that mission,” she said.

The Post contacted the United Way to reach out to the donor. Although the donor did not respond to the Post personally, the donor did provide a statement through Ronnie Smith, who has served on the board in the past. He called the Post with that statement:

“As a lifelong resident of Rowan County, I grew up in a family that over the years had to make many sacrifices in order to make ends meet,” the donor said.

The donor said their early life is one reason they’ve always believed in the United Way and supported this campaign.

The contribution was actually possible because of more than just a single donor.

“We knew this year would be extremely difficult with the economy in Rowan County, but we were so impressed with the hard work of the campaign staff and many volunteers,” the statement said.

“When we learned that the United Way might not reach its goal, several of us decided that we could not afford to let that happen,” the donor said.

On Monday, the agency was $83,000 shy of its $1.78 million goal and then came a Wednesday morning $20,000 gift from Novant Health.

Once the meeting began, the campaign was still $24,263.77 short.

Campaign Chair Denise Hallett was handed an envelope that said, “open if goal is not met.”

The anonymous donors had granted the organization a little bit of divine intervention.

“Although they were just short of their goal we said ‘good enough never is.’ We decided to go the extra mile to make certain this campaign was a success. When the entire audience at the United Way finale stood in their seats and shouted ‘we believe in the United Way and this community,’ we knew we had made the right decision,” the donor said.

The envelope Hallett received contained a handwritten letter that made a request. The supporters in the audience were asked to stand, and representatives from the member agencies were asked onto the stage.

Hallett asked a series of questions from the letter, which the audience answered.

One of those questions was whether they believed in the United Way.

The statement said the donors enjoyed reading the stories featured regularly about the agencies and individuals impacted by the giving.

A member agency that relies on the United Way is Meals on Wheels of Rowan County.

This year about 50,000 meals will be given to seniors and the homebound. It is because of the community contributions and the aid of an anonymous donor that those meals are possible.

“It shows there’s a great need out there,” said Excutive Director Rita Sims.

Of the people who receive meals through Meals on Wheels, 98 percent are seniors over the age of 60 and the rest are younger people who are homebound because of physical or mental disabilities, Sims said.

Meals on Wheels focuses on the meal, which the money helps provide, but along with the meal, “it’s that friendly visit,” Sims said.

Many of the clients who receive meals live alone.

“It shows that people out there care about them,” she said.

During the Wednesday meeting, some of those who were in the running to receive a car shared how they at one time needed help from a United Way agency.

Those who donate at least $52 to the campaign are entered in a drawing to win a car. The finalists were asked why they give.

“I’ve been through poverty and had to use their services. I thank them so much,” Dorothy Williams said of the United Way.

Jeremy Lomax, who was also in the running for a car, said he too had to use help from a United Way agency.

Lomax said giving was his way of, “paying it back.”

Hallett said that, with one in four Rowan County citizens living at or below the poverty line, there are many needs in the community.

Among the many services available, agencies provide parenting skills, mentoring, utility assistance, help for domestic violence victims and offer a place of solace after a natural disaster.

Hallett said she is not only grateful to the donor, but to the thousands of volunteers, cabinet members and auxilliary committee members who’ve helped throughout the campaign.

“Those are the people who made it possible. It just says so much about our county; it says so much about our agencies. It confirms what we all know, these agencies are making a positive difference in the lives of our citizens in Rowan County,” she said.

Rowan County is successful because everyone had a hand in the campaign, from corporations matching employee giving to those who contributed a $1 a week, Hallett said.

“It, takes it all in and wraps it up in a miracle,” she said.

Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.