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Community raises its hands to show support for United Way

SALISBURY – The Rowan County United Way sought to bring awareness to its annual fundraising campaign Monday with participants painting their hands on the outside of the Salisbury Post building, where the nonprofit agency’s offices are located.

According to United Way, Rowan County has seen more than 1,100 emergency responses due to mental health, suicide and substance abuse this year. As a result, 1,100 hands were painted on the windows outside and the Post building to bring awareness to substance abuse, mental health, healthy lifestyles and basic needs — the focus of this year’s campaign because of a switch in the agency’s funding model.

“We’ve got to provide funding and we have to provide programming so that we can reduce those numbers,” said campaign Chairman Robert Parnell, Salisbury’s fire chief. “It would be great to hope that we stop suicide, stop substance abuse, stop mental health fatalities. … What’s important for our community is to know the impact, the very real impact, that substance abuse, mental health, unhealthy lifestyles, a lack of  basic needs within our community, how it impacts our community directly.”

Parnell said he believes if the community does nothing to help reduce such emergency calls, suicide and substance abuse will continue to rise.

Cherrathee Hager said she thinks it was great that Rowan County United Way got local residents involved through Monday’s event. Hager said each hand painted was a great visual and “something good” for the community.

Eric Slipp, who is in charge of public relations for the 2019 United Way campaign, said Monday’s turnout included people who care about the agency’s work to solve problems.

He said the painted hands are an attention-grabber for the community.

“We didn’t know who might come. These are the people who care about our community,” Slipp said. “This is an event that talks about change and an event that looks at hope. I am gratified that people in the community can make their statement.”

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