‘Truly want to innovate’: United Way honors volunteers, plans for change in 2022

Published 6:59 pm Thursday, January 27, 2022

SALISBURY — After two fundraising campaigns during a pandemic and multiple years with a new community impact model, the Rowan County United Way is planning for change in 2022.

The United Way in 2019 transitioned to a community impact model instead of continuing to fund the same organizations. The new model used money raised during the United Way’s annual campaign — a combination of voluntary payroll deductions, individual gifts and other contributions — for projects proposed by local nonprofits in the areas of substance abuse, mental health, healthy lifestyles behaviors and basic needs.

Executive Director Jenny Lee says the Rowan County United Way will start accepting applications in the spring. During the Rowan County United Way’s annual meeting on Thursday, Andrew Smith, Rowan-Salisbury Schools assistant superintendent and incoming president of the United Way, previewed selections from that grant cycle by encouraging new board members to embrace transformation and new ideas as well as being proactive about the organization’s future.

“We need to learn to say ‘yes’ more than ‘no’ if we truly want to innovate, but we have to be strategic in those yeses and intentional in those yeses,” Smith said. “What’s our return in investment on those yeses? That’s step one.”

New ideas won’t always fit with old ones. People may see new choices as controversial and disagree, Smith said.

He also encouraged the Rowan County United Way to examine how other organizations are fundraising and blend their ideas with previous and current practices, noting that fundraising is becoming harder.

This year, the Rowan County United Way raised about $1.3 million — shy of the $1.5 million goal. However, Lee says that won’t affect any funded projects.

During Thursday’s presentation, United Way also named Rowan Social Services Director Micah Ennis the recipient of the its prestigious Helping Hand Award for dedicated and wide-ranging volunteer support.

“You look at someone who goes over and beyond the normal volunteer opportunity,” Lee said after the meeting. “Micah serves on our board of directors. She serves on our community impact committee. She led the campaign for all of Rowan County, the county government employees.

“And something that’s not public, she’s one of our advisory members in our crisis facility planning committee, the detox center … We didn’t even need to vote on the criteria. She stood out above the rest.”

People like Ennis are critical to the mission of the United Way and the “true heartbeat of this organization,” Lee said.

Other award winners included retired Salisbury Post Editor Elizabeth Cook, who received an honor named for former United Way Associate Director Jackie Harris. Cook has demonstrated a high level of energy and compassion and increased her division’s giving during the previous two years, Ennis said when presenting the award.

Gerry Wood Auto Group received an award for having the best new workplace campaign. Henkel, a chemical company with a facility in Rowan County, received the award for most outstanding campaign.

During Thursday’s annual meeting, Lee also told attendees the United Way has been nominated as one of the most outstanding organizations of its kind in the Southeast. It will now compete against other United Way organizations of similar size for top honors.

The 2022 officers for the Rowan County United Way will be:

• Andrew Smith, president

• Eric Slipp, vice president

• Wendy Barnhardt, vice president of community impact

• Lori Yang, vice president of public relations

• Bill Burgin, secretary-treasurer

• Paul Bardinas, past president