Quietly upbeat

By Todd Cohen

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — United Way of Forsyth County has raised roughly 80 percent of the $16.5 million goal for its annual drive and is “cautiously optimistic” it will reach its target.

“We have a lot of encouraging news,” says Ron Drago, CEO, although he adds the drive still is waiting for results both from some big and small companies, and from individuals who increasingly make their giving decisions at the end of the year.

Helping to spur some of the optimism for the drive, he says, are strong results from Wachovia and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, both of which have lost jobs because of mergers.

While final tallies are not available, he says, Wachovia will raise more than it did last year and Reynolds will at least equal last year’s total.

Two companies with smaller local payrolls, Lowes Food and Pepsico, both exceeded last year’s totals, posting double-digit increases, Drago says, while several companies that held workplace campaigns for the first time ran strong campaigns, including Blue Rhino and three new area banks, TriStone Community Bank, First Community Bank and First Horizon.

Employee giving at Winston-Salem-based Lowes Foods, which held United Way events at its more than 100 stores, grew to $180,000, up 29 percent, with employees able to designate their giving for individual United Ways, says Susan Bly, vice president of campaign for Untied Way of Forsyth County.

The drive, chaired by Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines, also expects contributions from individual donors who give $10,000 or more to grow to nearly $2.4 million from just over $2.3 million last year.

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