By Todd Cohen
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. – In the first six weeks or so after Hurricane Katrina made landfall on Aug. 29, United Way of Cumberland County and its member agencies responded to 10 fires in local homes, served 645 elderly people in their homes, provided a safe after-school environment for over 600 children, and placed 133 emergency messages to military personnel overseas.
The county also is home to more than 500 families displaced by Katrina and Hurricane Rita, with more than 100 children enrolled in local schools.
“Our member agencies have already seen an increase in need due to the additional families in our community,” says Robert Hines, United Way president and CEO.
Meeting the needs of evacuees while continuing to address the needs of clients of its 21 member agencies with more than 90 programs and services poses a big challenge that United Way is trying to address by spreading the word about its impact, Hines says.
Repeating the strategy it used last year, when it raised $1.9 million, United Way has not set a dollar goal for its annual fund drive.
“You could raise all the money in the world,” Hines says, “but if you don’t make a difference, what have you done?”
Noting that United Way so far has only a few results from the drive, Hines says it is too early to gauge the impact of Katrina on donors or predict how contributions will compare with last year’s.
Chaired by Chappie Petree, market executive for RBC Centura, the drive has seen big increases for several early workplace campaigns.
The campaign at Fayetteville Technical Community College, for example, was up $4,000, or 30 percent, from last year, says Adrian Reeder, vice president of resource development.
And the campaign at the City of Fayetteville grew to just over $78,000 from $42,000, including 13 gifts of $1,000 or more, up from 7 last year.
City Manager Roger Stancil recorded a compact disc about the drive that was played at employee meetings, and 125 city employees volunteered at 12 projects for a “day of caring” at United Way agencies.
Overall, Hines says, the drive hopes to generate more gifts from donors giving $1,000 or more.
That effort, chaired by Bill Martin, president of the Cumberland County Business Council, and his wife, Esperanza, last year raised $205,000 from 209 individuals giving at that level.
“Our goal is to increase the number of individuals and the number of dollars,” Hines says.
This year’s drive will include campaigns in roughly 200 workplaces, including 17 employers that did not take part in last year’s drive.
United Way leaders also are waging “model” workplace campaigns that include a visit to an organization’s CEO, followed by a visit to senior management and the CEO, followed by visits to individual departments.
In October, for example, Hines and Reeder each held eight 30-minute meetings at Eaton Corp., which has 700 employees
“The only ones who did not attend were people who were out sick or on vacation,” Hines says.
The main message is the impact of United Way, which last year “touched 72,000 lives in Cumberland County,” Reeder says.
“We’re thanking everyone for their contributions to Hurricane Katrina,” she says. “But we’re also reminding them about our own needs back here in our community.”