United Way focuses on impact

By Todd Cohen

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — In December 2005, United Way of Cumberland County launched a new initiative to promote reading among young children.

In partnership with country singer Dolly Partin’s Imagination Library, and with $38,500 contributed by EMBARQ, the Cape Fear Kiwanis Club, Target and other donors, United Way has distributed over 7,700 hardback books free to over 1,400 preschoolers in the county.

For the coming year, with another $25,000 from EMBARQ and $30,000 United Way is contributing, it aims to serve even more children.

Helping kids read is among a broad range of health and human services United Way supported with $1.2 million it invested in the community this year.

Yet that that spending fell short of funds requested by United Way’s 23 partner agencies, says CEO Robert Hines.

“Needs are exceeding the resources,” he says.

United Way wants to help narrow that gap in its annual fund drive that began in September.

Chaired by Fayetteville Police Chief Tom McCarthy, the drive aims to raise $1.8 million, down from nearly $1.9 million it raised in 2005.

United Way has set a goal of holding workplace campaigns in at least 10 to 15 new companies, up from 262 workplace campaigns last year.

It also wants to recruit more donors giving $1,000 or more.

Last year’s drive received 166 gifts at that level, including 44 donors who gave at that level for the first time.

Gifts of $1,000 or more last year totaled nearly $238,000 and represented 12 percent of dollars raised in the drive.

Chairing the effort to recruit more donors at that level is Keith Allison, president and CEO of Systel Office Equipment.

Of the total dollars raised in last year’s drive, $762,550 was contributed to United Way’s general “community care fund,” which provides funds for six priority areas United Way has identified.

Those include “meeting basic needs,” “creating independence for the elderly and persons with disabilities,” “supporting our children and youth,” “strengthening families and neighborhoods,” “promoting health and healing,” and “addressing family violence and abuse of children and adults.”

To market this year’s drive, United Way will use free materials developed by a collaborative marketing effort launched two years ago by United Ways in the Triad in partnership with Greensboro communications firm CoyneBeahmShouse.

That effort has expanded this year to United Ways in the Triangle, Charlotte and Eastern North Carolina, and the marketing materials are available to any local United Way through the website of United Way of North Carolina.

By participating in the joint marketing effort, Cumberland’s United Way expects to save nearly $3,000, or half the cost of printing materials for its annual drive.

United Way has moved to the spring its annual “days of caring” that traditionally have kicked off the annual drive.

On the first day, United Way volunteers will work for its partner agencies, and the second day volunteers will participate in a national food drive by letter carriers.

This fall, United Way also will be retooling its three-year strategic plan, developing strategies to increase giving overall, particularly among donors making contributions of $1,000 or more.

Co-chairing next year’s drive will Bill Martin, president of the Cumberland County Business Council, and his wife, Esperanza.

Having touched 95,000 lives in 2005, up from 73,000 in 2004, United Way expects its partner agencies to serve even more people this year in the face of growing needs, Hines says.

According to estimates, for example, over 10,000 people in Cumberland County have diabetes but do not know it.

Thanks in part to an investment of $139,000 from United Way, Better Health of Cumberland County last year served 2,800 people with diabetes-management services, along with health information and referrals.

“We encourage the community to give from their heart to make a difference in the lives of family, friends and neighbors,” says Adrian Reeder, vice president of resource development for United Way and director of Dolly Partin’s Imagination Library for Cumberland County.

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