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High Point United Way turning 75

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Bobby Smith

Bobby Smith

Todd Cohen

HIGH POINT, N.C. — Sometime in October, United Way of Greater High Point is expected to get a contribution that will mark the milestone of having raised $100 million since it  was founded nearly 75 years ago.

In its first 74 years, United Way raised over $97.8 million, or $189 million in 2010 dollars, says Bobby Smith, president.

“United Way has had a significant impact in High Point over the years for nonprofits,” he says.

As it kicks off its annual campaign today in the face of rising demand for services and financial stress at its 29 partners agencies, United Way will be focusing on the impact that contributors’ dollars have on providing health and human services in the region.

The kickoff will feature a community-wide food drive, with Randy Brodd, managing partner of accounting firm Dixon Hughes and chair of this year’s campaign, driving a 1935-era pickup truck to collect donated food at more than 20 organizations that have invited employees to bring in donated food.

And when giving to this year’s campaign brings to $100 million the total raised since its founding in 1935, United Way will hold a drawing among all donors to this year’s campaign, with the winner receiving airline tickets.

With the troubled economy stoking a rise in need for services and a drop in giving to its partner agencies, Smith says, United Way expects to set a goal for its campaign that will be roughly even with the total raised last year, when the campaign generated just over $4.3 million, or about $163,000 short of its goal.

Last year’s campaign raised 3 percent to 4 percent less than in 2008, when the campaign was flat from the previous year.

“The last two years have been by far the most challenging environment I’ve ever seen,” Smith says.

Still, he says, funding to United Way’s partners agencies in the past two years fell only 4 percent from its record-high in 2007.

In 2009, United Way distributed over $2.6 million to 70 programs at its partner agencies.

It also has cut $110,000 from its budget, or over 10 percent, over the past three years.

United Way has eliminated one position and downgraded another to the equivalent of a half-time job, leaving a total of 10 employees, and also has frozen wages for three straight years.

This year’s campaign will feature a video, developed by Mark Wagoner Productions in collaboration with United Way of Greater Greensboro.

The six-minute video spotlights three programs, including the Red Cross, Partners Ending Homelessness and a new “backpack” program United Way of Greater High Point has launched.

The backpack program provides food for the weekend for 80 elementary school students through the Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club, YMCA of Greater High Point, Boys & Girls Club of Greater High Point, and Community Outreach of Archdale-Trinity.

United Way this year also will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of its Tocqueville campaign to raise $10,000 or more from individual donors.

Over its first 20 years, that effort has raised a total of roughly $750,000, with 61 donors each giving $10,000 or more last year.

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