United Fund meets elusive goal

Officials in Washington who seem hard-pressed to solve the nation’s financial woes might find some solutions in Surry County, where the United Fund has met its annual community fundraising goal.

And it has done so for the first time in four years.

“I am really thrilled,” said Catrina Alexander, who chaired the 2015-2016 United Fund campaign.

Alexander said Monday — when fund Executive Director Christina Plitt announced the goal was not only met but exceeded — that she was especially thrilled over the impact this will make on the 26 agencies in the area which the fund supports.

Among those supported are the local Salvation Army and American Red Cross, Yokefellow Ministry, Meals on Wheels and five area rescue squads.

“They’re going to get their full funding,” said Alexander, who chaired the successful campaign while juggling the responsibilities of her normal role as director of Mount Airy Parks and Recreation.

“It’s only a portion of what they need,” she said of the money agencies receive from the United Fund.

In the past several years, fund officials had to contact agencies after the campaign to let them know that they were forced to reduce the amounts originally designated to them. “I know this put a strain on their budgets and would require them to have to come up with alternate means to mitigate the shortfall,” Alexander added.

The 2015-2016 campaign goal was $450,000, and in February the prospects of meeting it seemed bleak. With time running out, United Fund officials were $39,000 short.

Credit due many

A combination of factors led to the successful outcome, based on information supplied by Plitt, the executive director.

“This accomplishment is the culmination of efforts from numerous individuals, companies and volunteers in our area and will have a substantial impact on our local community,” Plitt said in a statement.

After an announcement in February that the campaign was $39,000 behind, the United Fund received several individual donations and a corporate gift from Cook Medical Inc., made in honor of its employees who reside in Surry County.

As the United Fund closed in on the goal, it was contacted by Renfro Corp. with a pledge to “bridge the gap,” Plitt added, which took the campaign to the 100-percent mark.

“Renfro has been a longtime supporter and advocate of the United Fund — we are fortunate to have a company in this area with such a high level of corporate social responsibility.”

Along with the corporate grant, Renfro supported the United Fund campaign in numerous ways this year, including holding internal fundraisers and sponsoring a campaign kickoff event, Downtown Rocks and Runs. Renfro also ran the largest corporate workplace campaign, with employees pledging to give more than $43,000 from their paychecks.

“The outpouring of support from businesses and the community has been instrumental to the success of the campaign this year,” Plitt stated.

During the 2015-2016 effort, the United Fund was able to start several new workplace campaigns, including ones at CK Technologies, Interstate Signs and Surry Telephone

“These new partnerships have been very important to ensuring that we were able to reverse the trend of a steadily decreasing campaign,” the fund’s executive director continued.

Meanwhile, several well-established campaigns, including those at Blue Ridge Burke Insurance, Hanesbrands, Insteel Industries, Leonard Buildings and Truck Accessories and Shenandoah Furniture, saw large increases in donations from their employees.

Alexander said Monday the fact that the fund reached its goal for the first time in four years could reflect an “uptick” in the local economy. Another factor for its success, she said, was an increased effort to educate the community about the various programs the United Fund supports.

“We hoped to communicate to Surry County residents that the United Fund, with its mission of supporting agencies so important to the functioning of our community, would not exist without their help and that we can accomplish so much when we work together,” Alexander pointed out.

“I think it’s a combination,” she said of the reasons for the campaign’s success. “I think it shows that in this community, when people are able to give, they do — I think it speaks highly of the community.”

The theme of this year’s campaign was “You Can Be United.”

Aside from the businesses and citizens who gave generously, the support network of the local United Fund is being credited for the successful campaign.

“The United Fund would not be successful without the numerous volunteers throughout the community who help us to fulfill our mission of raising funds for vitally important agencies,” Plitt commented.

“Volunteers enable the United Fund to operate with a small staff of two part-time employees, keeping our overhead expenses very low,” its executive director stated.

“I am very proud that we are an organization that people can give to and can be confident that their money is being put to good use and stays local in our community.”

In addition to a volunteer board of 15 people, the United Fund had a cabinet of volunteers from local businesses who assisted with spreading information and awareness about the United Fund and its goals.