United Fund hopes for one last push

Mount Airy News February 6, 2017

In its 60th year in existence, the United Fund is hoping to reach its annual fundraising goal.

Todd Tucker, the United Fund’s fundraising chair, said the United Fund of Surry is nearing its $450,000 fundraising goal. He’s hoping a last-minute surge of contributions will push the organization to that goal.

“We are at at about 93 percent of our goal,” explained Tucker.

Christina Plitt, United Fund of Surry’s director, said the fund had raised $422,000 as of Monday, leaving it $28,000 shy of the goal, several weeks before the effort is scheduled to end

“We are trying to boost awareness to get some more donations,” remarked Tucker.

Tucker said he would like to see the organization meet the goal, given it is celebrating its 60th year in existence. The fund raises money for a “great cause.” In fact, it raises money for 26 great causes.

Tucker explained the United Fund supports 26 member agencies, all of which play an important role in the community. Those organizations range from local rescue squads to the Shepherd’s House, the homeless shelter in Mount Airy.

Any donations are tax detectable, added Tucker. More importantly, the dollars remain in Surry County to support organizations making a difference in the local community.

Furthermore, Tucker noted every dime a person donates to the United Fund is forwarded on to those local agencies. No contributions are used to fund the operations of the United Fund. The director of the organization’s salary and all operating expenses are paid by way of grants.

Tucker said on Monday he hopes the community will continue to give in order to push the United Fund to or above its goal. The annual campaign officially ends at the end of March.

“We have some great support in the community,” explained Tucker. “We are just hoping to get this last little push.”

If the fund does reach its goal, it will be the second consecutive year it has done so, explained Plitt. The four years prior to that, the United Fund fell short.

“If we don’t make it, we have to cut what we give to our member agencies,” remarked the director. “I don’t want to have to make those phone calls.”

“I’m optimistic we will make it, but we are pulling out all the stops,” said Plitt.

Jones staff shines in fundraising efforts

By Andy Winemiller - awinemiller@mtairynews.com

Staff at Jones Intermediate School outperformed their colleagues in the school district competition, raising more than $1,500 for the United Fund.

Staff members were treated to a luncheon for their efforts, courtesy of the Mount Airy City Schools central office.

Members of faculty and staff from throughout the school district took part in helping the United Fund of Surry in its current fundraising campaign.

Christina Plitt, the fund’s executive director, said United Fund’s attempts to raise $450,000 began in August and will conclude in March. As of Friday, the fund had raised about $405,000.

Plitt said the donation of the school district’s staff exceeded that of the year prior, which was about $3,800. The contribution from Jones was an especially impressive feat since the donation is more than double what the staff members at the school were able to raise in the 2015-2016 fundraising year.

“I think the people who work in our schools are already giving back to the community, so it’s impressive that they are so giving to these charities,” said Plitt.

Carrie Venable, the school district’s public information officer, noted staff at Jones raised $1,550 toward the district’s contribution to the United Fund. The amount exceeded the goal set by staff members at that school by more than $300.

The members of the Mount Airy Board of Education served the staff at Jones their much-deserved lunch from 13 Bones on Friday, according to Venable.

Mount Airy Schools superintendent Dr. Kim Morrison indicated she was proud of the district’s faculty and staff.

“We are very proud of all of the Mount Airy City Schools staff for their increase over last year in giving to the United Fund,” remarked Morrison. “We are especially proud of Jones Intermediate which had a large percentage of their staff give to meet a goal of $1,200. This was almost double what the staff was able to give last year and shows our commitment to serve our community.”

Plitt noted the fund provides financial support to 25 local non-profit organizations.

Dr. Kim Morrison, New Board Member

The United Fund welcomes Dr. Kim Morrison, superintendent of Mount Airy City Schools, to the Board of Directors. Dr. Kim Morrison has worked in education for the last 23 years implementing innovative award winning programs. She currently is the Superintendent of Schools for Mount Airy City Schools implementing STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) district wide.  She has helped bring in over 25 million dollars of federal grants to support innovative schools and works with districts all over the country to implement strong educational programs.  Programs she initiated and implemented have won national awards including the Ronald P. Simpson award, the top magnet award in the nation along with Mount Airy Middle School being named a National Schools to Watch.  She was one of two finalists for the American Association of School Administrators, “Women in School Leadership Awards.” She was inducted this year into the Rhododendron Society for Appalachian State University’s Reich College of Education, their most prestigious award. She is most proud of being the wife of Tommy and mother of two boys, Kaleb and Eli. 

Dr. Morrison will bring a variety of talents to the United Fund and will continue the long standing partnership between the United Fund and Mount Airy City Schools. 

Christopher Cook, New Board Member

The United Fund of Surry Welcomes Christopher Cook to the board of the United Fund of Surry. Christopher will represent the Pilot Mountain area of Surry County. Christopher is originally from Pilot Mountain, graduating from East Surry High School. He and his wife Amanda, along with their 3 children are active members of First United Methodist Church. Christopher owns Alliance Insurance Services, with offices in Winston Salem, Walnut Cove, and Mount Airy, NC.

Surry Homeless and Affordable Housing Coalition added as United Fund Agency

The Surry Homeless and Affordable Housing Coalition has been accepted as an agency of the United Fund of Surry. The Surry Homeless and Affordable Housing Coalition operates two programs: a Permanent Supportive Housing Program and a Transitional Housing Program. The Permanent Supportive Housing Program provides rental assistance and case management for 12 scattered lease units of permanent housing for homeless people with disabilities. Each client and family receives on going case management and support toward individualized goals. The Transitional Housing program provides temporary subsidized housing for three homeless families without disabilities who are leaving area shelters. Individuals in this program develop the skills to establish and maintain stable housing. While in the program, individuals work personalized plans to address areas such as mental health, substance abuse, budgeting, increased income, and health. SHAHC has been able to successfully help the chronically homeless break the cycle of homelessness.

 SHAHC currently houses 19 individuals in their Supportive Housing program, including 4 single men. Currently, no other agencies in the area are able to house single men. In 2015, SHAHC provided more than 10,000 nights of shelter to Surry County homeless individuals. These individuals received more than 2,000 hours of case management and transportation. The program served 29 people in the Permanent Supportive Housing Program. All participants remained in housing for a minimum of 6 months and 84% of the participants have remained in stable housing for more than a year. 

In 2015, SHAHC received a referral from the Shepherds House, the local homeless shelter for a family of 4. The mother was currently living in the shelter, having recently started treatment for substance abuse. Her 5 year old daughter and 11 year old son were living with relatives and 16 year old daughter was living at the Children's Center. With the help of SHAHC, the mother was able to locate housing and all three children were able to return home with her. The mother continued to participate in her substance abuse treatment and has been successful with remaining drug free for over a year. This is just one of many families that has a brighter future due to the dedication of the people involved with the Surry Homeless and Affordable Housing Coalition.

The United Fund of Surry is dedicated to funding programs that both address current critical needs but also focus on reducing and alleviating those needs in the future. By building strong families, we are building a stronger and healthier community. 

Many run in Rocks and Runs

By Andy Winemiller - awinemiller@civitasmedia.com


Cash prizes made the difference in attracting competition to this year’s United Fund of Surry Downtown Rocks and Runs fundraiser.

United Fund director Christina Plitt said Saturday’s ninth annual 5k race touted a field of competitive runners and more overall runners than in years past.

“You get some fast people when you offer cash prizes,” remarked Plitt.

Cash prizes of up to $250 were offered to those runners who placed in each age division. Plitt said the cash prizes were made possible through an anonymous donation from an individual who “wanted to spark some competition.”

This year’s event posted a field of 237 timed runners, said Plitt.

She also noted the race had raised more money for the fund and the 25 local agencies the United Fund financially supports than last year’s event.

Last year about $17,000 was raised at the event.

Plitt said the event’s success was a result of both increased participation and the support from the community — especially member organizations.

“Our costs were minimal,” said Plitt, noting food, shirts and other costs were covered by sponsorship dollars or provided by member agencies.

Many member organizations were on hand volunteering at the race Saturday morning. One such organization was Yokefellow Ministries, a local food pantry.

Dixie Ratliff, the pantry’s only paid employee, said last year Yokefellow distributed more than 409,000 pounds of food in the local community, an undertaking made possible by the support of the United Fund.

“United Fund’s support is huge,” said Ratliff. “They are our largest contributor.”

Plitt said while the Rocks and Runs fundraiser, which included a performance by the Craig Vaughn Experience at Old North State Winery Saturday evening, may create the buzz surrounding the United Fund, the race is but the beginning of a year-long campaign to raise funds.

This year, the fund plans to match its $450,000 goal of last year, said Plitt. Last year was the first time the organization had met its fundraising goal in four years.

She said the bulk of funds raised is actually garnered through an “employee campaign,” in which employees of local companies can choose to have donations deducted from their payroll. About 25 to 30 local companies take part in the program.

Incoming United Fund board chairman Todd Tucker said he’s looking forward to another year — the 60th year, to be exact — of raising dollars for local agencies.

“I look forward to working with all our agencies,” said Tucker. “I am also appreciative of all these volunteers out here helping today.”

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.

Pocket change could be the difference for United Fund

A homeless family has no where to turn, no one to help them, until they get desperately needed assistance from The Shepherd’s House, giving them hope to reclaim their lives.

A fire in the middle of the night destroys a residence, and those who lived there are left with nothing, until the Red Cross steps in, getting them shelter and connecting them with local agencies who can get them back on their feet.

Local youths, sometimes with no other strong positive influences in their lives, find caring adults and friends in Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops, organizations that help those young folks have some fun while finding their way in life.

A wreck occurs on a busy street, and within minutes volunteer rescue squads are on the scene, tending to the injured.

What do these little scenarios have in common? Every one of them involves a local agency supported by the United Fund of Surry County.

More than two dozen local organizations — agencies dealing with people most in need, who might not otherwise get the help they need — get a good portion of their funding from the United Fund.

That’s important, because every minute the volunteers and folks working with those organizations must spend on fundraising efforts, that’s time away from their core mission of helping people.

That is where the United Fund comes in, by taking on the bulk of that fundraising work, advocating for those human resource agencies throughout the community, raising money it can then distribute to those organizations. Oftentimes the United Fund can raise more total money for these agencies than they could if they each took on their own fundraising efforts. So the partnership between these organizations and the United Fund is vital to their missions, and that is why it is important we, as community members, do our part to help the United Fund meet its annual fundraising goals.

At last report, the United Fund was about $39,000 short of its $450,000 goal for the year. Many of you have already responded to the United Fund’s call for donations, helping the organization come within just a few thousand dollars of its goal.

But if the rest of the money doesn’t come in, that means the United Fund’s allocations to many of those local agencies will be curtailed, budgets will shrink, and somewhere, sometime, there’s going to be a need that goes unmet simply because an agency had to cut some of its work.

There are about 33,000 households in Surry County — some containing large families, others maybe with just an individual or two living there. But if every single one of the households in Surry County could find a way to donate just $1.50 over the next week or two, the United Fund would go well over its goal for the year.

That’s just $1.50. For some households that might truly be difficult, but we suspect for most that would be no big deal, representing pocket change left at the end of the day, or foregoing a vending machine candy bar once or twice.

We hope many of the folks living in Surry County will take a few moments to reflect on the importance of the annual United Fund drive, and how easy it would be, at this point, to donate a dollar or two and push the Fund over its goal for the year.

We suspect, somewhere along the line, everyone who does that will be repaid many times over by utilizing services provided by organizations funded by the United Fund.

United Fund within reach of goal

This year’s United Fund of Surry campaign has achieved 91 percent of its goal, with fundraisers planning to mount a final push to get it over the top.

Ninety-one percent might sound like a done deal for reaching such a goal, but in monetary terms it means the effort is still about $39,000 short — with a deadline looming at the end of March.

“We’re kind of in the eleventh hour of this thing,” said Catrina Alexander, who is chairing the 2015-2016 United Fund campaign.

The goal is $450,000, for which $411,319 has been pledged.

Alexander is appreciative for the substantial support received. “We would like to thank all who have contributed to the campaign thus far.”

And United Fund officials are hoping the community will find a way to reach down into its pockets a little farther to achieve the $450,000.

“We’d kind of like to get it wrapped up,” Alexander added Tuesday.

Multi-pronged approach

United Fund officials will rely on several strategies to make up the shortfall for the 2015-2016 campaign.

One involves community awareness, making sure the public is aware of the unique role the United Fund plays in this area.

The money it generates is channeled to 26 different agencies that are vital to citizens of the area, such as the Surry Medical Ministries clinic that provides free medical care one day each week from its site on Rockford Street.

Alexander said that agency alone shows the value of supporting the United Fund in terms of an investment bringing a big return. The Surry Medical Ministries clinic is said to provide $20,000 worth of free care to persons in need “every time they open their doors,” she pointed out.

Another example is the Shepherd’s House, which provides temporary housing to homeless persons who would have nowhere to turn otherwise.

Among the 26 United Fund beneficiaries are the local Salvation Army and American Red Cross, Yokefellow Ministry, Meals on Wheels and five area rescue squads, and others.

Alexander, who is parks and recreation director for the city of Mount Airy, said United Fund officials also want to ensure that the community knows the money donated truly goes for its intended purposes.

It all stays here, the fund chairman said of the fact the organization is locally based and has only two part-time staff members in addition to board members and others involved with the United Fund who are strictly volunteers.

“It’s different from a lot of national organizations,” Alexander said of those that raise money which tends to be eaten up by administrative and other costs that dilute the amount of aid to those who are supposed to benefit.

By making a United Fund donation, the giver can be assured that his or her gift will be distributed to a wide range of worthy recipients.

Other steps toward reaching the campaign goal will include trying to do more to engage the community, such as making United Fund representatives available to speak to corporate or other groups about what the organization does.

Anyone desiring more information about the United Fund — or to make a donation — can call its executive director, Christina Plitt, at 789-3087, or visit the fund website (at http://www.unitedfundofsurry.org/), Alexander said.

In the past several years, there have times when the United Fund has not met its goal, which Alexander said is partly due to changes in executive directors, with three different individuals serving over that period.

This means funding has had to be reduced proportionately to the 26 agencies in response to the shortfalls and undercut the levels each needs to serve the community.

“Whether we meet our goal or not, it still means so much to the community,” Alexander said of the many programs and services the United Fund supports regardless of the money available.

“But, of course, we want to reach our goal.”

Artwork offered to aid United Fund

Mount Airy News

Contributors to the annual United Fund of Surry campaign have the opportunity to own a piece of original art, organizers have announced.

Local artist Lizzie Morrison is assisting this year’s drive by offering someone the opportunity to win an original painting, entitled “Bluegrass.”

Contributors who pledge at least $100 (through a one-time gift or over the course of a year) to the annual fundraising drive will receive a limited-edition print of the painting and a chance to win the original.

Morrison and her husband Luke own the Blue Rabbit studio on North Main Street in Mount Airy, and the artwork offer this year is building on a previous effort in support of the United Fund, officials say. It began last year with a painting by Kathy Pruett.

“Being able to again partner with a local artist to provide donors with an incentive is a perfect fit for the United Fund campaign since it connects with our message of supporting local agencies,” Christina Plitt, director of the United Fund of Surry, said in a prepared statement.

“We are very proud that money raised here in Surry County stays here locally to support our community.”

Catrina Alexander, who is chairing this year’s United Fund campaign, also praised the effort involving the painting.

“We are so grateful for the community’s support and equally grateful for the efforts of the agencies that the United Fund supports,” said Alexander, whose day job is director of Mount Airy Parks and Recreation.

This includes 26 member agencies ranging alphabetically from the American Red Cross to Yokefellow Ministry.

“The United Fund has a deep-rooted history in Surry County and we are so glad to be able to offer this type of incentive for a second year in a row. We are also fortunate to have a board of directors and a cabinet that are working very hard to help us achieve our goal,” Alexander added.

“It takes an extraordinary amount of time and effort, a task that would otherwise be impossible for the United Fund’s two part-time employees. I’ve always been so impressed with our community’s ability to come together with these types of large-scale efforts — it’s what makes us unique, it’s what makes me so proud to live here.”

Many opportunities exist for local residents to give to the United Fund, both individually and through corporate donations and employee campaigns.

More information about the United Fund of Surry or to how to contribute is available at www.unitedfundofsurry.org or by contacting director Christina Plitt at 336-789-3087.