‘Tis the season for giving, and the United Way of Sampson County is celebrating this Christmas with a successful fundraising campaign that will see more than $180,000 in donations from the community distributed to numerous worthy causes in 2016.
“We’ve currently have raised over $180,000,” said Nancy Carr, executive director for the United Way, earlier this week. “Everyone has been so generous and we are very thankful for the community, the businesses, individuals, everyone who has made this possible. All of our employee campaigns were very successful this year and we’re just appreciative.”
The fundraising campaign will officially end on Dec. 31. That will be followed at the beginning of 2016 by the annual multi-step application and presentation process through which beneficiaries for those funds will be selected. Funding applications are due Jan. 5. Those will be considered and, following presentations, 2016 allocations will be announced at the beginning of February.
Last year, United Way reached its goal of $175,000. Prior to that, the group struggled for years to reach its fundraising benchmark amid tough economic times. This year, it not only met its goal for the second consecutive year, but far exceeded it.
United Way President Sherrill Allen said the community outpouring was “tremendous.”
“It’s just a great feeling,” said Allen, whose two-year term as president is coming to an end. “I’ve been happy to be part of a great organization and work with a great board that is committed as a team to do good things for the community.”
Carr called Allen “the backbone” of a board that she said is “truly a working board that pulls its sleeves up” when it is time to get the job done.
“I attribute that to a lot of teamwork,” Allen said of the local United Way’s success. “We have tried to be transparent, tell the story of what United Way is doing directly in our communities and educate people who are prospective donors on how we are being good stewards of their hard-earned money. We’ve had a lot of energy, we’ve worked together great and that’s helped us to help other people.”
United Way officials credited the many businesses, individuals and others who really made that possible.
“The donations were larger and we had many businesses — one business in particular — that stepped up and were very generous to our campaign,” Carr stated. “Our corporate donations were increased this year. Then Smithfield had I think the best campaign they’ve ever had, which was outstanding.”
Smithfield Foods donated nearly $80,000 of the $180,000 total.
Fundraising committee co-chair Dempsey Craig said he was overwhelmed and humbled at just how much this community continues to give.
“It shows the community outpouring,” said Craig, who serves as treasurer for the organization. “The community rallied together and felt there was a need out there and they met the challenge. Of course, the economy has improved, which makes everybody feel a little bit better and that affects people’s willingness to give more. The agency is very appreciative of what we will be able to do.”
Craig and others with the local United Way have long stressed that the bulk of all money raised, some 97-98 percent, goes directly to local programs with the nominal remainder going toward any overhead and utilities costs.
Current United Way partners include the Boy Scouts of America-Tuscarora Council, Breast and Cervical Cancer Control Program, Clinton Area Foundation for Education, Delta Sigma Theta, Fitness Renaissance Program, Girl Scouts-North Carolina Coastal Plains, Sampson County Child Advocacy Center, Sampson County 4-H, Sampson County Fireman’s Association, Sampson County Friends of Education, Special Olympics-Sampson County and the Wheelchair Ramp Program.
For some of these agencies, United Way’s money is the only source of funding for their organization, which must be a non-profit.
Allen noted the outreach to community agencies that goes hand-in-hand with the fundraising, taking them through the application process and give them a better understanding of how to apply for funds. Likewise, United Way officials work hard to explain throughout the community how their money helps locally.
“We are able to energize people to give because our money stays in the community,” Allen stated, noting the many other events United Way spearheads such as the “Outstanding in Our Fields” homegrown feast, the third edition of which is in the planning stages now. “That will be equally as enticing, with a different twist.”
Even during the economic downturn, United Way of Sampson County was able to raise substantial amounts as part of its annual fundraising. Allen credited that to an educated public.
“In a down economy, when you’re thinking about giving, you want to really know where your money is going and how it will be used,” Allen remarked. “We had a very tall order during that down economy to raise money, and I think it is just a true testament to the citizens of this community who have stepped up to do it.”
Every penny, every dollar assists the United Way, which affects the community in a very positive way, officials said.
“That’s a great thing,” Allen said, “because it means the more money we get in, the more we can support our agencies and the more they can help the citizens of the county.”
“That money is going right back to our community to help with programs and agencies that are local,” Carr added, “and will help improve the quality of life for people living in Sampson County.”
Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.