By MIRANDA BAINES
THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
United Way Tar River Region is kicking off its 2013-2014 campaign at 6 p.m. Thursday on the lawn of the Imperial Centre at 270 Gay St. in Rocky Mount.
The kick off will take place prior to a performance by “Fantasy,” as part of Rocky Mount’s Downtown Live summer music series. The event is free and open to the public.
“They can come and see the kick off and bring a lawn chair and enjoy the music,” said Ginny Mohrbutter, executive director of United Way TRR.
Christy Taylor of Express Employment Professionals will lead the campaign kick-off. She is this year’s Twin County campaign co-chair. At the kick off, Taylor will announce the campaign goal, which is higher than last year’s goal of $1.2 million. United Way TRR raised $1.25 in last year’s campaign.
“We did surpass our goal,” Mohrbutter said. “I think it speaks to the generosity of our community.”
Mohrbutter is confident that with the support of community volunteers, beginning work on this year’s campaign early, and “actively talking about the needs in the community,” United Way TRR will reach its campaign goal again this year.
United Way TRR is a non-profit organization that funds 22 agencies in Edgecombe and Nash Counties. The agencies that United Way funds focus on three key areas – community-based education, community-based health, and income and independence. Income and independence means “ensuring that we meet the basic needs for individuals,” said Mohrbutter. That focus area is one that has become a high priority in the past couple of years.
“We are certainly getting more calls for the need for financial assistance and food assistance,” Mohrbutter said. “Those kind of basic needs have increased.”
Not having basic needs met creates a “ripple effect” and spills over into other areas that United Way funds, Mohrbutter explained. She said when families are concerned with putting a roof over their heads, it’s not likely that they’re able to focus on living a healthy lifestyle or providing educational opportunities for their children. Basic needs of community members going unmet also means homeless shelters and domestic violence shelters, which United Way also funds, are full.
Morhbutter attributes the increase in financial need to the change in unemployment benefits and the consistently high unemployment rates in the Twin-County area. Edgecombe County had the second-highest unemployment rate in the state in July – 14.7 percent.
The funds raised in the United Way TRR campaign stay in the Twin-County area.
“We’re really proud to say that when people support the United Way campaign, they are supporting the local community,” Mohrbutter said.
Support from local businesses is crucial to United Way TRR’s campaign each year, and companies make the campaign “fun” for employees, Morhbutter said. Piedmont Natural Gas, for instance, is having a chili cook off on Sept. 20 to raise money for its campaign this year.
A highlight of this year’s campaign is a car giveaway to a campaign contributor by Davenport Auto. The car will be “floating around” all over Edgecombe County, Mohrbutter said.
For more information about United Way, visit HYPERLINK "http://www.unitedwaytrr.org" www.unitedwaytrr.org.