By MIRANDA BAINES
THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
ROCKY MOUNT —
“Be the change” was the theme of a United Way Tar River Region luncheon Wednesday at The Gateway Convention Center in Rocky Mount. United Way TRR recognized “community champions,” celebrated the success of its 2012 fundraising campaign and encouraged volunteers and partner agencies to “be the change” they want to see in the community.
United Way is a non-profit agency with 20 partner agencies serving the needs of the Twin-County area.
“United Way funds support 41 programs in three key areas: education, health and financial stability,” said Ginny Mohrbutter, executive director for United Way TRR. “The end goal for United Way is to make positive changes in the community.”
In the last year, United Way has noticed an increase in the number of area residents seeking assistance for basic needs.
“Our No. 1 need right now is financial assistance, food and housing. It really is meeting the basic needs,” said Mohrbutter.
United Way TRR surpassed its $1.2 million fundraising goal for 2012, raising approximately $1,250,000.
“With your generous donations of time, talent and financial contributions, we continue to transform our community into a more caring and responsive place where we understand how our investments can help impact and improve the quality of life for our neighbors and ourselves,” Mohrbutter said. “We appreciate all that you do!”
One of the “community champions” that United Way TRR recognized at the luncheon was
United Community Ministries (UCM), recipient of the community partner award. The agency runs two shelters, one in Nash County and one in Edgecombe County – the Bassett Center, for families, and the community shelter, for individual homeless adults.
“The need has definitely grown over the last several years. We’ve seen an increase in homeless families,” said Chris Battle, executive director of UCM. “We’re just grateful that we’re able to be there in those times of need.”
Battle cited job losses/ high unemployment and a lack of affordable housing as reasons for the increase. He also sees a void in services for the indigent and homeless population suffering from substance abuse problems, so UCM offers a substance abuse recovery program at its community shelter.
“United Way funding is really important to what we do,” Battle said. “We all (partner agencies) do a lot of collaboration, networking. I believe United Way is central in linking us all together.”
Another “community champion” recognized at the luncheon was Hillshire Brands (formerly Sara Lee Bakery). The Tarboro company received the “big heart award.”
“This award goes to a company that has a heart, passion and desire to help the United Way and our community,” said Neill Nelson, 2012 campaign co-chair. “They continue to make their campaign better and better each year, with strong campaign leadership and the organizations’ numerous fun incentives and special events.”
United Way TRR also recognized platinum, gold, silver, bronze and honorable mention award winners for their campaign contributions. Among the Edgecombe County companies/ agencies recognized were Tarboro Savings Bank (platinum award winner), Boys & Girls Club of Nash/Edgecombe Counties (bronze recipient), and Vidant Edgecombe Hospital (honorable mention).
Along with celebration, reflection and motivation to continue to serve were themes of Wednesday’s luncheon.
Dr. Haywood Parker, senior pastor and founder of Truth Tabernacle Ministries and member of United Way TRR’s board of directors, was the keynote speaker. He shared with the audience that the “intersection of deep, personal gladness and the world’s deep hunger” is the epitome of service organizations such as United Way. Parker quoted peacemaker and social justice advocate Mahatma Gandhi: “We but mirror the world…If we would change ourselves, the tendencies of the world would also change.”
“What Gandhi is suggesting is that personal and social transformation go hand in hand,” said Parker. “When we have enough people tapping into their deepest gladness and recognizing the world’s deep hunger, they will work collaboratively to bring about change in the community.”
He challenged audience members to ask themselves, “If you could make one change, what would it be?” and then to ask the question “What difference would this change make?” Thirdly, Parker asked everyone to consider, “What resources do you need and who do you need to collaborate with to make this happen?” Finally, Parker advised, “Just do it.”
United Way TRR President Elect Gary Fazio closed out the celebratory luncheon by telling the audience, “Together we can change the world around us. This is what it means to truly Live United.”