07/21/06 — United Way set for campaign launch

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United Way set for campaign launch

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on July 21, 2006 1:51 PM

After narrowly meeting its goal at the very last minute in 2005, United Way of Wayne County isn't going to take any chances this year.

Campaign Chairman Geoff Hulse hopes to be at the organization's goal of $1.44 million with time to spare. And, if he has an extra week or two, he and his campaign volunteers might even try for $2 million -- all of which will be used to help Wayne County families.

The campaign officially begins Aug. 15 with the Taste of Wayne County. The event will be held from 5 to 7:30 p.m. at Wayne Community College.

But the 2006 goal is not just about the money.

The funds raised this year will improve the lives of about 28,800 men, women and children in Wayne County, said Hulse, who serves on the United Way Board of Directors and is an attorney with Haithcock, Barfield, Hulse and Kinsey.

"This year is coming off another hard year," he said. "We'd like to do two things this year -- make the goal and not be waiting until New Year's Eve to do it."

The goal is about a $15,000 increase over last year's benchmark of of $1.43 million. Hulse said although it's just a small increase, the United Way volunteers felt like they would be letting the community down if they did not raise the goal this year.

And he wants donors to know handing money to United Way means their funds will go to organizations and programs that directly benefit their neighbors. The United Way's volunteer board keeps close track of the recipients and holds them accountable for results.

"We're not just giving money to the community partners carte blanche," Hulse said. "They're showing us a program where a need has been identified, and they have shown us that what they're doing actually affects somebody and improves lives."

That is what makes a donation to United Way more than just charitable giving, he said. A pledge is a commitment to improving Wayne County.

"We are making sure that every dollar that is donated during the United Way campaign will go to help and assist those in need, whether it's temporary or more far-reaching," Hulse said. "Without it, I think people would really be surprised and shocked at what ways people could not be helped. Then, we'd have to turn to the government for help."

Hulse also stressed that United Way is not merely a fund-raising mechanism. Locally, United Way identifies the needs of the community, raises the money and disperses them to well-run programs.

Although the kickoff isn't until next month, the campaign has already started with Frontrunners -- businesses and groups that conduct their employee drives before the general campaign begins. They set an example for the rest of the community and build momentum for the campaign. Their results will be announced Aug. 15.

As an incentive for donors, United Way is again offering the chance to win a 2007 Dodge Caliber, donated by Goldsboro Chrysler Dodge Jeep.

Anyone who gives his or her "fair share" -- one hour's pay per month -- is entered into the drawings, which begin Aug. 4 and run through Nov. 18. At that time, 15 finalists will draw for the car.

And making a difference does not have to cost a lot either. There is room for all givers in the Wayne County United Way campaign, Hulse said.

He said every contribution, no matter how small, is important to the campaign. But that doesn't mean Hulse and the campaign volunteers want to see status quo when it comes to donations.

"We're hoping everyone will step up their contribution a little bit," he said. "Our goal has gone up. The needs in the county have gone up."

And United Way's community partners touch a vast array of people in this community, he added. It's not just one group of people with a certain affliction, old or young -- it's everybody in the community.

Hulse got involved with United Way about 10 years ago and has served as chairman of the Taste of Wayne and president and is still on the board.

"It's something that means a lot to me because I was born and raised in Wayne County," he said. "And the type of work I do, I see folks all the time who need help."

And, Hulse said, he thinks about the future, too.

"I've always thought the better I can make my community, the better it's going to be for everybody. And I try to instill that in my two daughters, Hallie, 16, and Lura, 13."

Hulse said he is confident he can count on his fellow Wayne County residents to join him in his goal of helping his neighbors one life at a time.

"I don't have any doubt that the generosity and support of the people of Wayne County toward their neighbors who are less fortunate than them is out there," he said. "I think when they hear that the need is out there, they will open up their wallets and pocketbooks and make sure we accomplish our goal."