12/17/10 — United Way finishing up fundraising campaign

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United Way finishing up fundraising campaign

By Gary Popp
Published in News on December 17, 2010 1:46 PM

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Mindy Grady, of Wayne Memorial Hospital, celebrates after turning the key to win a 2011 Mazda 2 from Frema Motors during the United Wayne car giveaway on Thursday night. Grady was in need of a new vehicle, which was donated by Frema Motors. She had a 1998 Lincoln with 170,000 miles on it.

Despite falling well short of its goal, United Way of Wayne County celebrated another year of fundraising Thursday evening by giving away a new car at Berkeley Mall.

Organizers say they plan to continue fundraising until the end of the year, but the disappointment of not yet hitting the goal did little to dampen the enthusiasm of Mindy Grady who was the winner of the Fair Share Challenge 2011 Mazda 2.

Ms. Grady, 30, a registered nurse on Wayne Memorial Hospital's intensive care unit, was one of 20 finalists who were each given a key to unlock the shiny lime green vehicle, which was donated by Frema Motors. She said that ever since signing up to participate in the Fair Share Challenge -- a United Way campaign that encourages workers in Wayne County to donate a minimum of 0.6 percent of their annual earnings to the organization -- she was confident she would end up with the car.

"Ever since I got the call, I really, really thought I was going to get it. I really, really hoped I was going to get it," Ms. Grady said.

In fact, she said she began bonding with the car weeks before Thursday's drawing.

"Every day I would drive by the dealership and say 'Hey, I will be picking you up on the 16th.' I was really excited," Ms. Grady said.

Steven Parr, executive director of United Way of Wayne County, said by offering a vehicle as a prize, it allows the organization to add an element of fun to the fundraising.

"It has a tremendous impact on the campaign," Parr said.

The Fair Share Challenge was developed several years ago to encourage a higher level of donation.

"A fair share amount is equal to one hour's pay a month. If we could get more and more individuals to pledge that amount, we could generate a substantial amount of dollars to go back into the community," Parr said.

Lynn Williams, 2010 campaign chairman, said this year's goal was very ambitious, an 11 percent increase from the 2009 goal. She added that the money raised is used to make a difference in the community.

"Our goal is $1,400,932, which represents 28,018 lives in Wayne County. For every $50 we raise, we are able to change a life," Mrs. Williams said.

However, Mrs. Williams said she now expects to only raise a little more than 80 percent of the 2010 goal by the end of the year.

"Tonight we are at 79 percent of our goal, which is $1,115,750. We will continue to fund-raise through the end of the year," she said.

But, Parr said, falling short of the goal means that many, if not all of the programs, such as Meals on Wheels, Teen Court, WATCH and more, that United Way helps fund will be impacted.

He explained that the organization comes up with the goal based on the budgets it has for each program.

"So the goal has a true meaning, and it's going to have an effect," he said. "We have a limited amount of money. Once the campaign comes to an end, we will be able to evaluate the amount of money we have and each of the programs we have budgets for and then make the best investments we can. But programs will be impacted."

To help make ends meet, he said that United Way would be investing some of its own reserves this year, but that those likely will not be enough to match last year's funding levels, much less this year's goals.

"We're going to continue to push. This is a community campaign, and we need community support to make it happen," Parr said.

And one thing he hopes people keep in mind is that right now, they only need a pledge -- that payment can come anytime next year.

However, organizers are watching closely how this year ends, especially after only raising 90 percent of the 2009 goal.

"We don't want to get into a situation where we are not meeting our goal in consecutive years. We don't want to set that kind of precedent where it is just assumed that you are not going to meet your goal."

But for right now, Mrs. Williams said she is choosing to look on the positive side.

"Given the economy we are in, I'm grateful," she said. "There are a lot of people with a lot of compassion in Wayne County. I am very proud of what we have done this year."