08/25/13 — Elvis helps kick off United Way fundraising effort

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Elvis helps kick off United Way fundraising effort

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on August 25, 2013 1:50 AM


Elvis tribute artist Stephen Freeman kneels as he croons to the audience at the Paramount Theatre on Friday night.

The sounds of rockabilly, bluegrass and country music filled the Paramount Theatre on Friday night as United Way of Wayne County kicked off its annual campaign with an Elvis tribute concert that also featured local musicians the Malpass Brothers and Samantha Casey.

Before the show began, this year's campaign chairman, Goldsboro City Manager Scott Stevens, announced the Front Runners results. Front Runners are businesses and organizations that conduct their fundraising campaigns before the kickoff to set the tone for the remainder of the drive.

The Front Runners were 3HC, the City of Goldsboro, the Goldsboro Housing Authority and Cooper Standard Automotive.

"To date, we are at 17 percent of our total goal and have improved 4,136 lives," Stevens told the audience. "This year's theme is 'Be the Good.' We appreciate your support in helping us reach our goal of improving 24,500 lives by raising $1,225,000."

Stevens said the campaign is about 4 percent ahead of where it was last year at this time.

Stevens also applauded Wayne County residents for supporting the annual Days of Caring, which ended Saturday. It was a week-long effort to increase awareness of volunteering, as well as giving back to the community.

"Over 200 people volunteered in 29 projects," Stevens said. "And 220 hours of volunteering were logged this week."

Stevens noted that volunteers made 70 beds for dogs at the county animal shelter and collected enough blood to help save 60 lives. They also delivered 142 meals to the homebound in Wayne County.

"I could keep going, but those are some of the highlights, and we applaud Wayne County's caring crews for their efforts this week," he said.

This was the third year that Freeman and his Echos of a Legend band have helped Wayne begin its United Way campaign.

"I keep coming back because it's a great venue, folks are always nice and it's a great cause," Freeman said. "You put those together and there's no reason not to come."

He said he tries to make his act a little different each time he performs here.

"In the past, we've done the black leather," Freeman said. "We kind of open the show with that, typically. So we're going to back it up a few years and do the 1950s. With the Malpass Brothers and Samantha and Daniel Casey, it kind of lends itself to the early Elvis music and how he got his start. It made for a good mix to blend in our show."

Although Shirley Atkins had never seen Freeman perform, she went to the kickoff concert because she's a big Elvis fan.

"The real Elvis came to my hometown of Black Mountain to be treated by a dentist there for a toothache when he was in Asheville for a concert," she said. "I was a teenager."

She was also there to see the Malpass Brothers perform, having a special connection to the family. She taught Chris Malpass in the fifth grade at Eastern Wayne Elementary School.

"And Casey's Garden Center is where I go," the 70-something-year-old said. "So I go to all Samantha and Daniel's concerts when I can."

She praised United Way for holding the event to bring people out to support its cause.

Ann Minkler attended last year's kickoff concert and loved it so much that she came back this year.

"I love Elvis," she said. "And I love Stephen. He's a really neat guy. "

She said she was happy to attend the concert and support the United Way.

"Last year, I had a front row seat and Stephen came right down there and took my hand and sang to me and sang to me and sang to me," the 62-year-old said. "I didn't want to let him go."