Ray McKenzie with Goldsboro Builders Supply

Ray McKenzie with Goldsboro Builders Supply was the Care Share winner of $5,000. He is shown with his wife, Liz.

The 2018 campaign was the last organized campaign that United Way of Wayne County will ever have.

Starting in 2019, the organization is accepting donations all year long.

“Because we have so many things that come up, we need to be more proactive all year long,” said community engagement director Patty Graham. “We’re going to continue to look for investments, so we’ll be prepared for any of those things that come up, disasters or whatever.

“After you’ve gone through a couple hurricanes, and the world doesn’t come on a scheduled calendar, we made the decision to do a yearlong campaign.”

Graham said some businesses may still have a campaign kickoff at their workplace, but there will no longer be a general campaign kickoff.

“There’s no time that’s a bad time to make an investment in people’s lives here in Wayne County,” she said.

Donations can be made at the United Way of Wayne County office, at 2803 Cashwell Drive, by telephone or online.

As of today, the 2018 campaign has met 75 percent of its $1.1 million goal to help improve the lives of a little more than 20,000 people, with donations amounting to $796,600, which Graham said is about average.

She said United Way projected that about 20,200 people in Wayne County will need the support of the programs that United Way funds, so donations are still needed.

“To date, the community investment so far will serve about 15,392 people, which means that 4,808 people are depending on the community to still invest,” Graham said.

“These programs serve our community by providing food, shelter, safety from domestic violence, helping adults read, getting children off to a good start in their reading habits. It’s a variety of needs that also includes the standard programs that United Way has. There are a lot of programs that are depending on the funds that the community gives.”

Graham said the money given to the United Way goes into local programs.

Special events that United Way holds throughout the year cover administrative costs and other things the organization needs to stay in business.

If there were no United Way funds for local programs, people may not have a way of getting the help they need, she said.

“We’re looking at a lot of programs that are very basic needs,” Graham said. “Our ultimate goal is to bring people into financial stability. A good job, financial stability, knowing how to do a budget, all these things go into a quality life. That’s our goal, to provide a strong community here.”

She said that one of United Way’s focuses is education for children from birth through third grade.

“A lot of research has gone into it and it shows those children who start out reading positively will have a better start when they start school,” Graham said. “If they are reading proficiently by third grade, we know that statistics show that they will be more successful through school and will graduate from high school.

“One study shows that third-graders going into fourth grade, a lot of them decide then if they’re going to graduate, and that’s a very young age to make that big decision. But almost half of Wayne County kids are not proficient in third grade. We want to change that. That is a main focus for us.”

Graham encouraged people to invest in United Way’s programs, saying that every dollar counts.

“Your small change adds up to big change,” she said.

At the close of the 2018 campaign, 22 Care Share donors, people pledging to give a minimum of one hour of pay per month for a year, were named and entered into drawing.

The finalists were each presented with a key, with one unlocking a treasure chest containing a check for $5,000.

Ray McKenzie with Goldsboro Builders Supply had the key that opened the treasure chest. He said he invests in United Way because he trusted the organization and its vetting process that ensures his donation helps the local community and those most in need.