Rowan County United Way Your Leading Agency For Community Impact Sat, 02 May 2020 00:04:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Rowan County United Way 32 32 Rowan County United Way Honors Supporters At Annual Meeting Sat, 01 Feb 2020 00:00:32 +0000

Rowan County United Way Honors Supporters At Annual Meeting

After exceeding its 2019 campaign goal with $1,525,098, Rowan County United Way took the opportunity to thank the countless volunteers, companies and others who helped make it possible on Thursday, January 23rd at the Aymer Center at Hood Theological Seminary.

Each year, United Way recognizes an individual for their outstanding service by presenting the Helping Hand Award. This year, Greg Anderson stood to accept the award. Anderson, Publisher of the Salisbury Post, has served in many roles with the agency including multiple years on the Campaign Cabinet, the Public Relations Committee and as a board member. “He is always positive, committed, loyal, compassionate and never seeks recognition. He truly cares about United Way, the work we do, the volunteers and the community”, said Executive Director, Jenny Lee.

Campaign Chairman, Chief Bob Parnell, presented distinguished campaign awards. The Jackie Award, which goes to the individual who has demonstrated the most enthusiasm about the United Way campaign, was given to Janet Johnson. By bravely sharing her story of her son, Philip, she helped in the success of the campaign.

The campaign award for Most Employee Spirit went to Innospec and was accepted by John Struzick. The company sponsored and participated in United Way’s first Into the Light Walk, a suicide and mental health awareness event, and held meetings with employees to spread United Way’s message.

The award for Best New Campaign was presented to New York Air Brake. This company was established in Rowan County one year before running their first campaign. They raised a total of $5,746 with a per capita of $53.
The Most Improved Campaign With Fewer Than 100 employees was given to Vulcan Materials, a company that increased its campaign by 14%, taking their per capita of giving from $143 to $162.

The winner of Most Improved Campaign With More Than 100 Employees was City of Salisbury, which had an increase of 15%, bringing their per capita of giving from $76 to $86.

F&M Bank received the Chairman’s Achievement Award for its involvement by the CEO, who helped the company achieve their goal. They also assisted with Into the Light and used special visitors to kick off their campaign, which had a 65% improvement. In the final hour, it was F&M whom helped United Way meet its goal by giving a $36,800 gift.

Global Contact Services received first place for Best Over-All Campaign with a per capita of $979, the highest per capita gift combining corporate and employee pledges for a company with fewer than 100 employees. Zachry Engineering, a temporary company, received first place for a company with more than 100 employees with a per capita of $799.

The Campaign Award for Excellence went to Henkel, a company with fewer than 100 employees, for its overall performance over a three-year span. The company had a 15% increase over three years, raising $25,370 in total. Rowan-Cabarrus Community College accepted the award for a company with more than 100 employees. The company had a 90% increase over a three-year span with a total of $12,085.

Outgoing Board President, Marcus Koontz, honored Chief Bob Parnell with the Campaign Chairman’s Shadowbox Award for his exceptional leadership during the campaign. Outgoing board members, Gary Blabon, Bill Burgin and Michelle Patterson, were also recognized for their dedication and service with special plaques.

“So many volunteers, so many local businesses, so many donations, so many hours poured into serving and caring for the needs of others. This type of philanthropy has become a rare sight in today’s world. But here in Rowan County it is alive and well. This is something we should all be proud of and thankful for”, said Koontz.

Following the awards, the board welcomed Seth Waller as the new President and appointed new officers:

• President, Seth Waller, Falcon Investments
• Vice President, Paul Bardinas, Freirich Foods
• Vice-President of Community Impact, Major Shon Barnes, Salisbury Police Department
• Vice-President of Public Relations, Eric Slipp, Nouryon
• Secretary/Treasurer, John Struzick, Innospec

For more information on the 2019 campaign, please contact Rowan County United Way at 704-633-1802.


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2019-20 United Way Service Above Self Award Winners Thu, 23 Jan 2020 00:00:11 +0000

2019-20 United Way Service Above Self Award Winners

Individual Winners K-5

Second Runner- Up: Levi Shelton, West Rowan Elementary
First Runner-Up: Lucy Moore, West Rowan Elementary
Winner: Lillie Martin, Hanford Dole Elementary

Middle School Individual Winners

Second Runner-Up: Emma Clarke,West Rowan Middle
First Runner-Up: Brooklynne Witherspoon,  Knox Middle
Winner: Charlene Holt, Erwin Middle

High School Individual Winners

Second Runner-Up: Morgan Duncan, East Rowan High
First Runner-Up: Claire Allen, Rowan County Early College
Winner: Spencer Chandler, Gray Stone Day School

K-5 Group Winners

Second Runner-Up: West Rowan Elementary Student Council
First Runner-Up: Cub Scout Pack 306
Winner: Sacred Heart Elementary Student Council

Middle School Group Winners

Second Runner-Up: Southeast Middle Connect-Ed Interpreters
First Runner-Up: Girl Scout Troop 1316
Winner: West Rowan Middle Sisters For St. Jude

High School Group Winners

Second Runner-Up: West Rowan High Apparel Students
First Runner-Up: North Rowan High JROTC Battalion
Winner: West Rowan High JROTC Battalion

Catawba Scholarships

Middle School Winner: Charlotte Holt

High School Winners:

Second Runner-Up: Morgan Duncan
First Runner-Up: Claire Allen
Winner: Spencer Chandler

School Awards

K-5 – Winner: West Rowan Elementary School
Middle School Winner: Southeast Middle School
High School Winner: North Rowan High School

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F&M Bank Ensures United Way Reaches Fundraising Goal Thu, 09 Jan 2020 00:00:45 +0000

F&M Bank Ensures United Way Reaches Fundraising Goal

In a room full of first responders, F&M Bank Chairman and CEO Steve Fisher got the Rowan County United Way across the finish line.

The United Way’s campaign in 2019 was led by Salisbury Fire Chief Bob Parnell, whose job was to raise $1.525 million for the nonprofit organization. Parnell and the United Way members were short by 5% at the last campaign report meeting in November.

Parnell said 95% was still a success, but the goal was 100%. Firefighters wouldn’t leave with 5% of a fire still burning, Parnell said.

Jackie Harris, who recently retired from the United Way, continued to make phone calls to get the campaign closer to its goal. According to Parnell, Harris inched toward to the goal until her final days and knocked it down to 3% short of goal at her retirement last week. 

“This is where Steve Fisher steps up and demonstrates the community leadership that F&M and the Fishers have put into this community for many, many years,” Parnell said. “This year is still yet one more excellent example of being a generous community leader.”

Fisher said the 2019 campaign was special. It was in which the United Way used its community impact model, which directed money to programs focused on substance abuse, mental health, healthy lifestyle behaviors and basic needs.

It also was led by first responders.

“This years campaign is put on the backs of our first responders, who are our best and brightest in this community,” Fisher said. “They put their commitment, their lives on the line every day for us and they recognize the need for United Way in this community because they see every day the impact that they have on the people that they are serving.”

Fisher said the bank’s check for $36,800 was made “on behalf of the first responders and in honor of the first responders.”

Parnell was almost speechless after Fisher’s recognition.

“We really don’t know what to say, except for ‘thank you and we’ll continue to work just as hard every day for our community,’” Parnell said.

Reaching the fundraising goal was particularly special, as it was Harris’ last campaign with the United Way, Fisher said.

“The reason why it was so easy to step up and write the last check is because your last campaign had to be a success,” Fisher said. “Your entire career here was a successful. With you walking out of the door, there was no other way to do it than by doing it meeting your goal.”

Harris will now work at Capstone Recovery Center part-time.

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Unsung Heroine: For United Way, Jackie Harris Used Her Blue-Collar Work Ethic To Touch Thousands Of Lives Fri, 03 Jan 2020 00:00:03 +0000

Unsung Heroine: For United Way, Jackie Harris Used Her Blue-Collar Work Ethic To Touch Thousands Of Lives

After almost 30 years, the United Way campaigns sort of run together, but Jackie Harris remembers one autumn when she desperately needed $8,000 to reach the community’s goal. And she had no clue where it would come from. Harris already was making her second and third phone calls, cajoling already generous companies for the needed amount. Her mother, Helen, dropped by the office that morning to ask whether she had made the annual target, and Harris glumly acknowledged she was short. Mother and daughter headed for lunch when a phone call came in from Tony Branecky, site manager at KoSa. Harris had placed a call to him that same morning. “I’m going to give you that $8,000, girl,” Branecky reported. After Harris thanked him profusely, she and her mother spontaneously started to dance in the parking lot. “I was so happy,” Harris says. “We had worked so hard. You remember that — people who are always there for you.”

It will seem impossible to many, but the 68-year-old Harris logged her last day with the Rowan United Way Tuesday. She will be trading a full-time job and 50- and 60-hour work weeks for a 20-hour part-time position at Capstone Recovery Center. She starts Monday as Capstone’s director of development and community outreach, a position made possible by a grant from the Blanche and Julian Robertson Family Foundation. Harris looks forward to the new challenge and believes deeply in Capstone’s faith-based efforts to help women recover from substance abuse. “It’s a mission field,” she says. “That’s directly hands-on. … Being hands-on is something I’ve never been able to do.”

Marcus Koontz, president of the Rowan County United Way Board of Directors, says Harris is “one of the largest unsung heroes in the history of Rowan County.” He has known Harris for almost 20 years and considers her a friend. Koontz says Harris dedicated her United Way career to meeting the direct needs, raising funds, serving and caring for the people of Rowan County. “She has worked tirelessly to enrich the lives of thousands upon thousands of Rowan County residents,” Koontz says. “There’s really no telling how many people have been touched by Jackie over the years, but I will say, without a doubt, that the legacy she has established is enormous.”

As associate director for Rowan County United Way, Harris’ energy for the campaigns, marketing and special events never seemed to waiver.  The United Way even named an annual award for her — the “Jackie Award” — which goes to an individual or group demonstrating high enthusiasm for the United Way’s efforts.

Harris says her brother, Nathan, often liked to comment on the annual United Way sign showing a campaign’s progress.“You know the red in that thermometer they put up every year?” Nathan Harris would ask people. “That’s Jackie.”

Harris brought the United Way’s Day of Caring to Rowan County, when armies of volunteers spread out over the community to take on important one-day projects. She teamed with Jim Duncan to create the Service Above Self Award.

John Struzick, manufacturing financial manager for Innospec Performance Chemicals and a United Way board veteran, says Harris is a force of nature and that her passion for Rowan County “and all of us who live here is truly a thing of beauty.” “Fundraising is not an easy thing to do, no matter how worthy the cause or urgent the need,” Stuzick says, “but over the decades Jackie always maintained a positive outlook as she led the way in choosing outstanding campaign chairs, building campaign cabinets, training volunteers and being there for member agencies.” Stuzick compared her to the Energizer Bunny. “Whether she was on the way to Freightliner at 4 in the morning for a company campaign meeting or working with cabinet chairs into the night, she was always on the clock,” Stuzick says.“… In my 70-plus years on this earth, I’ve never met anyone quite like Jackie. … Rowan County United Way will certainly not be the same without her.”

Harris says she had been thinking about retiring from the United Way for about a year. By mid November, her decision seemed clear. “Finally, I just felt the Lord was telling me I had to go,” she says.

But she’s optimistic about what the future holds for United Way, which has gone to its new community-impact model directing funds to agencies and programs that focus on substance abuse, mental health and healthy behaviors.“The new model is going to take them to a different level, and it’s something I wanted much earlier than it happened,” Harris says. “The funding is going to what’s needed. … The old model was outdated, and it took a long time to get to where we are now. It was an easy decision to make, and it was the right thing to do.”

In her position as associate director, Harris liked to be behind the scenes, though she often was the person most identified with the agency. “Make no mistake that she has been a driving force in the accomplishments of the Rowan County United Way,” Koontz says. “Jackie deserves to be celebrated with the highest honor.”

Harris likes to think her blue-collar upbringing in Salisbury translated well to the United Way fund-raising campaigns. “It’s the blue-collar worker who makes this campaign what it is,” Harris says. “United Way is a company-based campaign. People on the manufacturing floor can relate to me, and I can relate to them.”

Stuzick agrees with Harris’ own assessment. “She is as comfortable working with the big company CEOs as she is working with every person on the shop floor in our local manufacturing plants,” Stuzick says.

Harris’ mother was a Greek immigrant who met Jackie’s  father, Hassell, during World War II. Hassell was a carpenter and foreman for Jarrell Construction. Her mother worked for local sewing companies, including Norman’s, Rowan Manufacturing and Leisure Lads. Harris says her mother was a remarkable woman who could speak six different languages.

The Harris family lived for a time on South Caldwell Street, then moved to a house Hassell built in Milford Hills. Jackie Harris says her mother learned to drive by going from their house to the construction site of Milford Hills Baptist Church, where her daddy was site foreman. It’s the church she attends today.

As a teen and young adult, Harris had jobs at the Kress five-and-dime store and at Salisbury’s Apple House Cafeteria, where she was hostess in the Matador Room. “I’ve always had to work,” she says.

Harris graduated from Boyden High School in 1969, then attended Gardner-Webb College, majoring in physical education. She especially liked to dance and still does, tripping around her house to the 45s she has on her jukebox. Harris married and lived in Lexington for 22 years. For a time, she taught dance at the recreation center in Lexington and played softball for the First Union bank team.

Harris had two children, Jason and Laramie, but her husband left the family, never to be heard from again, when the children were 9 and 12. He never paid any child support. “It was tough raising them by myself,” Harris says, “but I wouldn’t take anything for it. I’m so proud of them.”

After seven years of working as a district director for the American Cancer Society — a job covering seven counties, including Rowan — Harris took the United Way job in Rowan County, working with then Executive Director Bob Lippard.

At the time, Jason was enrolled at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Laramie was just entering high school. Today, Jason works for Sealed Air in Charlotte and has a boy and girl. Laramie attended N.C. State, where she met her husband. Living in Apex, she also has a boy and girl. Laramie’s daughter belongs to the varsity dance team at N.C. State.

Jackie’s parents divorced after 34 years, and Helen Harris lived the last 15 years of her life with Jackie. “When she died, a big piece of me died, too,” Jackie says.

When Harris interviewed for the United Way job here, Carl Repsher was that year’s campaign chairman, and Dyke Messinger was president of the board. “They were so good to me,” Harris says.

Harris tells the story of another campaign, which she believes was saved by her longtime friend David Treme, the former Salisbury city manager. “He’s kind of mentor to me and a prayer partner,” Harris says. She remembers being at the fourth report meeting at Cloninger Ford that particular year, and the news was dire. The pledges were nowhere close to where they should have been. Treme simply asked everybody to take a minute and pray. “And we met goal,” Harris says, recalling how the whole campaign turned around from that point. “That was another amazing moment for me.”

Harris describes herself as a homebody. She loves hanging out with her rescue dog, Callie, and she stays busy outside of work by serving on several church committees, singing in the church choir and belonging to the Project SAFE Neighborhood board and the police chief’s advisory board. She is a loyal member of  the Rowan Rotary Club. “I plan on staying very connected,” she says.

United Way Executive Director Jenny Lee and the board of directors have talked to Harris about a retirement party, but she balks.

“United Way is not about me,” she says. “It’s about the volunteers, the community and the clients.”

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Thank you for your contribution and commitment to United Way, Jackie! We wish you all the best in your future!!

‘Still Cinders In The Corners’: At Last Update, United Way Hits 95% Of Goal Sat, 16 Nov 2019 00:00:49 +0000

‘Still Cinders In The Corners’: At Last Update, United Way Hits 95% Of Goal

The United Way’s 2019 campaign still has work to do.

By its final update on Friday, the campaign had raised $1.4 million or roughly 95% of its goal for local programs that address mental health, substance abuse, healthy lifestyles and basic needs. To hit its original goal of $1.525 million, the campaign needs to raise $82,465, something the agency hopes to do before Thanksgiving.

But United Way Campaign Chairman Bob Parnell has increased the goal at each update to correspond with the number of services calls received by Rowan County Emergency Services for overdoses and suicides. That’s added another $1,267 to this year’s campaign.

And Parnell said Friday that he wouldn’t be satisfied until the campaign raises its last 5%.

“If I got a 95% on a really tough exam, what letter grade would I get? I’d get an A,” Parnell said. “Firefighters, if we went to someone’s house that was on fire, and we extinguished only 95% of that fire, how happy would our community be with us? So, y’all can be satisfied with your A … I’m not satisfied.”

Nine of the campaign’s 13 divisions have topped 100% of their individual goals, with the best-performing ones being public employees at 121% and community business at 119%. The presidents division, though, has raised the most money for this year’s campaign — $267,022.74, which is 102% of its goal.

United Way Executive Director Jenny Lee said this year’s campaign, the first under the agency’s community impact model, has been “a beautiful process to be part of” because fo the faith that the community has shown in not-yet-determined destinations for their funding.

“You just have to be grateful because they’re taking a chance on us,” Lee said. “I know on the inside that everything that will be presented to our board is exactly what this county needs, but not everybody knows that. So, at 95% and knowing that we’re going to get there, that means the community has faith in us.”

She said the United Way has received 23 funding applications from programs seeking to address the impact model’s focus areas. The public will know which programs have been chosen by Dec. 1, Lee said.

Previously, the United Way had funded the same members agencies every year, and this year’s shift was prompted by a needs assessment conducted in 2018.

Until then chosen programs are named, there are workplace campaigns to wrap up and money to raise.

“The fire is mostly out, but there are still cinders in the corners,” said United Way Board Member Steve Fisher.

At the end of Friday’s campaign update, the United Way picked one person who donated to this year’s campaign to receive a free, new car by picking names out of a bucket. That person was 23-year-old rookie firefighter Quinzavious Sands, who will receive a car from Team Chevrolet in Salisbury.

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Nearing Its End, United Way Campaign Hits 80% Of Goal Wed, 06 Nov 2019 00:00:45 +0000

Nearing Its End, United Way Campaign Hits 80% Of Goal

Rowan County has nine days to raise $304,000 and meet its goal for the 2019 United Way campaign.

As of Wednesday, the United Way’s annual campaign had raised $1.22 million of its goal of $1,526,248, an odd number because of the number of calls for suicides and overdoses this year. The campaign has raised its goal by a few dozen dollars at each report meeting based on how many additional calls for service are received by county emergency responders.

The campaign is at roughly 80% of its goal, with the fundraising drive set to end Nov. 15.

Money raised will go to addressing mental health, substance abuse, healthy lifestyles and basic needs in Rowan County as part of the organization’s new community impact model.

Bob Parnell, Salisbury fire chief and 2019 United Way campaign chairman, said at the update meeting Wednesday that 80% is impressive but that members of this year’s fundraising team can’t rest until the goal is met.

Rowan County Emergency Services Chief Chris Soliz and the public employees division of the campaign has seen the most success fundraising. Soliz reported that the division has raised $114,765, which is 121% of its $95,150 goal.

He was followed by Salisbury-Rowan Utilities Director Jim Behmer of the presidents division, which had reached 101.9% of its goal on Wednesday — $266,702 of its $261,785 goal.

Education, led by Rowan-Salisbury Schools Chief Strategy Officer Andrew Smith, is one campaign division nearing its goal. As of Wednesday, Smith said, the education division was at 89.3% or $133,199 of its $149,200 goal. Smith introduced counselors from four schools in the district who talked about their campaigns. At Millbridge Elementary, for example, the United Way campaign generated $6,000 — a 5% increase over last year. And Smith said Rowan-Cabarrus Community College has nearly doubled its campaign from the prior year.

Meanwhile, interim Spencer Town Manager David Treme said the town conducted its first “full-fledged campaign” this year. With 30 full-time employees, the town had generated $3,000 as of Wednesday.

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‘It Was Over’: Paul Lucas Hopes Son’s Story Will Educate Others Thu, 31 Oct 2019 17:22:48 +0000

‘It Was Over’: Paul Lucas Hopes Son’s Story Will Educate Others

Paul Lucas remembers the night vividly. There was the repeated noise of one shoe hitting the ground and then silence as Paul walked with his son, Jordan, on April 28. Intoxicated and shoeless on one foot, Jordan walked home with his father. Jordan could hardly walk.

“You’re going to wind up homeless, in jail or dead,” Paul recalled telling his son.

Until April 28, Paul didn’t know his son used heroin. Previously planning to spend the night at a friend’s house, Jordan arrived home in a wrecked car owned by a friend of the Lucas family. Two days later, Jordan entered a treatment program at Fellowship Hall, a facility in Greensboro. Four months after that incident, on Sept. 4, he was found face down and dead in his own house. Paul, who had planned to talk to his son about a two-year treatment program, said he found three syringes in his son’s house.

Paul acknowledges that his son made bad choices, but he blames the scourge of addiction for his son’s death. “I never thought I’d do this stuff,” Paul recalled his son telling him while in treatment at Fellowship Hall. “The first time I tried heroin, it was over.” If there were more adequate resources, Paul says, perhaps Jordan’s story would be different. Drug rehabilitation is important, Paul says, but more adequate education about the effects of drugs and addiction are what’s needed most. Paul says he hopes this year’s United Way campaign can make a difference in providing that. “People don’t understand that if I try this I’m done, that if I try this fentanyl might be mixed in,” he said.

Paul says he wants to tell Jordan’s story, hoping that it might make a difference for someone else. “I’ll talk to West Rowan High School. I’ll talk to any youth group. People need to understand,” he said, as tears rolled down his cheeks. “I miss him terribly. His laugh. His smile. The way he played with his brother and sister.”

‘So many people die’

Jordan, born May 4, 1992, was a West Rowan High School graduate who worked at Frieghtliner in Cleveland before his death. Family came first for Jordan, his father said. And in a family with smart folks, Paul said, Jordan likely had the highest IQ. He wasn’t much of an athlete, but he enjoyed watching sports. When Jordan turned 16, Paul said he and his wife were excited. “We were excited because he was going to be more social,” Paul said. “He was a shy kid.”

At 16, Paul said, Jordan smoked marijuana for the first time. Then, it was cocaine and prescription pills. And at 17, Paul said, his son spent time in juvenile jail because he couldn’t pass a drug test while on probation. Paul said he worried about the so-called “West Rowan epidemic.” “West Rowan has just had so many people die over the years from just stupid things,” he said. “Whether it was a car accident or whatever, we call it the West Rowan epidemic because so many kids, at least five or six kids, died.”

But when he got a job at Freightliner more than a year ago, Paul said, the family was excited. They felt like Jordan’s life was stabilizing. And Jordan seemed to find meaning and enjoyment in the job. “He was doing relatively well for a while, and he was making good money,” he said. But on that fateful day in April, reality came crashing in.

‘Understand where they are at’

Jordan spent May 1 to May 29 at Fellowship Hall, and Freightliner was instrumental in getting him into the program, said Paul, who spent a week there with his son. While there with his son, Paul said, he watched a documentary — “Pleasure Unwoven: An Explanation of the Brain Disease of Addiction.” And that documentary changed his view about how his son and others are affected by drugs. “Before I watched it, I would have seen someone on the streets of Salisbury and I would have judged them, but now I understand where they are at,” he said. “It explains why so many can’t stop even if they want to. … When an addict gets a surge of dopamine, it releases pleasure into the brain and that’s what drives them back to it.”

Jordan admitted to his father that he had started using heroin one year earlier. That, Jordan said, was when he felt like he had an addiction problem. He needed to use heroin to be able to function and go to work. Otherwise, he would be sick. If it meant being late or missing work entirely, he needed to use heroin to feel normal, Paul recalled his son saying.

He had started using prescription pills three years earlier — in 2016. In some of his writings, Paul said, his son worried that heroin dealers would return for his business when he left rehab. And Paul warned Jordan that heroin dealers would offer the drug to him for free. He was right.

United Way campaign

Jordan is one of the few dozen people who die from opioid deaths every year in Rowan County, with the latest data showing 36 such deaths in 2018. In just the most recent two weeks, Rowan County has seen 21 calls for service for overdoses, said Emergency Services Chief Chris Soliz. That’s in addition to the roughly 20 calls for service for suicide in Rowan County in the most recent two weeks. Both are statistics the United Way hopes to address with its 2019 campaign and new community impact funding model. The model will fund community programs in the areas of substance abuse, mental health, healthy lifestyle behaviors and basic needs rather than the typical “shotgun” strategy of providing funding to the same agencies every year. “We’re seeing first-hand increases in the needs funded by this campaign in a short period of time,” said Salisbury Fire Chief Bob Parnell, chairman of this year’s campaign.

With just three weeks left until the scheduled end of the campaign, the United Way is at 60.2% of its original goal of $1.525 million. That’s behind where the agency hoped to be at this point in the campaign. Parnell said he’s been pleased with the response from the community but that “we can’t let up now.” Every two weeks, the United Way has updated its fundraising goal to reflect the latest calls to Emergency Medical Services for overdoses and suicides. That updated goal now sits at $1,526,231.

Parnell said he encourages any business that needs help kicking off a campaign to contact the United Way. “If a company is interested in helping their community in a meaningful way, the United Way is the best way to do that,” Parnell said.

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United Way Helping Roll Out Statewide Assistance Program Fri, 25 Oct 2019 20:15:48 +0000

United Way Helping Roll Out Statewide Assistance Program

By the start of 2020, nonprofits, government agencies and health care-focused businesses will begin rolling out what Rowan County United Way Director Jenny Lee calls “211 on steroids.” Called N.C. Care 360, the new program is an initiative of the state’s Department of Health and Human Services and the result of a public-private partnership with the Foundation for Health Leadership and Innovation. It aims to be the state’s first coordinated care network to connect people to resources such as housing, health care, food and jobs, among other things. It’s a web-based program that employees of agencies such as the Department of Social Services and Rowan Helping Ministries could use to refer clients to services their organization doesn’t provide.

While the United Way’s 211 service provides information about and referrals to programs in North Carolina, Lee said N.C. Care 360 would be particularly valuable because it would include health care providers such as Novant Health, too. “It’s taking health and human services and bridging them together in a full-circle approach,” Lee said. “So, now where we just make the referrals, we’ll know if the referral was received or not and if the person followed through.”

A group of community leaders gathered Monday at the Rowan County United Way to learn about the program, which is rolling out slowly across the state with the United Way’s help. The program’s rollout won’t change the availability of 211, accessible by dialing the three digits on a phone.

Kyna Grubb, executive director of Rowan Helping Ministries, said the nonprofit currently uses email, phone calls or piece of paper to refer clients to other services in the community. But it can be difficult to track whether people have received help already. Social Services, Rowan Helping Ministries and the Salvation Army previously operated a similar system to N.C. Care 360.

“When DSS was running Christmas Happiness, families would come to DSS, then they would go to Salvation Army and then they would go to Rowan Helping Ministries to get help,” said Rowan County Social Services Director Donna Fayko. “We had no way of connecting everything.” The solution, she said, was to create a tracking system called the Crisis Network System. “So, then we could unduplicate services and spread our resources to the much broader community,” she said. The most promising part of N.C. Care 360, she said, is the interconnectivity — that is, seeing where folks have been referred, whether he or she followed through and where the person needs to go next.

Grubb, Fayko and others on Monday said they were excited about the possibilities of the program and offered questions about its implementation: How would it interact with other programs they used? Who is able to use it? Can some entities sign up only to refer people rather than offer services? There are still meetings to come before full implementation in Rowan County, and Mikayla Gaspary, who works for the software company Unite Us, said local agencies don’t need to enter 2020 ready to operate the program at peak performance.

Gaspary also described N.C. Care 360 as a provider-to-provider program. Currently, individual people cannot use the N.C. Care 360 application to search for services. Instead, there’s an assistance request form available at

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‘Cried Out To God’: Former Addict Speaks About Recovery During United Way Update Fri, 25 Oct 2019 20:05:03 +0000

‘Cried Out To God’: Former Addict Speaks About Recovery During United Way Update

There are faces behind the disease of addiction, says Briana Stout. “I’m not here because I’m different than anybody else,” Stout said Wednesday. “I’m here because my story is the same story as almost every single addict you’ve ever met. We’ve been in places where we felt hopeless and we felt like nobody cared, and there were not programs for us. There was nowhere for us to go. “Somebody cared enough to put programs in place so that I can stand here and talk about what a lot of people have been through. … There is a way out.”

Stout, who will mark her 10th month of being drug-free next week, was the featured speaker Wednesday during the Rowan County United Way campaign’s update meeting. A beneficiary of a United Way-funded program, she spoke about growing up in a middle-class household but suffering abuse and turning to narcotics as a teenager to cope with the pain. And she described in detail how her life became something that she wouldn’t have imagined as a child.

“When you go to private school and you’re learning different languages and you’re going to practice after school, practicing your piano, and doing everything you’re supposed to do, you don’t ever wake up one day and say, ‘I want to be a heroin addict,’” Stout said. “But life happens. And because nobody diagnosed my mental health issues, my life took a turn for the worse.” Stout, 28, joined the Coast Guard at the age of 17 and was assigned to a search-and-rescue team based in San Francisco. “I did anti-terrorism, drug intersections, fishery boardings. I got to save lives. I really, really enjoyed it,” she said. “But it wasn’t long until my old lover, narcotics, caught back up with me.”

At 20, Stout said, she served time at Naval Consolidated Brig Miramar, a military prison near San Diego. When she got out, Stout entered rehab. With her entrance into the Coast Guard being the first, she said going to rehab was her second shot at sobriety. Stout later moved to Charlotte and became a bartender. “My old lover showed back up, and I was able to stay away from him for the most part, but he showed back up socially,” she said. “It was in the pockets of men in suits that worked at banks. He was in the car of the manager at my restaurant. See, he wasn’t looking disheveled. He was coming like a wolf in sheep’s clothing from the pain that I had never dealt with. And it wasn’t long until he took control of my life again.”

By the time she was 24, Stout said, she had become an intravenous narcotic addict. “His name had become ‘sex worker.’ His name had become ‘junkie.’ His name had become ‘sick,’” Stout said. “His name had become a lot of things that you never think about when you’re a kid.” She tried using “maintenance drugs” prescribed by doctors, but she relapsed the first time that she missed a dose. And in December, she was arrested on drug charges and put in jail. It was then that she made a commitment and a promise to God to come clean.

“I was put in jail. I remember sitting there in my cell. … It’s cold. It’s dark. It’s dank,” Stout said. “And for the first time in a long time, I just cried out to God.” The side effects of detoxing from the combination of drugs Stout was on could have killed her, she said. “I said, ‘Lord, if you would spare my life. If you would not let me die here so that my mother who worked so hard didn’t have to hear that her daughter passed away in jail. If you would do that for me, I’ll do whatever you want,’” she said.

Stout said she didn’t realize at the time that God had already saved her life by putting her in a jail cell. Ten days later, she was teaching a Crossfit class at the jail. And she went to rehab when she got out. “I told my mom I’ll go 30 days, and I knew that I was going to sign myself out after the 30 days. But next week I will pick up my 10-month chip, 10 months of sobriety,” she said. Stout told the crowd gathered for the United Way meeting that donations to the annual campaign matter, particularly because she participated in a United Way-funded recovery program.

“Don’t get discouraged by numbers. There is a plan and a purpose for everything. God is going to use this to save lives,” she said. Roughly halfway through the 2019 United Way campaign, fundraising has hit 40.4% of the original goal of $1.525 million. The best performing divisions of the campaign include special gifts, led by David Treme and at 84.8% of its goal; Industrial No. 2, led by Bob Cartner and at 74.5% of its goal; and Education, led by Andrew Smith and at 71.7% of its goal.

The updated fundraising goal is $1,526,191 — a result of calls for service to Emergency Medical Services for overdoses and suicides. In the two weeks since the United Way’s last update meeting, there were 30 calls for overdoses and 18 calls for suicides. Money raised through this year’s campaign will go to programs providing services for mental health, substance abuse, healthy lifestyles and basic needs.

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In First Update, United Way Hits 20% Of Campaign Goal Wed, 02 Oct 2019 00:00:09 +0000

In First Update, United Way Hits 20% Of Campaign Goal

Lou Adkins has been fighting the mental health system for 30 years. It hasn’t been easy to find care for her son, who was diagnosed with bipolar or schizoaffective disorder at the age of 19. Services in Rowan County are limited to nonexistent, but she proudly said Wednesday that there will be services after this year’s Rowan County United Way fundraising campaign.

“I just can’t tell you the companies that have applied and how excited we are,” Adkins said during Wednesday’s campaign update. “We’ve got such good people that are applying, and we’re going to have services in Rowan County, finally. So, I am urging you to collect as much money as you possibly can. We’re going to need every penny to support all of these organizations.”

At present, mental health services are managed by Cardinal Innovations, which is responsible for Rowan and more than a dozen other counties. And for years, locals have complained that the organization has been unresponsive to their needs.

As Adkins described it, there was a “wonderful mental health clinic in Rowan County” before 2012. That was before the transition to Cardinal Innovations and when Piedmont Behavioral Healthcare served just several local counties, including Rowan, and provided direct services to clients.

“It had been here for years. There were great psychiatrists and social workers and all kinds of staff there,” she said. “But our state decided that some of the mental health clinics in the state weren’t very good, and they closed all of them. So, they closed our clinic and replaced them with (a managed care organization). “If they’re managing that many counties, you can imagine how much support we get here in Rowan County.”

Adkins could guarantee that money raised in this year’s United Way campaign will go toward mental health services because of the agency’s new impact model, which will direct funding into four areas — mental health, substance abuse, healthy lifestyles and basic needs. Those areas were chosen based on a 2018 study of community needs.

So far, the 2019 campaign is at about 20% of its fundraising goal, which was $1,525,117 at the start of Wednesday’s update and $1,526,143 at the end. The campaign’s goal is increasing this year at each update meeting as calls for service for mental health and substance abuse increase. Emergency Services Chief Chris Soliz said Rowan County has seen 22 overdoses and four suicides since the campaign kickoff last month, adding $26 to the fundraising goal. Some individual sections of the campaign have made more progress than others. Industrial No. 2, for example, is already at 49% of its $74,000 goal, said Bob Cartner, of Chandler Concrete. Others reported that they are just getting started.

At Wednesday’s meeting, one middle school reported that it has already topped its fundraising total from last year. Corriher-Lipe Middle School Assistant Principal April Williamson said her school finished its campaign, with a goal of $3,800, in two days. Incentives for the campaign include days when teachers could where jeans and “breaks,” when school administrators would teach classes for teachers.

David Post, responsible for fundraising among professionals, encouraged the attendees to ask their doctors, lawyers and accountants to give to the United Way. Post said they typically do not give to the campaign. And in letters he’s written to people in the professionals group, Post asked for a donation of $100.

“I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but the choir in this case visits the preachers,” Post said.

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