United Way expects challenging campaign

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The non-profit is kicking off its annual drive to raise $200,000 for partner agencies. TCUW did not meet its goal in the last campaign, due to economic hard times.

By April Wright, Reporter

The biggest challenge facing Twin County United Way in its annual fundraising campaign is the closing of so many factories where workers would donate a portion from their paychecks each week to the non-profit organization.
The goal this year is to connect with those people again and reach new donors who want to support United Way programs, said Mike Frazier, president of the TCUW board.

“Our lack of reaching our income goal [in the last campaign] is a direct reflection of our local economic situation,” said Frazier. “The bad thing is that, when our economy struggles, our local needs tend to increase.”
TCUW provides funding to more than two dozen organizations and services, such as emergency housing, fire departments, rescue squads, the Free Clinic of the Twin Counties, hospices, food banks, the local Red Cross chapter, heating assistance, community centers and other agencies.
With locals low on cash, Frazier hopes to target recent arrivals. “Many people have moved here from Florida or other locations where they used to donate, but they don't know how to give since they've moved,” he said.
The fundraising campaign has met 21 percent of its goal of $200,000, reduced from $215,000 last year. The campaign ends March 31, 2011.
Terri Ramey, executive director of TCUW, and board members will visit area employers and businesses in the coming months to gain support.  
Last year, the organization fell more than 50 percent below its goal, forcing it to cut funding from the 26 agencies it supports by 25 percent — or $20,000 of its total funding — across the board due to losses in fundraisers, donors and the decline in jobs.
For the first time, TCUW had to tell agencies that it would only be able to give 75 percent of what it had promised for their budgets.
“We're fighting to get those donations back up,” Frazier said. “We need community support.”
Twin County United Way also dipped into reserves to prevent deeper cuts, but TCUW can't keep doing that because in a couple of years those funds may be gone. Frazier said any donation — large or small — helps.  
When a March apartment fire in downtown Galax displaced three families, Frazier said the area Red Cross chapter approached TCUW for help, which TCUW provided from its reserves.
“Just $1 a week from several thousand people adds up,” said Dick Dalton, a member of the TCUW board. “We encourage the contribution.”
As part of its campaign kickoff, TCUW will hold a potluck dinner for its agencies, in which one representative from each agency is expected to attend.
“We just want to share our situation, where we are with contributions and find out what the needs are of these agencies,” he said. “As a board, we want to get to know these agencies.”
Ramey said she receives at least one call a day from people asking for money to help them through a crisis, such as the threat of electricity being shut off.
“It hurts that I have to tell them that 'I can't fund you because we don't have the funds,'” said Ramey. “Some people cry. It's just sad times.”
“We're going to stir up more campaigns and let more people know what we do,” she added. “Some don't realize what United Way does, so we're trying to create more awareness of how it operates... We're going to be making more phone calls to organizations, meeting more people face-to-face and just letting people know how much we need everyone's support.”
Ramey said she is at each area festival to rally support for the organization, and TCUW will hold fundraisers throughout the year.

Donors can make checks payable to the Twin County United Way and send them to P.O. Box 300, Galax, Va. 24333. Anyone with questions can call Ramey at 236-9070.