At the urging of elected officials in 2007, United Way agreed to serve as the host agency for the Blue Ribbon Commission on the Prevention of Youth Violence (BRC). The BRC created a Youth Enrichment Zone on Wilmington’s north side and embarked on a mission to decrease youth violence and increase high school graduation rates. After incubation and nurturing as a United Way initiative, BRC later spun off as an independent nonprofit agency in 2013.
Locally in 2008, Jay Atkinson, St. James general manager at the time, chaired the United Way board and Jack Barto, New Hanover Regional Medical Center CEO, led the campaign.
That year, a threat from a tropical storm moving ashore in September prompted United Way to postpone its Airlie Gardens kickoff and hold it two weeks later in the parking lot of our new office. The kickoff was built around a football-tailgate theme and attendees were encouraged to wear college and pro football fan attire.
Within a month of that kickoff, the country’s economy plunged into the Great Recession, creating challenges for the organization’s employee-based campaigns for several years to come. And after resigning from her position as executive director of the local United Way, Pam Wyatt moved to Winston-Salem to accept an executive position with the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation.
Nationally, United Way of America introduced bold goals for the common good that were focused on education, income and health. It also announced “Live United,” a new call to action for everyone to become a part of the change.
Christopher L. Nelson was named the new United Way executive director in 2009, having served previously as United Way of Michigan’s CEO. WECT New Anchor Jon Evans served as 2009 campaign chair while then-East Coast Bank executive Bob Stuart chaired the board of directors.
During 2009, the 211 system became operational to callers in New Hanover, Brunswick and Pender counties. This toll-free, around-the-clock hotline for health and human services information and assistance was initially supported through a grant by United Way of North Carolina. By 2014, the toll-free 211 service had been expanded to facilitate callers in all 100 North Carolina counties, with program costs being underwritten by United Way Community Impact funding.
By this time, our local United Way had successfully transformed its funding strategy from a Community Chest model to a Community Impact model. The organization no longer funded the operations of other agencies, but instead provided funding to programs that addressed the targeted issue areas identified by the local community. After this transition, a reassessment was needed to make sure current needs were addressed in the grant process.
The United Way convened local experts to determine the impact areas of health, financial stability and education. These targets are reassessed each year before donor contributions are invested in the community.
At the onset of the Great Recession, the federal government quickly passed the Recovery Act to funnel dollars quickly to local communities to stave off the impact of the housing and employment crisis. The staff of the 10 Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness quickly built a United Way-led community collaboration and applied for a Homeless Prevention and Rapid Rehousing Program (HPRP) grant. The goal of HPRP, a best-practice model created in Minnesota, was to help keep low-income people from losing their housing and to rapidly re-house low-income people who had become homeless.
United Way was initially awarded $1.2 million. Due to excellence in the administration of the grant, an additional $100,000 was added to the total. The $1.3 million grant allowed United Way and its partner agencies to serve 700 homeless and at-risk people in 220 Cape Fear households during the three years of the Great Recession (2009 to 2012).
Join us as we celebrate you at our 75th anniversary on June 11, 2016 at Audi Cape Fear. Our 1940s-themed event will highlight the past 75 years, as well as focus on our present and future. All are invited. Find that perfect vintage outfit and come have some fun. Visit uwcfa.org or buy tickets at 75thanniversarycelebration.eventbrite.com, or call (910) 798-3900 for more information.
Christopher L. Nelson is president of the United Way of the Cape Fear Area, a local nonprofit organization. Since 1941, the United Way of the Cape Fear Area has worked alongside local agencies in Brunswick, Columbus, New Hanover and Pender counties to assist them in providing substantial and sustainable change within the Cape Fear area. To learn more about the United Way of the Cape Fear Region, go to https://uwcfa.org/ or call (910) 798-3900.
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