United Way of the Cape Fear Area will be celebrating its 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 to this milestone event. Find that perfect vintage outfit and come have some fun. Walk through the last 75 years of United Way and Wilmington history with us.
As United Way moved into the 1990s, significant changes were seen on a local level. Local banker Tom Dodson served as United Way board chair and Lee Williams led the general campaign which yielded a record of nearly $1.9 million. Eighteen years later, Dodson would serve as the first chair of the 10 Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness, a three-county initiative managed by United Way.
In 1991, Cape Fear Area United Way marked its 50th-anniversary milestone celebrating continued service to people in the Cape Fear region. Lee Whiteside served at campaign chairman and raised $1.8 million, and Michael Griggs replaced A.D. Sawyer as United Way’s executive director.
With the onset of the Persian Gulf war, a fully staffed operations center at United Way of America worked closely with the U.S. Military, the American Red Cross, USO, Travelers Aid International, the National Mental Health Association, Family Service America and other organizations to ensure that those in need received help. The operations center hotline logged close to 1,000 calls per week during the height of the hostilities.
By 1993, United Way of America’s board launched a 20-year commitment to ensure the healthy development of America’s children. Local United Ways, various national human-service agencies, and United Way of America coordinated efforts to help people during and after the summer’s flood disaster in the Midwest.
Randall C. Tomsic, a Wachovia Bank executive, led the 1994 campaign which resulted in the first campaign to raise more than $2 million dollars. Gayle Van Veslor served that year as United Way’s third woman board president and Tomsic became board chair in 1995.
September 1996 brought devastation to the south with the onset of Hurricane Fran. Although the aftermath of Fran impacted the start of the campaign that year, the local community rallied behind the cause and raised a record amount of $2,365,000 for those in our local area.
Meanwhile on the national front, 1996 brought the age of the Internet and email. With the beginning of these powerful tools for measurement and planning, our staff, volunteers and agency began to focus our efforts toward results, rather than activities. Cross-functional alignment, increased effectiveness, developmental strategies and community initiatives were all part of the strategic plan of United Way, and it was becoming increasingly more efficient to demonstrate and report results.
Another storm impacted United Way and the Wilmington community in 1998 with Hurricane Bonnie’s arrival. Campaign chair Andy Atkinson and United Way President Bobby Smith spoke that year about the critical impact of storm in the South and the increased need for local funds to help those on a local level. The campaign that year focused on “Help. Here. At Home” and incorporated Lifesavers candy and Coast Guard life preservers into its theme. Atkinson was able to raise $2.6 million that year, a 6 percent increase over the previous campaign.
As the 1990s were coming to a close, another storm hit the South. This time a Category 4 hurricane named Floyd hit North Carolina straight on, causing widespread flooding, 35 deaths and a billion dollars in damage statewide. North Carolina Governor James Hunt designated United Way of North Carolina as the lead agency to manage the financial donations coming into the state for hurricane relief. Campaign Chair Howard H. Loving, Jr. announced the 1999 campaign had exceeded its goal by raising a to-date record of $2.89 million.
Continue to join us as we move through the 2000s in subsequent Insight articles. Thank you for your continued support of United Way and all that we work to do to continue to help those in need in the Cape Fear Area.
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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