ROCKINGHAM — United Way of Richmond County celebrates a milestone this year as it marks its 50th anniversary.
“It is awesome for any business, let alone a nonprofit, to survive for 50 years,” said Executive Director Michelle Parrish. “In 1965 there was a group of local leaders that came together and what their vision was at that time was to have the Greater Rockingham Charities. I don’t know how many leaders there were, but still to this day there are three still living: Richard Condor, J.C. Watkins and Charles Deane.”
Parrish said the vision of the leaders at the time was to consolidate all of the local charities under “one umbrella,” eliminating the need for each to have to solicit donations from businesses, individuals and civic groups.
“They wanted to present all of these agencies to them, so that everybody was not knocking on doors asking for help,” she explained. “That first year, in 1966, the group set a goal of $33,250, and they actually collected $28,000 of that. It was impressive in 1966.”
Parrish said that the ten original partnering agencies the United Way had at that time were the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts, the American Red Cross, Richmond County Mental Health, the March of Dimes, North Carolina Symphony, Cancer Fund, Rockingham Recreation Foundation, Richmond County Rescue Squad and Retarded Children’s Association.
“In the ’70s, the name was changed to Combined Charities,” she said. “And then in the mid-70s to United Fund. And then in the 1980s the name changed again to what we know today as United Way of Richmond County.”
Parrish explained that this year’s theme, “Caring for Generations,” is appropriate for a group that has survived 50 years and helped thousands of people.
“J.C. Watkins is no longer a board member,” she said. “But he’s a partnering agency leader with Leak Street Alumni, and he has been very instrumental with Leak Street Alumni.”
She said that throughout the group’s history there have been “roughly” 100 board members who have served the United Way under all its names, and that all but 20 had been located.
“Invitations have gone out to those folks,” she said. “So we hope that they can join us for our United Way kickoff this year, which will be Sept. 15th at (8 a.m.) at the Cole Auditorium.”
She said all of the current partnering agencies will have tables set up for the community to learn more about what they do.
“Our Day of Caring begins after the kickoff,” she said. “We’re very excited to invite our past board members, present board members and community members that participate with United Way to help us celebrate our 50th anniversary.”
On the Day of Caring, Parrish said volunteers will fan out across the county to conduct beautification projects for the Richmond County Literacy Council, Sandhills Childrens Center, New Horizons, and Cordova School. At the Ellerbe, Rockingham and Hamlet Senior Centers, the volunteers will serve lunch and interact with senior citizens. The Back Pack Pals will packing backpacks to be disbursed to county schools.
Other volunteers will be working at Our Daily Bread, building a new Habitat for Humanity house, painting at the ReStore and installing smoke detectors.
“We have about 150 volunteers signed up to participate this year,” Parrish said. “But if anyone would like to participate, they can always give me a call or shoot me an email. Last year we had 130 volunteers that volunteered 493.5 hours and saved our agencies $11,390.81.”
She said that Rockingham Rotary Club is sponsoring shirts for the volunteers again this year through a grant.
“It’s going to be an exciting day,” Parrish added. “Our goal for this year is $290,000. It’s up a little bit from last year, which is good. We exceeded our goal last year, so we’re going to shoot for a new goal this year and hope we exceed it.”
To find out how to volunteer for the United Way of Richmond County Day of Caring, call Michelle Parrish at 910-997-2173 or email [email protected]
Reach reporter Melonie McLaurin at 910-817-2673 and follow her on Twitter @meloniemclaurin.