United Way reaches $575K goal
by Kellen Short
Board members of the High Country United Way gathered Thursday on the Wells Fargo lawn to raise the campaign thermometer for a final time, celebrating the achievement of their $575,000 fundraising goal.
"It's been a long time since we've reached 100 percent of our goal," campaign co-chairman Tim Baxter said. "We've gotten really close the last couple of years, but the downturn in the economy has taken a toll on fundraising. This is particularly sweet this year, because in addition to making our goal, we had increased it by $25,000."
The organization will use the money to fund projects and programs that improve the education, income and health of residents in Watauga and Avery counties.
Baxter, a local businessman, said the efforts of co-chairman Jerry Moore, former Appalachian State University football coach, were instrumental to reaching the goal. Moore rose early many mornings in the last year to speak with community groups and encourage them to give.
"Everywhere Jerry spoke we saw increases," Baxter said. "No big surprise, because he and Margaret have been a part of our community for 25 years."
This year, the High Country United Way got a funding boost by being selected as the recipient of donations from local restaurants in the 2013 Celebrity Serve. The High Country Women's Fund, a sister initiative, also contributed to the success with its annual Power of the Purse luncheon in June.
Linda Slade, executive director of the United Way, said increases in giving through the employee campaign, particularly from Mast General Store, also helped push the agency over the top. The High Country United Way has fallen short of its fundraising goals since 2008, she said.
The agency is currently transitioning to a new funding model that works to create measurable impacts on the community rather than allocating money to existing partner programs. Slade said the community appears to have embraced the fresh approach.
"That has brought renewed interest in giving to the United Way for us," Slade said.