For almost 50 years, Randolph County has experienced many changes, but the need to support local service agencies has only increased. During that time, the needs in Randolph County have evolved from United Way goals of nearly $45,000 to $170,000.
Since the beginning, not only have the monetary goals increased, but the organization's name has experienced a change, and the number of agencies have multiplied several times over.
United Way of Randolph County began its mission in 1961 as the Randolph County United Fund Inc. under the guidance of several local residents. With Harold McMillen as the first president and Clay B. Whetsell as the first campaign chairman, the group set out to raise $44,670 to support seven service agencies.
IN THE BEGINNING – Ralph Hess, left, and Clay B. Whetsell, were involved with the early years of the United Way of Randolph County. When the organization began, it was called the United Fund Inc.
COMMUNITY EFFORTS – in December 1989 members of the United Way of Randolph County board of directors and representatives of supported agencies celebrated reaching the $115,000 goal in front of the county courthouse. Front row from left, board member Scottie Wiest, United Way Executive Director Bonnie Phares, board member Sue Pifer, board member Sharon Reckart, board member Karen Bialek and board member Robert Cockrell; second row, United Way Treasurer Robert Darden, Helping Hand Clearing House representative Lucille McGee, Catholic Community Services representative Josie Cuda, United Way Campaign Chairman Robert Morris, United Way President Ralph Hess Jr., board member the Rev. Basil Hensley and board member Roger McMahon; back row, board members Dr. Wally Edgell and James Patton.
Members of the Randolph County community met in 1969 for a strategic luncheon to discuss how to raise $60,000 for the agencies supported by the United Fund (later renamed United Way of Randolph County). From left are Smiley Caldwell, Ronald Poe, Judith Wilmoth, Martha Gainer, Grady Guye, Campaign Chairman Terry Densmore, Charles Bunner, Kenneth Cross and Clay B. Whetsell.
Ralph Wilmoth said he became involved with the United Way during the 1960s because he was active in the community. He was involved with the United Way during its early years and remembered that reaching the monetary goals was difficult. After a few campaigns, however, community support increased and raising the money became easier, Wilmoth explained.
When the United Way began, community agencies were in need of support to continue services, and instead of each agency approaching local businesses for support, the United Way was able to raise the money on their behalf at one time.
During one campaign during the 1960s, Tharon Jack recalled the first corporate donation from Beta Shoe Co. for $1,000. Jack also said that reaching goals was difficult and the organization didn't have the same methods of fundraising then - there was no Kick-Off Auction. Payroll deductions were also a struggle.
"It was a lot of fun," Jack said. "We worked hard and had a good time."
Although volunteers enjoyed themselves raising money, the organizations that received the funding were appreciative of the efforts, he explained.
Founders of the Randolph County United Fund realized that one organization raising money for several agencies reduces the amount of time civic-minded members of the county spend in fundraising activities and decreases the need for several fundraising drives by the separate agencies, explained Cindy Nucilli, executive director of the United Way of Randolph County.
The organizations throughout the years that have been sponsored by the United Way serve many community needs for both youths and adults across the county. Preference for supporting the United Way is for one united effort instead of many separate drives during the campaign time for our community needs. As in the early years, the United Way continues to work with employers to provide their employees with the benefit of payroll deduction plans to allow for smaller amounts to be withdrawn from their paychecks on a regular basis. The employers then forward the payroll deductions to the United Way. Some employees may pledge a dollar a pay period or one hour of pay each payday, but the process is very comfortable to the employee. The combined deductions for a company can really add greatly to the campaign total for the year, Nucilli added.
In the early years a "United Fund Sunday" Roundup was coordinated with a door-to-door canvass. The canvass was complete with many community volunteers, of all ages, sharing their day throughout the county. In 1969, more than 150 students representing Elkins Junior High School and Elkins High School participated in a one-day canvass throughout the community to share their time and understanding of the importance of supporting the United Fund. The students also made personal contributions to the fund, as well as sharing the word about the United Fund with the community. Support for youth programs and learning experiences have been a major part of the mission each year throughout the 49 years of continued support within Randolph County. Hundreds of dedicated volunteers have worked to secure needed funds so services can continue throughout Randolph County with thousands of supporters making annual pledges.
A major symbol of the United Way campaign since the early years has been the large thermometer since the 1960s. Each year, there is hope of bursting over the top of the annual campaign. Currently, the United Way has been updating their progress measured on a thermometer located on the website, www.unitedwayrandolph.org, and through the support of the The Inter-Mountain during each campaign, Nucilli explained.
In past several years, it might have been true that the "load," the meaningful responsibility, has been carried or at least spearheaded by a relative handful of individuals, Nucilli said.
"For the 2011 campaign, we hope all aspects for Randolph County will share their leadership with us as we reach out for a $170,000 goal," Nucilli said. "With the ambitious goal this year, it will be necessary for more people to become involved and give just a little more than at any other time since the United Way began in Randolph County.
"We are in need of community volunteers who feel strongly about sharing their expertise and time through involvement on a committee during campaign efforts," said 2011 Campaign Chairman Gary Clay. "We are planning to revisit some of the campaign tactics used in the early years of the United Fund to bring back a more dedicated focus on setting dollar goals for different areas of our campaign which will come together for our total needs of the year. Our plan is to reach out for more community volunteers to assist in the groundwork and preparation for our 2011 campaign."
The evolution of the United Way has continued with a change in the logo: "LIVE UNITED: Give. Advocate. Volunteer. Giving is a very personal matter and the United Way is one way to give to 28 service agencies in Randolph County at one time. Donations are never too small and many small pledges will add up to a big amount of support for our agencies. Advocate for the services and agencies within the United Way."
A monetary donation isn't the only way to help. Volunteers are also needed at the United Way's supported agencies. The United Way will assist in finding the right agency to use your skills, talents and interests. Contact the office to become a volunteer, sharing time with one or several of the 28 partnering agencies.
Those who have ties to past United Way campaigns or would like to be a new volunteer, call Nucilli at 304-636-0516. Information about United Way of Randolph County may also be obtained at www.unitedwayrandolph.org.