A Birthday Celebration: Local United Way turns 80

By Amie Knowles, Reprint from the Martinsville Bulletin

MARTINSVILLE (July 1, 2017) –Turning 80 years old is worthy of a celebration. When you’re a community organization, one that’s not just stayed in operation but grew through those years, it’s an impressive achievement. The United Way of Henry County and Martinsville met Friday morning at New College Institute, both to talk about the past and look to the future.

Tommy Hudgins, former president of the organization’s board of directors, welcomed partners and guests and said that while he has lived in a multitude of places, “no other community demonstrates more than Martinsville-Henry County what it means to live united.”

The luncheon celebrated not only United Way’s eighth decade in the community, but also hit a few highlights the organization achieved along the way.

Dru Ingram, current campaign chairman, pointed out that in its first year in the area – then called the Martinsville Community Fund – the first campaign raised $9,865.

Given that a gallon of gas averaged 10 cents, a loaf of bread cost 9 cents and a person could buy a new car for $760 according to The People History’s website, raising over $9,000 in 1937 was no small feat.

Fast forward 70 years to 2007 and the United Way of Henry County and Martinsville raised over $1,000,000.

“Actually more, $1,031,598,” Ingram said. “The campaign chair was Bill Manning and the president of the board was Rev. Thurman Echols.”

Currently, the organization has raised nearly half its years of service in millions.

“Over the last 80 years, the campaign has raised $36,237,909,” Ingram said.

While the number of overall funds is impressive, Ingram raised the bar on Friday when he announced the 2017-18 campaign goal.

“After a great deal of research and discussion with our Resource Development Committee, I am proud to announce that our 2017-2018 campaign goal is $700,080,” Ingram said. “80 seems to be my new lucky number.”

Right now, one of the focal points for the group is taking part in the “Bridges Out of Poverty” program. It’s a nationwide project that gives local organizations a framework to work with each other and better coordinate ways of assisting the community. One of the program’s goals is to identify “Bridgers” in each community, that is, agencies and people who can help, and bring them together. Martinsville and Henry County have a number of organizations that offer much-needed services, but in any community, it’s easy for a group to get “siloed,” meaning that they’re isolated and don’t always work well together. Part of the task of Bridges Out of Poverty is to hold meetings and form connections between the groups, so that when residents come with a need, they can be directed to the specific group that can help them get back on their feet.

In March, a two-day Bridges Out of Poverty summit was held, with local groups looking at resource gaps. Then in April, the groups met again to hold a workshop and sort out those ideas. The next step is to form an “Implementation Team” to bring those ideas together.

Photo by: United Way. Pictured are (left to right) Immediate Past President Tommy Hudgins, Jackie Hughes of Carter Bank & Trust (Outstanding Leadership Giving Award), Mary Nester of American National Bank (Community Partner Award), Ronnie Fultz of Hooker Furniture (Chairman's Award for Corporate Campaign Excellence), Jonathan Hartsock of Eastman Chemical (Spirit of United Way Award), Dru Ingram of Bassett Furniture (Community Partner Award), Matt Fleagle of Eastman Chemical (Outstanding Leadership Giving Award) and Board President Monica Hatchett.