By William F. West
Saturday, March 3, 2018
The Albemarle Area United Way is closing in on its fundraising goal of $273,500 for 2017-18.
With still nearly four months to go, the AAUW has raised $221,157, AAUW Executive Director Bill Blake said Thursday. That’s 81 percent of the goal AAUW set for itself when it began its fundraising campaign on July 1.
“The momentum is very, very positive,” Blake said Thursday evening following AAUW's Keel Club event at Montero's Restaurant. The Keel Club is made up of donors who give at least $1,000 to the AAUW.
Thursday’s event was held to celebrate Blake’s naming as AAUW's permanent executive director. Blake was tapped as AAUW’s interim director in September.
During Thursday’s event, Blake announced the Keel Club’s membership has grown from 17 to 36 over the past year, and that Keel Club members have raised $48,431 for the AAUW thus far in 2017-18.
“Because of you, there are kids that are able to go to camp that otherwise couldn't. There are kids and families that have meals over the weekend through (Food Bank of the Albemarle’s) Backpack Program," he said. “There are women who are getting counseling and assistance from domestic violence, kids getting counseling from child abuse – just a variety of things that you are doing through the generosity of your gifts.”
At the same time, there's more to be done, Blake said.
He told Keel Club members he believes a club fundraising goal of as much as $110,000 for 2018-19 isn't that far-fetched. He also encouraged members to get their business colleagues, friends and neighbors to connect with the AAUW.
Attendees at the Keel Club event said they feel the AAUW is in good hands under Blake’s leadership.
“He has a lot of positive energy,” City Manager Rich Olson said. “He has great organizational skills. He is engaging the entire community and an entire area, basically.”
Joining Olson for the event was the city’s new fire chief, Corey Mercer, who said his first impression of Blake was someone who is energetic and passionate.
“He's trying to make sure everyone knows how important United Way is to a community,” Mercer said.
Mercer said he first wants to get a “lay of the land,” but plans to support the AAUW in any way possible.
Cmdr. Randy Meador, commanding officer at Coast Guard Base Elizabeth City, is also an admirer of the AAUW's leader.
“Bill Blake is the best thing that has happened to the Albemarle Chapter of the United Way in a long time,” said Meador, an AAUW board member. “He is a true believer and he's going out there and working the cause in the best way possible. I think that he really is able to open peoples' hearts to what the United Way is all about.”
Meador knows first-hand the effect the AAUW can have. An animal lover, he volunteers his time to walk dogs at the SPCA of Northeastern North Carolina’s animal shelter. The SPCA is one of AAUW’s 19 partner agencies.
“It does wonders for them,” he said of taking shelter dogs out of their pens for a walk.
Retired Superior Court Judge J. Herbert W. Small, who's 92, was also on hand for Thursday's Keel Club gathering. Small got to meet Blake for the first time, and said he found the AAUW’s leader pleasant and of a good demeanor.
By and large, Small said he believes the AAUW is like many charitable organizations.
“Everybody contributes and does the best they can,” he said. “You can't help everybody because some people won't even let you help, but you can help those that will accept it and who will try to do something to lift themselves up.”
Small said he himself has tried to assist people in need, even as far back as when he was a youngster. He recalled riding his bicycle from what was then the fire station to house fires where he would help fire victims salvage their furniture.
“It's a just a natural thing to do to help your neighbor,” he said. “It's a neighborly thing to do to be good neighbor. It's a Christian thing to do — and it makes me feel better to know that I've given someone a helping hand.”