If Beth Pequeno could deliver one message to the public, it would be simple: Residents in our very own community are struggling and need your help.
“We have a lot of people hurting in Surry County,” Pequeno, the executive director of the United Fund of Surry, said. “Our poverty rate is over 20 percent, so we’re trying to help people who can’t put food on their table, can’t pay their electric bill, can’t pay for heat.”
The United Fund helps fund 26 different agencies in Surry County, including agencies like The Shepherd’s House, Meals on Wheels, Surry Medical Ministries and the Children’s Center of Surry.
“Basically, what we do is we raise money for these agencies so they can go about helping their clients without having to worry so much about fund raising for their efforts,” Pequeno said.
Some programs are fully funded, while others receive a portion of their funding from the United Fund.
This year’s United Fund drive kicked off on Aug. 17, and Pequeno said at this point it is at about 30 percent of the $515,000 goal.
“We are right in the throes of our annual fund raising drive right now,” she said. “We’ve done a lot of campaigning, but the paperwork hasn’t been processed so we don’t know exactly how much has been pledged by area businesses.”
The fund raising drive relies on businesses and their employees for the vast majority of the money allocated to the agencies the United Fund supports, Pequeno added.
“We go in and ask them and their employees whether they would like to support the agencies, and they fill out a pledge,” she said.
That pledge can be in the form of a lump sum payment, or can be deducted from the employee’s paychecks throughout the year.
“Most people choose the payroll deduction because they can have a small amount taken out of each check,” she said. “It kind of eliminates the sticker shock of having a large chunk of their pay deducted.”
Pequeno said the response this year has been good.
“We have even been able to find a lot of new donors, especially at the $50 pledge level because we’re giving away two 50-inch TVs this year,” she said. “If you pledge $50 or more your name goes into a hat and a name will be drawn.”
According to the director, this year’s $515,000 goal is the same as last year.
“We missed it, but came very close last year,” she said.
Which translates to less money for the various organizations the United Fund supports.
“By us missing our goal, we had to reduce the allocations we’d hoped to give our agencies,” she said. “That puts a big crunch on them. When we don’t meet our goal we have to reduce our allocation.”
For Pequeno, there is no end in sight.
“We’re seeing the need continue to increase, and anyone who can help out, we ask for your support,” she said. “Even a small donation can make a big difference. Pledging a dollar a week is $50 at the end of the year. That’s the cost of a can of soda a week. People won’t miss that small amount, but collectively it really does make a difference.”
This year’s fund raising campaign ends in January.
Reach Keith Strange at email@example.com or 719-1929.