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Kicking off a 'Greater' United Way season
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United Way 2013 Campaign Cabinet:

Diane Adoma, Patty Brandon of Bizzy Bee Exterminators, Rockdale County High School senior Crystal Brockington, Carolyn Carter of C & C Grant Consulting Firm, Elly Dalton of Edward Jones, Kysa Daniels of Village Strong, Vince Evans of Conyers City Council, Bridget Lewis of Workplace Learning Solutions, Tonya Parker of Rockdale County's Community Affairs department, Jackie Sprague of the Conyers Rockdale Council for the Arts, Iffat Walker of Walker and Associates, Earl Williams of Combined Investment Group, Eulalie Young of EBY Cruising Travel Agency. 

Kick Off event sponsors:

Rotary Club of Rockdale County , Rotary Club of Conyers, Lowe's, Publix Bakery, TK Graphics

United Way of Rockdale County launched its fundraising campaign season with the 25th annual joint meeting and kick-off with the Rockdale and Conyers Rotary clubs at Rockdale Medical Center Thursday.

Campaign Chair Diane Adoma introduced this year's theme, "Be Greater."

She pointed out if a child is not reading well by third grade, they are more likely to not graduate and more likely to end up incarcerated.

Last year, there were 2300 calls made to United Way's 211 hotline for assistance.

"Most of these people are calling for things that every last one of you probably don't think about. They're calling for assistance with a utility bill, with food, with paying their rent. These are basic necessities."

She challenged the room, "How do we collectively create positive change in Rockdale County?"

Last year, the Rockdale United Way Campaign raised $273,973. That included $35,262 from RMC - a 30 percent increase, $10,000 from Rockdale County government employees - 100 percent increase, and almost $75,000 from employees of the three Publix stores in Rockdale. She added that Kroger's contribution increased last year as well.

The money raised goes to the United Way of Greater Atlanta, which returns about $400,000 to Rockdale.

Out of that, about $145,000 went to issues of ending homelessness (Phoenix Pass, Project ReNeWal, Rockdale Emergency Relief), $35,000 went to basic needs, $104,000 of that went to early learning/education initiatives (Rockdale County Public Schools Early Learning Project, Parents as Teachers), $54,000 went to health issues (Safety Net Summit), $8,000 went to income and employment needs (Partnership for Rockdale Employment Program).

Even with these contributions, it fell short of the great and increasing need in the county.

"At the end of the day, somebody is going to get left out. They're not getting left out because they don't have great programs. They're getting left out because there is not enough money," said Adoma.

She asked, "United Way and Rockdale County, how will you answer the call to be greater?"

The keynote speaker was Marlon Allen, Chaplain of the Rotary District 6910. He formerly was a first baseman for the Cincinnati Reds and has been active with United Way as well as Boys and Girls Clubs of America.

Allen recalled one of the greatest moments in his life - when a baseball scout for the Cincinnati Reds came knocking on his door.

But, he added, "One thing Bob didn't understand about me, it took a huge team - some would say village - to raise me up to the point where I could be the best that I could be."

"Every single organization, every single friend, every single individual..." Allen recalled his Little League coach, high school coach, parents, program directors at the East Columbus Boys and Girls Club, and many other adults who helped him become who he is today. Later, as an adult, he realized that Boys and Girls Club was a beneficiary of the United Way.

He described four types of people on a team. Those who "watch," "wonder," "wait," and "make." He encouraged everyone in the room to be one of those that make things happen.

The fundraising goal is being determined, but Adoma predicted it would be greater than last year's goal.

One of the biggest annual fundraisers for United Way is coming up with the 13th annual Jim 'N Nick's BBQ fundraiser on Sept. 26, 11 a.m. - 1 p.m., with Rockdale Career Academy's Culinary Arts Program. The goal this year is to sell 2,500 plates, said Board of Advisors member Tom Harrison. To order $10 plates of Jim 'N Nick's barbecue for delivery, pick up or dine in, call 678-623-2890.

Other fundraising events in the year include the United for Chocolate and Champaign fashion show, sponsored by Kohl's, date TBA in December; Old Bags Tea Auction in October, date TBA.

For more information, contact, 678-623-2890.