by Justin Vick

As the United Way of Central Carolinas works to collect $500,000 toward its $21.2 million goal by Feb. 14, Huntersville resident Linda Beck is already looking ahead to next year.

Beck directs the Mooresville/Lake Norman United Way office in downtown Mooresville.

While the office has given the United Way increased visibility in Mooresville since opening there in September 2010, Beck envisions increasing awareness of her office throughout Lake Norman and partnering more with the faith community, neighborhoods, schools – even book clubs.

“A lot of people know about Charlotte’s office, but they may not realize we do have a presence and serve from Exit 18 in the University (City) area to Exit 43 in Troutman,” Beck said.

That office distributed $925,319 for 15 agencies in 2012-13, including the Ada Jenkins Center, Barium Springs, Exchange/SCAN, Hospice & Palliative Care of Iredell County, Iredell Council on Aging, Mooresville/Lake Norman Christian Mission, Our Towns Habitat for Humanity and United Family Services.

“There are lots of nonprofits out there, but we can really be a resource to find out the nonprofits that are stable, well-run, financially sound and using the dollars correctly,” Beck said.

Nonprofits that accept United Way dollars have low overhead or administrative costs, allowing more money to go back to the community, she said.

While key donors are prepared to help the United Way of Central Carolinas make target, Executive Director Jane McIntyre said the majority of donors give $500 or less. Some 47,772 of last year’s nearly 55,000 donors gave between $1 and $500, officials said.

“That’s the whole premise of United Way, making each gift count, regardless of size,” McIntyre said. “Right now, everyone can be a savior to a neighbor in need.”

The United Way also collects money through corporate campaigns. Ingersoll Rand in Davidson is among the largest corporate donors in its five-county footprint.

Smaller companies are pitching in, too, offering services pro bono for upcoming events. The Stoner Group in Huntersville is sponsoring a March fundraiser to celebrate the past year. The Peninsula Club in Cornelius is offering the venue. And SLD Unlimited in Denver is marketing the event.

Capitol Strategies in Cornelius is helping the Mooresville/Lake Norman office better use social media to promote its campaigns, as well as activities that empower the community.

The office launched its Young Leaders group in November. The group, designed for the 40-and-younger crowd, plans to have mixers and volunteer days.

Beck plans to create a social group for older, civic-minded folks, dubbed Legacy Leaders. She envisions Legacy Leaders eventually mentoring Young Leaders.

Such opportunities illustrate the importance of the United Way having an office in the Lake Norman area, said Bill Norton, vice president of marketing for United Way of Central Carolinas.

“You want to feel like someone knows what’s going on here in my backyard,” he said.

Sometimes, people walk in off the street asking for help paying rent. Staff will refer them to member agencies that can provide that assistance. Other times, people walk in asking about volunteer opportunities.

“I think we’re accessible,” Beck said. “People can see our big blue awning. That’s pretty much my goal this year, to let people know that we’re present. We’re here to help.”

Want to help?

The United Way of Central Carolinas supports 87 nonprofits in five counties: Anson, Cabarrus, Iredell, Mecklenburg and Union. The Mooresville-Lake Norman office is located at 228 Main St., Mooresville.

Details: 704-664-2284 or www.uwcentralcarolinas.org/give.