LUMBERTON — Twenty-five local agencies are rolling out their annual campaigns to support the United Way of Robeson County — but one company is aiming to raise nearly a third of the fundraising goal on its own.
Mike Miller, senior director of operations for Campbell Soup’s Maxton plant, is hoping a football-themed campaign will inspire enough team spirit to raise about $210,000. United Way set an overall goal of $650,000 at a recent kickoff meeting.
“The NFL and United Way have a partnership and Campbell’s and the NFL have a partnership so we kind of look at those as a synergy,” Miller said. “… Whether it’s college, high school or NFL, people can kind of relate to that and get involved.”
The campaign officially kicks off Thursday, the opening day of the new NFL season.
Campbell Soup Company, which also owns Pepperidge Farm, V8 Beverages, Swanson and other brands, sells approximately 2 billion cans of soup in the United States year. The Maxton plant employs about 850 people.
The company has been involved with United Way of Robeson County since at least 2001. In the past five years, the company has contributed more than $270,000. In February, it received one of United Way of North Carolina’s Spirit of North Carolina Awards for its “outstanding commitment and support.”
This year, Miller hopes to round up $120,000 in employee donations. Last year, about 56 percent of employees participated in the campaign, which had a 1970s theme. This year, the company is hoping for 73 percent participation.
The company will provide a 50 percent match for whatever employees donate. Two Hawk Employment Services runs a concurrent campaign to allow workers at Campbell’s to contribute to the company’s efforts as well.
“This plant has a very big heart and there are many, many efforts in the plant aimed at the community,” Miller said. “… United Way happens to be one of those vehicles and the company thankfully not only supports us, but expects us to be good corporate citizens.”
Sandra Oliver, executive director of United Way of Robeson County, says Campbell’s is the organization’s second biggest corporate sponsor — thanks in large part to Miller.
“He is a strong believer in giving back to the community,” Oliver said. “He shares that with the employees and it’s a very earnest message that he gives to the crowd. He walks the walk, he doesn’t just talk the talk.”
Oliver said Campbell’s contributions have grown in the years since Miller became plant manager.
“I think a lot of people want to be involved and doing things for the community, but sometimes if your job doesn’t allow that, it’s a big hindrance because most of us spend the majority of our waking lives at work,” Oliver said. “… He is not asking them to do anything he wouldn’t do himself.”
As a lead-up to the campaign, Campbell’s employees toured some of United Way’s agencies last week, met with representatives from others and helped stock backpacks full of nutritional meals and snacks for Backpack Pals.
During the campaign, which runs through Oct. 12, agencies will set up tables at the plant to show staff where their money will go. Miller said there will likely be some tailgating events, and that employees are already looking into fight songs and cheers to show their support. They may even take their own version of the Ice Bucket Challenge, which has dominated social media and raised millions for ALS research.
“People can see how their money goes to work and it really helps personalize the value of their donations,” Miller said.