LUMBERTON — As the stakes grew higher Thursday night, so did Francine Southern McCollum’s body temperature.
“I’m sweating,” she said as the 15 chairs surrounding her emptied one by one.
McCollum was a finalist during the seventh annual United Way Car Giveaway, and as the reverse-raffle neared its end, her sweat became tears. McCollum was the last one standing in the center court of Biggs Park Mall, making her the winner of a new set of wheels.
“My heart was beating so fast,” McCollum said. “It felt great. I’ve never won like that in my life.”
After a celebration of jumping, shouting and crying, McCollum was given the choice of four envelopes. Each contained the names of cars from four local dealerships: Lumberton Honda, Lumberton Chevrolet, Peterson Toyota and Lumberton Nissan.
As she opened the envelope, she shouted, “It’s the Honda!”
As the owner of a 2009 Honda Pilot, McCollum will squeeze a Honda Fit into her garage. The other cars available to win, a Chevrolet Sonic, Nissan Versa and Toyota Yaris, were parked beside the stage.
The runner-up was Kenny Brock, who quickly left the mall after the raffle.
The 16 finalists’ names were chosen two at a time during an eight-week stretch late last year from a basket filled with the names of more than 1,000 fair-share givers. A fair share is defined as one hour’s worth of pay a month.
This was McCollum’s first year as a fair-share giver, and she said she now plans to give every year.
“It’s nice to know you give something to someone and you get rewarded for it,” said McCollum, who works at Graphic Packaging. ” … I always give to the United Way, but this year I decided to give more.”
Edith Hunt of Lumberton was a finalist eliminated halfway through the event, but said she is happy she gave to the United Way. She clapped in resignation after her number was called by Joe Craig, a board member for the United Way.
“When they called my number, it was heartbreaking,” she said. “I was disappointed.”
John Astle, a BB&T employee, also was eliminated early during the raffle. But family members who came to watch left with gift certificates that were awarded during giveaways as the event progressed.
“… So we came out $70 ahead,” Astle said.
Other finalists were: Samantha D. Locklear; Rhonda French; Connie Locklear; Tiffany Moore; Roy Jacobs; Danny Chavis; Jason Sanchez; Samantha Lowry; Heath Worriax; Christy McMillan; James McNair; and Roberta Matthews.
After all finalists left the stage, McCollum took photos with her family and prize. Organizers gave away the bundles of balloons that decorated the stage, and onlookers congratulated McCollum.
“Everybody was a winner,” said Sandra Oliver, the executive of the United Way of Robeson County. “Everybody gave their fair share. … We really appreciate everything everyone does. It really is a united effort.”
The United Way’s campaign goal is $725,000. That money is distributed to 18 local agencies that provide human services.
“I think people deserve a little help,” McCollum said. “God blessed me with a job and now a new car.”
— Reach staff writer Amanda Munger at 910-272-6144 or email@example.com.