LUMBERTON — A Pembroke man excitedly turned the key to a new car on Thursday that he paid his fair share for.
“It’s nice to have the United Way do the work they do in a community like this,” said James Strickland, an employee at Tredegar in Red Springs. “I appreciate my company letting me participate. It feels real good knowing you’re trying to do the right thing. Participating is a great feeling. The dealerships are great for joining in on this. And winning is beyond amazing.”
Strickland, 42, randomly picked one of five envelopes after he was the last person standing in a reverse raffle that brought to an end the United Way Car Giveaway, then opened it to discover he had won a Ford Fiesta, which lists for about $14,000. The other envelopes held the names of the other vehicles that he could have won — a Chevrolet Spark, Nissan Versa, Honda Fit and Toyota Yaris.
Jeff Prince, the owner and manager of Fair Bluff Ford, happily handed over the keys.
“I’m pleased to be a part of this,” Prince said. “It’s my first time being involved and it feels great to give back to the community. The United Way is a great organization and they do great things in the community.”
David Carroll joined Strickland as one of the last two people standing, but he sounded more like a winner than someone who had barely missed winning a new ride.
“I feel blessed being involved,” Carroll said. “Giving to the United Way was a blessing in itself even though I wasn’t chosen. It was really nerve-racking waiting for them to pull the last number.”
Sandra Oliver, executive director of the United Way of Robeson County, ensured all the 19 names were mixed well in the cylinder before the dealership representatives eliminated one person at a time — Damien Ralston; Debra Jackson; Murray West; Laura Davis; Kimberly Gore; Rocky A. Locklear; Trina Dixon; Shirley Strickland; Rose Freeman; Susan Rozier; Teresa Tyler; Carletta Prevatte; Michael Terefenko; Deborah Council; Walter Whitted; Stephanie Chase-Bullard; Kathryn Lawrence; and Belinda Oxendine. There were 20 finalists picked during 10 weekly drawings, but one person withdraw from the contest voluntarily.
“This is so exciting,” Oliver said. “Most of the car dealers have come together as a group to give away a car. The only thing you generally get from donating is a good feeling. We think the car donations make it unique. We are the United Way and it’s a united effort between the dealers and us. It adds a dimension of fun.”
The other participating dealerships were Terry Chapin Nissan, Lumberton Chevrolet, Lumberton Honda and Peterson Toyota.
“We love the United Way,” Terry Chapin said. “It’s a great opportunity to give back to the community. You always have to give back a little bit.”
Representatives of many of the agencies that receive United Way funding were among more than 100 people who watched the event, which was held in the Centre Court at Biggs Park Mall.
“Without the funds from the United Way, we wouldn’t be able to reach out to the amount of people we do,” said Darlene Jacobs, the director of the Robeson County Church and Community Center. “It’s critical that we are a recipient of such wonderful funds.”
People who donate a “fair share” to the United Way, which is defined as one hour’s pay per month, were eligible for the contest. This year’s goal for the United Way was to raise $715,000 — and the organization is about $100,000 shy of that figure with money still coming in.
The funding is critical to Southeastern Hospice, according to Vickie Atkinson, who works with the agency and attended the event.
“It means our patients receive quality care,” Atkinson said. “Some have no insurance or are under-insured and the United Way funds allow them to receive the care that they desperately need. The United Way does truly amazing things.”