LUMBERTON — JoAnne Branch will assume the interim role of executive director at the United Way of Robeson County as Latricia Freeman leaves that position for a new opportunity.
Branch currently is development specialist for the nonprofit.
The news comes in the wake of Freeman announcing her resignation from the executive director position during the United Way’s regular Board of Directors meeting last week. She said she is leaving the role to pursue an offer that better fits her future plans.
“I’m on to my next employment venture,” Freeman said. “I made the decision based on future goals I’ve had for myself.”
Freeman said her next position is in the area of social work, which is what her degree is in, but was not yet ready to provide details. She officially will step down in May, which is when Branch will take on the duties Freeman is leaving behind.
Freeman has been with United Way for four years. Two major hurricanes, Matthew in 2016 and Florence in 2018, made it a turbulent time for United Way campaigns as the organization not only helped with the recoveries, but didn’t get some of the dollars they were used to because they were needed elsewhere. The most recent campaign initially raised only about half its goal, but United Way has said it would not cut funding to the local nonprofits that depend on that funding.
Before becoming executive director, Freeman served part-time as an administrative assistant for the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, then became the Community Impact director full-time. She replaced the longtime executive director Sandra Oliver.
“Matthew came the first year I had my first campaign as director,” Freeman said.
In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Florence, United Way representatives spent two weeks in the county Emergency Operations Center recruiting and deploying volunteers. It sent 500 volunteers to work, and that program continues.
From its location in the former Kimbrell’s building in downtown Lumberton, the agency handed out an estimated $1 million in emergency aid, including water, food, diapers, cleaning supplies and clothing.
“Although it had its challenges with the disasters, I’m very much a person of action,” Freeman said. “I enjoy being out serving the community; actually doing direct services, seeing people, being at the shelters, being at EOC (Emergency Operations Center) during disasters. I enjoy those things.”
United Way’s Board of Directors President Chelsea Biggs praised Freeman’s work following Florence.
“During Hurricane Florence she was there working with United Way and not only because it’s her job, but because she truly has a passion for helping people and this community,” Biggs said. “I’m so sad that she’s leaving but I’m excited about her new adventure.”
The board has formed a search committee and will soon begin the interview process for prospects, Biggs said. The board is looking to fill the position as quickly as possible, but is confident in Branch and the office’s current staff.
“They have a great office,” Biggs said. “Tamika Munn, JoAnne Branch and Laren Metzger pretty much know how to do anything within the United Way office.”
Biggs said there is a good pool to draw from.
“We know that there are a lot of good candidates in the United Way office and in the community,” Biggs said.
Tomeka Sinclair can be reached at 910-416-5865 or via email at [email protected]