Now in its seventh decade, the Albemarle Area United Way continues serving many of the unmet needs of northeastern North Carolina residents through a wide variety of organizations and programs that improve the community as a whole.
The nonprofit covers a nine-county area “through a coordinated response that includes fundraising, certifying agencies, supporting programs, assessing needs and serving as an information and referral service.”
Not only is Bill Blake the executive director of the Albemarle Area United Way, following turns on numerous local non-profit boards, he also serves as pastor at Old Trap United Methodist Church in Camden County.
We rolled a few questions Blake’s way as he gets ready for the AAUW’s annual “Bocce, Beer and Bites” fundraiser, which is this Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Waterfront Park in Downtown Elizabeth City.
Who do you serve, and how?
We serve residents of NENC across 9 counties stretching from the Virginia state line in Currituck down the coastline through Dare to Ocracoke island, westward to Gates County and south to Bertie County.
We provide grant funding to 30 certified partner agencies as well about a dozen affiliate partners. Additionally, we launched a direct assistance community impact program known as the Community Care Collaborative. It was formed in concert with Interfaith Community Outreach, one of the affiliate partners we have provided United Way funding.
When and why was your nonprofit created?
Over 65 years ago numerous local leaders gathered to form what is now called Albemarle Area United Way. The United Way model has been a tried-and-true method of fundraising to support local efforts to improve the quality of lives of our friends and neighbors.
What are some of the benefits of your organization’s work?
Led by a local Board of Directors, with a trusted brand and decades of success, Albemarle Area United Way tackles problems too big for any one person or organization to solve on their own.
To be a certified partner agency, local charitable organizations must maintain high standards and are evaluated on a regular basis to insure the highest and best use of the funds garnered from generous donors.
Many of our donors are able to take advantage of our workplace giving campaigns. United Way is trusted by most major employers such that they willingly collect payroll deductions from staff and send to us.
In fact, many offer corporate matches because they recognize how effectively and efficiently United Way manages those resources.
Do you think the issues you address will ever go away? Why or why not?
Yes, specific issues can and have been tackled.
For instance, when COVID forced so many of our neighbors to stay at home to prevent the spread of the virus, the United Way and our partner agencies saw an increased need for food assistance, rent and utility help due to lack of income.
At one point we even stepped in to deliver trailer loads of toilet paper…thankfully that problem has been “wiped out”. But while that issue has been resolved, our community faces new challenges and struggles daily. They turn to Albemarle Area United Way to find solutions.
What else would you like readers to know, perhaps an interesting insight or heartwarming story?
Our mission states that we fight for the health, education and financial stability of every person in every community we serve.
We do that by empowering thousands of donors, dozens of passionate charitable organizations, and a committed board of directors and small, but mighty staff at Albemarle Area United Way.
We focus on three ways every individual can make a difference in their community: Give, Advocate, Volunteer.
One of the most heartwarming success stories I recall involved a single mother who contacted us to get help with her utility bill.
Her past due charges were substantial, driven as we learned by the fact that she was running space heaters with extension cords from one side of her house to another portion that had no electricity and a leaky toilet.
She had notified her landlord previously, but when a plumber he hired said there was no leaks this mother was left to battle with the utility company.
When we got involved and advocated for this client by notifying a county code enforcer, the landlord sent an electrician and a plumber.
Turned out a family of racoons had made a home in the attic and chewed through wires thus disrupting power to the bedroom portion of the home.
The leaky toilet was repaired, and the water company provided a credit to the tenant’s bill.
We helped pay the reduced charges and felt joyful knowing that a family was sleeping in warm beds for the first time in quite awhile because caring folks in our region chose to Love their Neighbors the United Way!
What’s new? What are your upcoming events or initiatives?
There’s always something new at AAUW. Most recently we obtained a 6 x 12 utility trailer is available for use by our area charitable organizations. It can be borrowed FREE of charge by local 501c3 agencies on a first-come, first-served basis.
Earlier this year we installed a digital platform known as e-CImpact to make grant applications and reporting easier for our agencies. In a similar fashion, we launched an improved giving portal on our website, aaunitedway.org, that enables donors to give monthly recurring gifts via credit, debit or ACH.
They can even create a RoundUp program whereby every purchase whether at a gas station, grocery store or restaurant can be rounded up to the nearest dollar and at the end of the month the change from all of the rounding up is donated to AAUW.
As for events, our biggest annual community event is right around the corner. On Saturday, April 29th hundreds of folks will gather for our 5th annual Bocce, Beer & Bites.
A total of 48 teams will compete in the double elimination tournament for the coveted title of AAUW 2023 Bocce Champions.
Of course everyone wins as the community rallies around this fundraiser to support our region. Incredible things can happen when we choose to Live United!
For more information on the Albemarle Area United Way:
In conjunction with the Outer Banks Community Foundation and the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau, WOBX has launched “Builders and Shapers: Nonprofits for a Greater Outer Banks” a weekly series featuring the nonprofits that serve our area. They share details about how they are working to make northeastern North Carolina and the Outer Banks a better place to live, work and play.