BY KRISTEN BUCKLES
The 2012 United Way of Greene County Campaign kickoff on Wednesday included the announcement of a $650,000 goal for this year, with nearly $104,000 already pledged.
The kickoff took place at the Greeneville Emergency & Rescue Squad headquarters on West Church Street, where attendees learned of the history of the 62-year-old organization that operates largely on United Way funding.
This year's campaign chair, Ron Metcalfe, introduced this year's campaign division chairs, including: Mike Hopkins, major gifts; Kimberly Shepard, small business; Drs. Aaron and Cynthia Knop, individual gifts; Wayland Seaton, public service; and Lindy Riley, city.
Metcalfe noted how important the United Way is to him, personally, because it funds agencies that directly affected thousands of Greene Countians last year alone.
While his family was not among the 2,700 Greene Countians that received assistance from the United Way last year, "all that could change in a day," he said.
Metcalfe called on Emergency & Rescue Squad Officer Bobby Matthews to provide up-to-date information about the squad.
Matthews explained that, in 2011, the squad put in 8,500 volunteer hours and answered 1,500 calls.
Most of those calls, 900, were vehicular accidents.
"We do every type of rescue there is," Matthews said. "It doesn't matter if it's a cat in a tree. We've done that."
Of the approximately 35 members of the Rescue Squad, all are volunteers, he said. Moreover, 24 are pledged as lifetime members.
Because the organization is strictly volunteer-based, all the squad equipment, from tools to trucks, is paid for by donations such as those from the United Way, Matthews concluded.
"Thank you, United Way, for what you do for us," he said.
Matthews and members of the squad later provided a demonstration of how the volunteers expertly use the "Jaws of Life" to extract an entrapped victim from a car accident using a junker vehicle and his wife, Leisa, as the volunteer "victim."
Pointing to a black-and-white picture of a pond with people gathered around hanging on the wall, Metcalfe told the story of two young brothers who decided to go swimming in that pond in May 1950.
The pond was deeper than they imagined, and a friend soon ran for help. It was, however, too late before help arrived, and the brothers drowned, Metcalfe said.
A newspaper photographer captured the scene at the pond that day, picturing hundreds of people gathered around the pond, not knowing what to do, he explained.
Finally, volunteers coordinated among themselves to retrieve the bodies.
"The community was shocked," he said.
"Prior to that, the only emergency medical response had been provided by the local funeral homes as a community service. Their unofficial motto was, 'You call, we haul. That's all.'"
A community meeting followed, and volunteers began to organize.
"Sixty-two years ago this past Sunday, on Sept. 9, 1950, the Greeneville Emergency & Rescue Squad was officially incorporated," he said to applause.
Funding for such a rescue organization became possible partially through the efforts of Metcalfe's grandfather, Paul Metcalfe, who helped found the United Fund of Greene County in 1956.
This organization was the forerunner of Greene County's United Way, the campaign chair explained.
UNITED WAY IMPACT
Of course, the Rescue Squad is not the only local organization that depends on United Way funding to provide vital services to the community.
United Way Executive Director Wendy Peay shared this year's United Way video, highlighting some of the lives directly affected by the donations.
One young woman shared how her family shifted from place to place during her high school years, resulting in her giving up on ever completing so much as a single high school credit.
With the help of the Literacy Council, she was able to complete her G.E.D., score high on her ACT test, and join Tusculum College this fall on her path to a Ph.D.
"It's not just for her," Peay said. "That helps all of us."
The agencies funded by United Way of Greene County are, in alphabetical order, the American Red Cross; Appalachian Council, Girl Scouts; the Boys & Girls Club of Greeneville & Greene County; CASA of Northeast Tennessee; CHIPS Family Violence Shelter; Child Advocacy Center; The Children's Center; CONTACT Ministries; Family Resource Center of Greene County Schools; Family Support Center of Greeneville City Schools; Foster Grandparents Program; Frontier Health - Nolachuckey Mental Health Center; Greene County Cancer Program; Greeneville-Greene County Community Ministries/Food Bank; Greeneville Emergency & Rescue Squad; Literacy Council; Mountain Region Speech & Hearing Center; Opportunity House; Personal Support Services; RSVP (Retired Senior Volunteer Program); Sequoyah Council, Boy Scouts of America; Tennessee Poison Center; Tennessee Rehabilitation Center; and, YMCA Scholarships.
The beginning of this year's pacesetter campaign was also announced.
Tony Nix, of First Tennessee Bank, announced 100 percent participation with the company's Greene County employees, who have pledged $11,260. In turn, the bank will match this amount at 50 cents to every $1, for another $5,630.
Teresa Carter, of Jarden Zinc Products, announced that this pacesetter company has raised $38,900, which is 28 percent more than the amount raised last year.
Finally, Tracey Julian, of Tusculum College, said that their campaign will continue through the end of the week, but has so far raised $8,100.
For more information, or to volunteer in the campaign, call the United Way office at 639-9361.
"We urge you to give united, because we all 'Live United,'" Metcalfe said.