By Ashley Rader
The Elizabethton city manager, finance director, director of utilities and Carter County sheriff could all be found bagging groceries at the Elizabethton Food City on Tuesday.
No, these local officials — and others — were not working to earn extra Christmas spending money.
They were volunteering for the United Way’s celebrity bagging fundraiser held at the local grocery store chain.
The Elizabethton/Carter County United Way was just one of many local United Ways to take advantage of the fundraising opportunity. The event not only raises funds for the agency, but spreads community awareness of the agency and the services provided to communities through the United Way.
The Carter County United Way had volunteers stationed at the Elizabethton and Piney Flats Food City stores to help bag groceries for customers and help them to their vehicles if they requested assistance. Shoppers were encouraged to tip the guest grocery baggers as a part of the fundraiser for the United Way. All “tips” will be contributed to the Carter County United Way 2013 campaign. Collection cans were placed at the registers for shoppers to put their donations in.
Elizabethton/Carter County United Way Director Debbie Guy said the campaign was a success for the local United Way. Guy was stationed at the Piney Flats location, and United Way Board Chair Sheriff Chris Mathes and Vice-Chair Candy Craig were in charge of the Elizabethton portion of the fundraiser.
“The majority of the response has been positive,” Guy said. “I think this is a great way for us to build relationships in the community. We are here to answer any questions people might have about the United Way and the services it provides.”
Craig agreed that the shoppers had been friendly and receptive toward the United Way’s campaign.
“It is a good fundraiser for the United Way, but it is more about raising public awareness through the involvement in the VIP bagging program,” Craig said.
Elizabethton Finance Director Jerome Kitchens was one of the volunteers at the bagging campaign.
“We feel fortunate so we want to be able to help those who are in need,” Kitchens said. “We came as a group to show that the city does back the United Way and its mission to help others.”
A group of Elizabethton officials, include City Manager Fred Edens, Director of Utilities Johann Coetzee, Director of Planning and Development Jon Hartman and Fire Chief Barry Carrier, signed up for the afternoon shift of the fundraiser.
Coetzee said he felt it was important to help with the United Way because most of the money collected stayed in the Carter County community.
Edens said it was important to volunteer with the spirit of charity in mind.
“We should always give back what we can and be grateful for what we do have,” he said.
Chuck Babb, coach of the Happy Valley boys’ basketball team, was another of the volunteers working for the United Way Tuesday afternoon. He said he was volunteering as an example for the high school students he works with on a daily basis.
“If we want to teach our players to be good citizens, then we need to be good citizens ourselves,” he said. “We are stewards of what God has given us, and we are to be good stewards for Him.”
Mathes said the fundraiser had been a “fun” day and that it was a good opportunity to share information on the United Way.
“It has been great to see everyone in the festive Thanksgiving spirit,” Mathes said. “Everyone has been in giving mood. Everything collected will help the agencies. It has been a thrill to serve. Whether it is a few dollars collected or a lot of dollars, it has been a good experience. Everyone is pitching in, the city officials, the county officials and other citizens. How could it not bring a smile to your face?”
The United Way’s campaign goal for the 2013 year is $182,000, and around 20 percent, or $36,400, has been collected so far.
Agencies supported by the United Way are Adult Day Services, American Red Cross, Assistance and Resource Ministries, Boys and Girls Club of Elizabethton, Community Day Care and Learning Center, Contact Ministries, Elizabethton Senior Citizens Center, Seqouyah Council Boy Scouts and UETHDA Neighborhood Service Center.
To volunteer or contribute to the United Way, contact the office at 543-6975 or at 527 E. Elk Ave. Contributions can also be sent to P.O. Box 1715, Elizabethton, TN 37644.
Other volunteers for the bagging event were Elizabethton/Carter County Chamber of Commerce Director Tonya Stevens, Elizabethton Housing and Development Agency Director Kelly Geagley, Elizabethton Police Chief Matt Bailey, Elizabethton Fire Chief Barry Carrier, Elizabethton Director of Planning and Development Jon Hartman, Milligan College President Dr. Bill Greer, Carter County Bank President Dale Fair, Chamber of Commerce Chandrea Shell, Carter County Mayor Leon Humphrey, Elizabethton Carter County Public Library Children’s Librarian Ashlee Williams, Elizabethton Boys and Girls Club Director John Malone, Dilbert Loudermilk, Diane Dicampli, Karen Mansfield, Nancy White, Ginger Lyons, Jackie Bowers, Jane Burleson, Jo Voigt, Pete Voigt, Nona Church, Mark Feuchtenberger, Jerry Bowers, Caleb Moore, Sherry Blackburn, Todd Bowers, Helen Wilson, Lori Case, Becky McGill, Jim McGill, Erica Carter, Sandy Gass and Kelly Norris.