Two men hold an award.

Wingate University President Rhett Brown, left, and Steve Poston, vice president and athletic director, accept the Spirit of North Carolina Award from United Way on Wednesday.

For the second year in a row, Wingate University has received United Way’s Spirit of North Carolina award. Representatives from the University were presented with the honor Wednesday, Feb. 21, at United Way of North Carolina’s annual meeting in Pinehurst.

“The Spirit of North Carolina Award recognizes the collaborative partnerships United Way builds with its supporters,” said Sean Garrett, executive director of United Way of Central Carolinas. “We are honored to recognize these organizations as key partners in our fight for the education, health and financial stability of every person in our community.”

Wingate’s fund drive for United Way of Central Carolinas grew from $25,711 in 2016 to $46,194 last year. The 80 percent increase was the latest jump in a steadily growing contribution.

“We have seen some remarkable growth over the past 10 years,” says Steve Poston, vice president and athletic director. “When I first took over leading the University’s campaign, I think we were raising less than $5,000 a year. We began identifying team leaders in each department to spearhead the drive.”

A longtime United Way volunteer, he remembers one of the early goals being to reach the $10,000 level.

“Every year, we tried to increase the goal from the last year, even if we had fallen a little short,” says Poston. He just completed a term as chairman of the county United Way board and chaired the countywide annual fund drive in 2015.

He said the University came in $5,000 or so over its goal last year. He looks forward to reaching the $50,000 mark. Poston credited Wingate’s commitment to community service and a growing number of leadership givers – those willing to pledge $1,000 or more – with the success of last year’s campaign.

“We had 11 more folks to pledge $1,000 or more, largely because of President Rhett Brown’s encouragement and vocal support for United Way,” Poston says.

A group of college students in blue shirts.

Members of Wingate’s men’s lacrosse team head out to serve during the United Way Day of Caring.

One way the University spurs volunteerism and showcases its commitment to United Way agencies is by hosting the countywide campaign kickoff. Last year more than 350 students and employees gathered with volunteers from across the county at Irwin Belk Stadium before dividing into teams to accomplish Day of Caring tasks in the community.

“That’s how we visually tell everyone that Wingate is willing to partner with United Way agencies,” Poston says. “On the Day of Caring, it’s a very tangible way that we practice service to our community, a demonstration of how we value the work being done by the United Way agencies.”

Additionally, several Wingate administrators serve on agency boards of directors.

Ivy Allen, director of Union County United Way, says she was glad to nominate Wingate University for its second Spirit of North Carolina Award.

According to United Way, winners were determined by a panel of 20 judges from organizations across the state. To be considered, they had to demonstrate excellence in their United Way campaigns and display a strong philanthropic culture and community engagement.

“Our team is thrilled to be your partner, and we appreciate Wingate University’s dedication and commitment to our community,” Allen says.

Feb. 22, 2018