United Way fundraiser feels economic pinch

CONYERS - Of all the economic indicators, local United Way organizers hope the one that involves cole slaw and pulled pork bucks the trend this year.

The ninth annual United Way Barbecue is set for Thursday as the first big fundraising event of the 2009 campaign. Organizers said they expected preorder sales of plates to be down this year, but are looking to make up ground through the Tuesday deadline to get orders in.

"We are tracking, now, a little behind from last year at this time, but we're very optimistic that we will reach our goal," said Kysa Daniels with the United Way in Rockdale.

"We rely heavily on community support, and if the number of volunteers we've been able to attract is any gauge that is an indication of the support that we will get in the end, and that's a good thing. We have a lot of people volunteering to get plates delivered. Our job now is to get those plates sold."

Last year, the United Way in Rockdale sold 1,670 plates, which raised approximately $18,000 for the organization.

Daniels said the goal this year is to sell 1,500 plates.

A few plates are sold to walk-ups on the day of the event. However, the majority of the lunches are sold ahead of time. Daniels said the preorders help determine how much food to prepare.

The United Way in Rockdale County is a member of the United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta, which means that the money raised locally is tallied with funds raised throughout the region and then disbursed back to the local community. As a result, Rockdale County usually receives almost two times the amount of money raised.

For example, the $289,000 raised during the 2008 campaign yielded $1.3 million for local United Way agencies. Those agencies include:

· A.R. "Gus" Barksdale Boys & Girls Club;

· Lakeview Community Action Homework Program;

· Prevent Child Abuse Rockdale;

· Project ReNeWal;

· Refuge Pregnancy Center;

· Rockdale Coalition for Children and Families - KidsNet;

· Rockdale Emergency Relief - Assistance and education programs; and

· Sheltering Arms Early Education and Family Center.

Daniels said that initiatives geared toward education, income, health and homelessness will also benefit from this year's United Way campaign.

The barbecue luncheon is sponsored by Jim 'N Nicks Bar-B-Q and the Rockdale Career Academy's culinary arts program.

Those interested in purchasing tickets or volunteering to help serve the meals are encouraged to contact the United Way office at 678-623-2890.

Jay Jones can be reached at jay.jones@rockdalecitizen.com.