United Way celebrates new home in Forsyth County

Community members, leaders come out to tour facility

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CUMMING, Ga. — They met at churches, banks and school facilities and had to be creative with storage space. Now, the United Way of Forsyth County has their own place to work and to meet the growing needs in the community.

On Oct. 1, the United Way of Forsyth County held their ribbon cutting and open house celebration, inviting the community to tour their new facility located at 240 Elm Street in Cumming.

“We were so focused on meeting the needs in the community, the needs for a home were apparent, but we had no funds,” said Linda Lang, president of the United Way of Forsyth County board of directors.

Margarie Southard’s family, who lives on Peachtree Parkway near Brookwood, was instrumental in providing funds for the new facility.

In their will, Arlene and Herschel Harrisson, as well as Arlene’s sister, Elmora Vaughan, left properties to be sold. The proceeds of the sale were donated to the United Way.

The funds were placed in savings, Lang said. They knew that one day the money would be used, they just didn’t know how.

In 2010, after a strategic plan, the organization said their goal was to increase visibility in the community.

“From that discussion, the idea for a permanent home became very prominent in our thinking,” Lang said.

A building committee was formed in 2011 and the property was purchased in May 2012. A community room was added and staff moved in on Jan. 30, 2013.

“We were able to purchase the building without using any United Way campaign fund, and we are very grateful for that,” Lang said.

Mary Helen McGruder, who chaired the first board meeting of the United Way of Forsyth County on Jan. 10, 1991, said many people in the community have given their time and talent over the years, organizing to “care for one another.”

The first fundraising campaign brought in about $150,000 to assist nonprofit organizations in the community. Last year, the organization raised about $1.3 million for local support programs in the county.

“During the early days, we were never sure where our meetings would be held,” McGruder said.

They met at the Cumming First United Methodist Church, area banks and wherever they could “beg for space.”

“It was a big day for us when we could finally rent an office and have a place to ask people to come meet with us,” McGruder said. “With this wonderful new home for the United Way of Forsyth County, I know we have truly achieved the success we knew was possible.”

Bill Norman, owner of Norman’s Landing, has donated nearly half-a-million dollars to the United Way over the years through his restaurant, golf fundraisers and Ping-Pong tournaments.

“They’ve got so many groups that they help out, that’s what I like the best about the United Way,” Norman said. “If anybody deserves something great like this, they do.”

State Rep. Mark Hamilton, R-Cumming, whose wife, Sandy, is a board member, said the facility will provide a central location for the organization.

“Even in a community like Forsyth County that is so wealthy and we have so many fortunate people, there are still so many needs in this community and this is a way to get to the needs many people don’t see every day,” Hamilton said.

State Sen. Jack Murphy, R-Cumming, said the 8,000-square-foot facility is perfect for their needs and will serve the community well.

“I’m happy to see them finally have something worked out,” Murphy said. “The United Way has done a lot for this county, a lot for the state and a lot for the United States.”