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United Way celebrates opportunities
New facility reason to reflect on legacy
Mary Helen McGruder, who served as chairwoman of United Ways first board of directors, speaks about the early days of the organization. - photo by Crystal Ledford

The United Way of Forsyth County officially has a permanent home.

Leaders of the nonprofit agency welcomed the community to a ribbon cutting and open house for its new site at 240 Elm St. on Tuesday afternoon.

The organization’s history was celebrated during the event as Mary Helen McGruder, who served as chairwoman of United Way’s first board of directors, discussed the long road traveled to get to the permanent facility.

McGruder brought her manual from the first meeting of the local United Way. That was held Jan. 10, 1991.

“As I was reviewing some of the historical documents from our beginnings here, I was reminded that we are a community of people who are always willing to give of their time and talents to make this a better place for others,” she said.

She noted that during its first days, those involved with United Way were “never sure exactly where our meetings would be held.”

“We met wherever we could beg for space,” she said, noting some of the locals included churches, banks and most recently the Forsyth County Board of Education Office.

The organization won’t have that problem anymore.

The new office space, which was purchased in May 2012 before undergoing major renovations, totals nearly 8,000 square feet including an unfinished basement space.

Staff members moved into the facility at the end of January.

Ruth Goode, executive director, said some of the most notable features include plenty of storage and a 1,300-square-foot conference room, which has been the site of more than 20 meetings.

The facility was purchased through funds the United Way received in a bequeath gift from Arlene Harrison after the sale of property owned by her and her husband, Herschel, and her sister, Elnora Vaughan.

Margarie Southard, Harrison’s niece, attended Tuesday’s ceremony. She said her family members would all be pleased to see the progress.

“I think they would be thrilled,” said Southard, adding though that none of them would “care one iota” about getting any sort of credit.

“They were the kind of people who just helped people out and you wouldn’t really know it because they didn’t want people to know what they did. They were just kind of private people.”

Goode said Tuesday’s celebration was about much more than a building.

“Over the past 22 years, your United Way has placed back into the community nearly $14.5 million in Forsyth County alone,” she said.

“More than a celebration of a new building, for us it’s a celebration of those people who have been given opportunities that they might not otherwise have had for a better life here in our community through United Way and the nonprofits that serve our community.”