Catawba County United Way Executive Director looks back at 2021

Mark Bumgarner - Catawba County United Way Executive Director.

WOW!  2021 has certainly been a whirlwind of a year for me. Against the backdrop of a pandemic, this year held for me the loss of my mother, the selling of a home, the buying of a home, a move and new employment here at the Catawba County United Way, starting on April 1, 2021. 



And it’s the last one I want to talk with you about. While I was certainly familiar with United Way and had worked closely with them, I had absolutely no idea how much this agency does in our community.  Since April, I’ve jumped in with the incredibly talented and passionate John Bailey and Sylvia Long to continue the work we do. 

We’ve conducted Campaign in a wholly new manner (virtually) and at the same time returned to face-to-face visits. Campaign, while still in process, has been a return to our strength for us. We’re taking lessons from this year and learning how to approach it next year – a theme you’ll be hearing often!

We conducted drives for the homeless, food and school supplies – again supported and made successful by the community of Catawba County. Of course, we learned lessons to carry over into 2022. We held our Giving From the Heart Awards to recognize outstanding volunteers, learning some tips on how to do so more successfully next year should we find ourselves still in a pandemic driven world. 

We held our annual Cross Country Invitational to help inspire young athletes to work in their communities. That was blast, and at the end those kids created a mosh pit and had me throw shoestrings into the crowd for them – you had to be there but that was one of the most fun and spontaneous things I’ve ever done – I loved every minute of it!  We learned a few lessons there for next year to make the event even better. 

Thanks to Benny Yount and Paramount Automotive group, we held our car giveaway with a record number of fair share donors! And we have some ideas for how to make it more successful in 2022! Of course, we also worked The Christmas Bureau and supported Teen Christmas!  (I’m still recovering from that one!) 

There were firsts for us too. We held our first ever Race United event with Hickory Motor Speedway.  That was fun and a great new way for us to engage in the community. We’ll be doing it again in 2022!  One thing we learned there is the end of September would be more comfortable than August! 

We are undertaking our first ever campaign geared for small businesses. We are undertaking expanding Youth Council with increased monies to grant to the community and examining increased ways to grant to our community agencies too small to be included in our current system. We’re also figuring out how we create a collaboration of agencies to address issues in our county such as addiction and housing that currently hinder our citizens, businesses and agencies in new and inventive ways. I am so excited about these possibilities I might just burst!

It’s been a busy 2021!  2022 will be even more busy, and that’s our resolution!

We have much to build, support and create in Catawba County. I am thankful to be a part of an organization like Catawba County United Way with dedicated employees, passionate volunteers and a forward-thinking board. I’m even more thankful to the citizens of Catawba County for making this all possible. United, we’ll accomplish the unimaginable and remarkable!  Here’s to 2022!