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United Way celebrates 60th anniversary by recognizing long-time donors

POSTED: August 17, 2008 5:01 a.m.
SCOTT ROGERS/ The Times

George Romberg, right, and sisters Connie Thompson, left, and Caroline Silcox, center, are honored at the United way's 60th Anniversary celebration Tuesday afternoon at the United Way offices on Oak Street. The Romberg's father Conrad Romberg began the payroll deduction concept to raise money for the Community Chest in 1948 which later became the United Way of Hall County.

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The United Way of Hall County celebrated its 60th anniversary Tuesday by naming a new program for one of its original founders.

The Conrad Romberg Loyal Contributor Program was created to recognize longtime donors regardless of the level of their gift, said Jackie Wallace, the president of United Way of Hall County.

"It’s an effort on our part as well as other United Ways to engage more with our donors. The people who give to us at all levels, and have for many, many years. Often we don’t know who they are," Wallace said. "This just allows us a chance to thank them and recognize them because their gifts have been incredibly important."

Wallace said the program to recognize longtime donors has been adopted in many parts of the country, but to honor the 60th anniversary of its founding, United Way of Hall County made it a little more personal.

Starting with the 2008 campaign, United Way donors will be able to identify themselves to the organization if they have been contributing to any United Way for five years or more, said marketing director Robyn Shoaf.

"It’s really a program that United Way of America has started across the country, and we just took it a step farther to name it after a local individual," Wallace said.

Conrad Romberg was one of the original founders of the Community Chest in Hall County in 1948, which was later renamed the United Way. He was a local business man who owned City Ice.

Wallace said the reason Romberg was chosen as the moniker of the Loyal Contribution Program was because he was the first to encourage his employees to donate a small amount from their paychecks.

"He was the first company in the community to allow his employees to contribute to United Way through payroll deduction," Wallace said. "So he started that. He kind of started that trend to say, it doesn’t matter the size of your gift. Give what you can, give what’s important to you and we will help you do that by giving you the opportunity to take a portion of your check and send it to United Way."

Though Conrad Romberg is no longer living, his children and grandchildren attended the celebration Tuesday.

"He was always doing something to help here in Hall County," said Romberg’s daughter Connie Thompson.

Daughter Caroline Silcox said she thought her father would be pleased to know how much money the United Way of Hall County raised during its last campaign.

"He would love to have known the Community Chest (United Way) made $2 million," Silcox said. "I can just see him smiling."

And though Conrad Romberg was very active in the community, son George Romberg said his father never wanted much praise.

"He did not do anything for recognition," he said. "He was a doer in a quiet way."

George Romberg said he remembered his father always looking for a better way to do things, and came up with the idea of donating by payroll deduction to make giving to the United Way easier.

Payroll deduction is still unique to the United Way in some aspects. Wallace said because it is a long standing tradition, United Way is the only charity many businesses will manage a payroll deduction for.

Wallace said people enjoy payroll deduction because it’s easy. They just sign up for an amount and it is automatically taken from their check and sent to the United Way, so they never miss it.

"People give at whatever level’s comfortable for them," Wallace said.

Some people will give a dollar a week, a lot of people give much more than that."

But no matter how much is donated, Wallace said the United Way of Hall County wants to recognize its dedicated and loyal givers.

"When you join this, we don’t even ask how much you’ve been giving, all we ask is how long you’ve been giving," Wallace said.



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