LUMBERTON — One by one, they took a seat.
And when 24 had, the one left standing, Tonya Baxley, had won — a brand new car during the United Way of Robeson County’s Fair Share Car Giveaway on Thursday. She was the last person standing from a field of more than 700 fair-share givers that had been trimmed to 25 before the reverse raffle.
Another winner was the county’s United Way chapter. The annual giveaway gives a big boost to charitable organization’s fundraising campaign.
Baxley wasn’t among the finalists when she arrived Thursday at Biggs Park Mall, and hers was among five names added at the last minute.
“I’ve never had my name drawn for the car. I’ve never even stopped by here to even be put in for the drawing,” Baxley said. “This year my co-workers said, ‘Why don’t you just come and have a chance?’ So I came and I won.”
But the most important thing is to contribute to the United Way, she said.
“I think it’s good. It helps the community; especially this year during the hurricane we saw United Way everywhere,” Baxley said.
Twenty-five finalists in the car giveaway waited Thursday evening as numbers were drawn, eliminating them one by one until a final number revealed the winner of a new car.
Baxley was standing next to a co-worker when she won. She and Monique Glen Williams were the last two finalists, and Williams was also a final-day entry.
“We work in the same call center in the same department,” Baxley said.
When her winning number was drawn, Baxley randomly picked one of four envelopes and found out she was the new owner of a 2017 Honda Fit from Lumberton Honda, whose retail value is about $18,000. The other cars up for grabs were a Chevrolet Spark from Lumberton Chevrolet Buick GMC Cadillac, a Kia Rio from Lumberton Kia Mazda, and a Toyota Yaris from Peterson Toyota and Scion.
Fair Bluff Ford had offered a Ford Fiesta for the drawing but the dealership withdrew following devastation from Matthew.
Two names are randomly drawn from entries each week for 10 weeks, which qualifies those winners for the final drawing. Five more names are drawn during the final event to bring the number of finalists up to 25.
Fair share donors whose names are not picked during drawings prior to the final event are eligible to have their names drawn that night, but only if they attend. Baxley’s and William’s names were among the five drawn Thursday.
Latricia Freeman, executive director of United Way of Robeson County, said Hurricane Matthew interrupted the annual fundraising campaign. The priority during that time was to attend to the needs of the community, which were enormous.
The overall goal, which includes Fair Share and other fundraisers, was $580,000.
“Even though we didn’t get to do the complete campaign during Matthew,” Freeman said, “I feel we’ll get very close to the goal. We may even exceed it.”
Freeman said United Way staff and volunteers were out in the community as soon as they could get out of their houses and into the shelters.
“We went out and bought blankets, pillows, clothing and things like that,” Freeman said. “People were being pulled out of the water and into the shelter. When we went in there they were sleeping on the hard gym floors … they’d just lost everything they had. We wanted to make them as comfortable as possible. Walmart was kind enough to let us in on third shift and we purchased all of the sleeping bags, big blankets and pillows we could get.”
The giant retailer also helped provide food for people in shelters, provided in-kind donations, and monetary support. Freeman said the work is still ongoing and will be for some time.
Reach Terri Ferguson Smith at 910-416-5865.