First Posted: 1/15/2009
LUMBERTON - Days before she took her place in line as one of 15 finalists for the United Way car giveaway, Linda Hughes told her husband George that she would get him a coffee maker for Christmas if she didn't win a new car.
The couple got a jolt Tuesday - and it wasn't from caffeine.
“I'm overwhelmed,” Hughes said after picking a sealed envelope that won her a $14,665 silver Chevrolet Cobalt. “I can't remember anything so nice happening to me since the birth of my children.”
When Hughes, the county Health Department's Safe Kids coordinator, arrived at Biggs Park Mall for the reverse drawing, she was still expecting to shop for a coffee maker.
She figured the night's big thrill would be participating in the event, and there was an air of anticipation. About 100 people crowded into the mall's center court to cheer as United Way President Grady Pardue egged them on during each turn of the golden raffle cage.
Each finalist was on St. Nick's list for being good as a Fair Share donor to the United Way, which means they give the equivalent of one hour's pay each month to the organization. And Santa already knew what each one wanted - a new car.
Each finalist pulled a small numbered Christmas stocking from the cage, and another set of tiny red stockings with corresponding numbers were placed in the cage.
“Roll that cage,” Pardue shouted as the crowd hooted and hollered.
The group of finalists thinned as numbers were drawn until just two remained, Hughes and Dina Tomlinson, a Quickie Manufacturing employee.
When Santa shouted Dina Tomlinson's name, Hughes froze and her jaw dropped open. Soon enough she began spinning around, crying and laughing.
Hughes plans to keep her promise to give the car to her husband.
“He won't tell us what he wants for Christmas and he's driving an ancient Ford,” said Hughes, who lives in Orrum. “The alternative to the car was the coffee pot. We went to Lowes the other day to get a special coffee pot and they were out. We said it was because we were supposed to get the car.”
The 14 other finalists each received a bag filled with gifts from stores at the mall and a $25 gift card from either Biggs Park Mall or JC Penney. Tomlinson, as runner up, also received a $100 gift card from McNeill Jewelers.
“We had a lot of excitement in the air,” Pardue said. “If it wasn't for these car dealerships, it wouldn't be possible.”
Participating in the incentive were Jerry Johnson Chevrolet, Lumberton Ford, Lumberton Honda, Lumberton Nissan and Peterson Toyota. The name of a vehicle from each dealership was placed in envelope and then Hughes selected one.
“We had more Fair Share givers this year than last year,” said Sandra Oliver, executive director of United Way. “It is an incentive and we can't thank the car dealers enough. It makes it fun.”
Oliver said the agency is about 20 percent short of its $675,000 goal.
“We still have some reports that aren't in, but we were further along last year at this time,” Oliver said. “We hope that by the end of the year people who have given before will send it on it, and people who are looking to make an end-of-the-year tax deduction will make a donation. United Way helps year-round and we really need to make sure that we can provide year-round.”