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The Franklin News-Post
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
Fax: 540-483-8013

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Bell ready to take the helm at United Way
New director is a former photojournalist
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Staff Photo by Charles Boothe: Nancy Bell of Snow Creek will take over the reins of the United Way of Franklin County on Nov. 1.

Friday, October 4, 2013

By CHARLES BOOTHE - Staff Writer

The United Way of Franklin County is getting a new director.

Nancy Bell of Snow Creek will take over the reins of the organization from retiring director Pat Koger on Nov. 1.

Bell, who is currently resource director for the Dan River Basin Association, said the coming change in jobs is an unexpected one for her.

"I've never really aspired to be a United Way director," she said, "but I really love the board (United Way of Franklin County Board of Directors) and the part-time staff is wonderful. It's a great opportunity to come in now."

Bell, a former photojournalist for The Roanoke Times and Martinsville Bulletin, has never worked for the United Way before, but she said working for non-profits has been the focus of her career and volunteer efforts since 1996.

With a solid background in fundraising, grant writing, strategic planning and resource development, she said she has many ideas about how to make the United Way here stronger.

"One thing I want to do as United Way director is to help the community understand the value of the non-profits (the UW supports)," she said, adding that the impact of the non-profits is widespread, including providing jobs.

Getting more people involved is important as well.

"My strategy is to work with the board to open some new doors and engage some new people, including young professionals," she said. "Developing a sense of charity is important as they become immersed in their professions."

Another goal she has is to organize the non-profits, having the directors of each agency meet and discuss what they are doing.

"They can work together and share resources," she said.

Spreading the word about United Way is crucial, too.

"I would like for the United Way to be more visible in the community," she said, adding that residents should understand that supporting the UW is "an investment in their own community, not just a charitable donation."

Bell has been very successful relaying that message for other organizations.

In fact, she was honored by the City of Martinsville in 2004 with a Citizen of the Year award for her work organizing Boys and Girls Clubs of the Blue Ridge.

She was also instrumental in raising a huge sum of money when she was director of development for the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville.

"We had to raise $7 million for a new building," she said. "We had to furnish it with exhibits and furniture. I had a lot of social connections at the time, but no background in fundraising (other than grant writing)."

Bell said she found that asking someone for a donation is a "whole lot easier" than writing a grant for it, and with fewer strings attached.

A resident of Franklin County for the last 18 years, she said the community spirit here will help make her job easier.

"The people of Franklin County are very generous," she said. "This latest recession has made a lot of people need services that they thought would never be needed. It could happen to anybody."

And that is where the United Way steps up to the plate to make sure these services are available when needed.

"If you think of all the organizations that the United Way funds and where we would be without them, it would not be good," she said. "The challenge is to state our case and be very clear about how important it is to invest in our agencies, not just giving, but getting involved."

Bell and her husband have four children, all graduates of Franklin County High School and Virginia Tech. They also have taken care of many foster children and supported the United Way along the way.

"We have always given to United Way," she said.

Bell said she wasn't looking for a job when this opportunity came along.

"But I am really excited about it now," she said. "This is my county."

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