Urban League, new president address United Way changes

Urban League, new president address United Way changes
December 17
00:00 2015

By Tevin Stinson

For The Chronicle

It has been an eventful week for the Winston-Salem Urban League.

Less than 24 hours before the organization announced James Perry would be taking over as president and chief executive, reports surfaced that the organization may be affected by a change in grant disbursements from the United Way.

The Forsyth County United Way will begin targeting its funding toward programs designed to tackle specific issues of health, education, financial stability, and reducing poverty.

According to president and CEO Cynthia S. Gordineer, board members and partners of the organization have been discussing the changes in funding for several years.

“We have decided to focus our spending toward financial stability, issues of health, and ending poverty in the area,” said Gordineer. “With all of the generosity of the community, we still live in a city where poverty has grown tremendously in the last 10 to 12 years.

“We realized we needed to start investing in services and programs that will address the root causes of why people are struggling.”

Although the changes are still in the preliminary stages, after receiving a letter from the United Way detailing the budget changes, Urban League board chair Evelyn Acree said the changes will affect the organization in the worst way.

Acree mentioned although she is grateful the group’s funding wasn’t cut entirely, the organization will need to look into finding funding from other venues.

“The cuts will be very severe for us,” she said. “This will definitely be a major setback.”

If approved, the cuts will begin in January. Although the organization may have to learn to cope with less funding from one of its biggest supporters, Acree is confident that, with the addition of James Perry, the Urban League will continue to serve the community.

“We will continue to serve the Triad as we have always done,” she continued. “We have an excellent team and with the addition of James, we’re going to continue to impact the residents who are often overlooked.”

Effective Jan. 4 Perry will replace Don Williams, who has served as interim president and chief executive since February 2014.

Before recently relocating to Winston-Salem, Perry served as chief executive of the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center for ten years. During his tenure, he managed to lead the center through the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

After being selected from three finalists following a national search, Perry mentioned he is confident he has the ability and training to lead the organization into the future.

“After asking around and doing research on the Urban League, I knew right away I wanted to be involved,” Perry stated.

During a recent discussion with The Chronicle, Perry said his goal is to build on a strong foundation the organization has already laid out.

Increasing job opportunities for residents in the Triad and improving race relations in regards to criminal justice issues both rank high on the newly appointed president’s to do list.

“We really want the community to know that the Urban League is a real foundation for this community.” he continued. “As long as this community is around, the Urban League will be around serving this community and providing for its needs.”

When asked about the proposed budget changes, Perry assured members once he begins to roll out some of the initiatives he has planned, a number of other organizations will be willing to support the Urban League.

“The United Way is just one of many organizations who are interested in supporting the Urban League,” he said. “As we progress this will simply just be a bump in the road.”

The United Way is scheduled to make a final decision on the budget changes during a board meeting today (Dec. 17). The Urban League will be notified of the final changes no more than 48 hours following the meeting.

“There are a number of large and successful branches of the Urban League across the country that receive little to no funding from the United Way,” said Perry. “I’m confident we’re going to be able to do really great work.”

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