Stevens takes helm at area United Way

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 31, 2003

NATCHEZ &045;&045; A veteran marketing staffer for the hotel and entertainment industry is now taking on a new sales role &045;&045; &uot;selling&uot; United Way’s cause in order to raise funds for local nonprofits.

Meet Rhonda Stevens, who started as the United Way of the Miss-Lou’s executive director just two weeks ago, replacing Monica Lynch, who left the nonprofit for a position at Natchez Regional Medical Center.

In the past, Rhonda Stevens worked in sales and marketing for such employers as local hotels, the Isle of Capri and the Natchez Convention and Visitors Bureau.

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It was at Natchez Pilgrimage Tours, however, that Stevens got her start in sales &045;&045; a role she didn’t think she would fit, but one she quickly grew to love.

What does that have to do with managing a United Way chapter?

Easy, Stevens said &045;&045; the United Way’s job is to raise as much money as possible to distribute to local social service agencies. And who better to do that than a salesperson?

In addition, Stevens said, &uot;I always helped people (in sales), but it’s a different kind of help with United Way. Without these monies, some agencies can’t function.&uot;

Stevens said she considers her new position a rewarding one, &uot;a way to give back to the community&uot; that raised her.

And since she is a Natchez native, she believes her familiarity with local people will be an asset when it comes time to ask them for help.

But although Stevens is familiar with the area and its people, she does have a learning curve to overcome in her new position.

With Lynch’s help, Stevens poring over accounting figures to see which contributors have given &045;&045; and how much they’ve given in the past.

Stevens has not yet moved into the United Way office on Commerce Street. But she has already taken on many of the director’s duties, down to attending the local meeting of agencies that benefit from Federal Emergency Management Agency funds.

Next, she said, &uot;one of my first priorities will be finding out the businesses and industries and volunteers with the United Way.&uot;

As far as raising funds is concerned, &uot;I have some new ideas, but I want to run them past the board, … probably at its January meeting, before I make those public,&uot; Stevens said.

The need for more funds is great &uot;because there is a need in this community, more than I’ve seen in my lifetime, Stevens added.

But she doesn’t seem worried, despite the area’s lean economic times.

&uot;We’re a city that’s always pulled together, so I know people are still going to give,&uot; she said. &uot;That’s one of the things that makes me proud to be from Natchez.&uot;