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story.lead_photo.caption Anne Eldridge is the new executive director of the United Way of White County. She invites the public to the annual campaign kickoff at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 6 in the Burks American Heritage Center at Harding University in Searcy. - Photo by Staci Vandagriff

Anne Eldridge hit the ground running after assuming responsibilities as executive director of the United Way of White County. She began her new job June 25 and has not slowed down.

“I’m really excited about this opportunity to help our community and grow awareness of the United Way of White County,” said Eldridge, 38. “I’ve been meeting people at each of the 16 agencies we serve and getting to know the United Way board members better.”

James Horton, president of the United Way of White County Board of Directors, shared the news of Eldridge’s hiring in an email to partner agencies and others.

“Anne and her family have been a part of our community for several years, and she looks forward to serving White County,” Horton said. “She has a degree in marketing management and extensive experience in marketing, sales, purchasing, compliance and human resources. This well-rounded knowledge will certainly serve our organization well as we embark upon a successful future together.”

One of Eldridge’s first major projects to oversee will be the annual United Way campaign kickoff, which is set for 6 p.m. Sept. 6 in the Burks American Heritage Center at Harding University in Searcy.

“This is open to the public,” Eldridge said. “Tickets are $25 each or $500 for a table sponsorship and are available at the United Way office.

“Our guest speaker will be Jessica Sears, who won a bronze medal in powerlifting at the Special Olympics USA Games recently,” Eldridge said. “We are really excited about hearing from her.”

Sears is a student at The Sunshine School in Searcy, one of the agencies supported by the United Way of White County, as is Special Olympics.

Eldridge is also busy planning the United Way of White County’s participation in the 11th annual Get Down Downtown festival, scheduled for Sept. 28 and 29 in downtown Searcy.

“It’s a family-friendly festival with vendors and live music downtown,” she said. “We will have an information booth set up outside our office at 106 N. Spring St.”

This is Eldridge’s first job in the world of nonprofit organizations.

“I have a marketing background,” she said. “My mother spent her career in a nonprofit organization, so I know what is involved. I’m really excited about this opportunity to serve our community.”

Eldridge was born in Columbia, Tennessee, a daughter of Mark and Susan Nierengarten, who are now retired in Hot Springs. She has one brother, Peter Nierengarten, who is the sustainability and resilience director for the city of Fayetteville.

Eldridge is a granddaughter of the late Robert and Rosemary Andersen and the late Ed and Catherine Nierengarten, all of New Ulm, Minnesota.

Eldridge grew up in Arkadelphia, where her father owned a small sawmill supply company and her mother worked with Group Living Inc., a private nonprofit organization that provides assistance to adults with developmental disabilities.

Eldridge graduated from Arkadelphia High School in 1998 and attended the University of Arkansas, where she received a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree with an emphasis in marketing management in May 2002.

“Mom was in nonprofits, so I saw her involvement, but I never got involved when I was younger,” she said. “I took a different path. I went into marketing.”

After graduating from college, Eldridge went to work for Central States Manufacturing Inc. in Lowell as its marketing coordinator in September 2002. She held several positions at the company, which makes metal building components. She worked as a senior marketing associate, as purchasing director for commercial building components and, finally, as territory and marketing manager for the company’s steel source division. She left Central States in 2010.

In 2008, she married Mark Eldridge, who was employed at the time at National Home Center, which went bankrupt in 2010.

“Mark is from Augusta, and he wanted to move back home,” she said. The couple moved to Searcy in 2010, and Mark went to work for the family business, Eldridge Supply Co., where he is still employed today.

Once in Searcy, Anne Eldridge worked as an outside sales representative for Finzer Roller from October 2010 until June 2011, when she took a job in corporate customer support at Eaton Corp. Then in January 2013, she went to work in human resources at Eldridge Supply Co., where she continues to manage all human-resources functions for the company’s offices in Augusta, West Helena and Brinkley.

“I found out about this opportunity at the United Way when I was working part time for the family company,” she said. “I was wanting to get back into marketing full time. I knew some of the board members, and they encouraged me to apply.”

The position of executive director of the United Way of White County came open in March when Pat Downs announced her intention to retire after 29 years of service to the agency.

“I am really excited about being here,” Eldridge said.

“The United Way of White County does a wonderful job identifying needs in our community and finding solutions,” she said. “I’m looking forward to continuing our role in the community, along with increasing awareness and funding for our mission, agencies and programs.

“I’m excited to build relationships with our agencies, other nonprofits and people in White County who would like to make a positive impact in our community.”

Eldridge said she is reaching out to other United Way organizations in the state, such as the Central Arkansas United Way in Conway and the United Way of Union County in El Dorado, to see how those operations work.

“I really want to get involved in the state association,” she said.

Anne and Mark Eldridge, who is a son of Charlie and Anne Porter Eldridge of Augusta, have two young children. Their daughter, Lauren Catherine, 6, is in the first grade at Westside Elementary School in Searcy. Their son, Trent, 4, attends preschool at First United Methodist Church.

The family is active at First United Methodist Church, where Anne Eldridge serves on several boards.

“We spend a lot of time at the church,” she said, smiling.

“I just recently returned from a mission trip to Peru with the church. It was amazing,” Eldridge said.

“It was really an amazing experience. I have traveled extensively, but this was the first time I had been on an international mission,” she said.

“We held Vacation Bible School classes for the children and helped construct a bathroom and a kitchen in the Methodist church in what they call Satellite City, which is just a tent city. Now they can cook on-site. There were 15 church members and two translators who went on the trip, all from White County,” Eldridge said.

“I took Japanese in college and French in high school, which did not help me at all while I was there,” she said, laughing.

“The translators were such a help, but really, when it came down to speaking, we just figured it out,” she said.

“My parents had our kids, so I knew I could go for a couple of weeks,” Eldridge said. “It was right before I took this job. It was an opportunity I knew I couldn’t pass up.

“The trip … seeing the cardboard walls, no running water … just makes you realize how lucky we are here in the United States.”

She added that the church was an actual brick-and-mortar building.

In addition to her work at the United Way and her church, Eldridge is also president of Chapter CT of PEO International.

“We raise money for scholarships for women,” she said of the philanthropic organization.

“I stay busy,” she said. “I try to get a lot of things done.”

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