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Samantha Baker is all smiles as she takes on the role of executive director of United Way of Randolph County.    Larry Penkava/Randolph Hub

United Way is in transition

ASHEBORO — When Samantha Baker met Elizabeth Mitchell, she said, “You’re who I want to be when I grow up.”


Mitchell responded, “You’re me 20 years ago.”


That dialogue turned out to be prophetic. As Mitchell retires as executive director of United Way of Randolph County, Baker is set to take her place.


Mitchell’s last day was, officially, June 30, and Baker’s first day, officially, was July 1. But the two will work together for a while as Mitchell “will guide me through,” Baker said.


A Randolph County girl with Kentucky roots, Baker’s life seems to have prepared her for her role with United Way, which raises money for a host of nonprofits. But first, she had to mature as an adult at an early age.


Coming from a family of teachers, Baker was home schooled. She had an aunt who taught special ed and Baker would help her in summer school, becoming a volunteer with those with IDD — intellectual and developmental disabilities.


Then, back in Asheboro, she fell in love.


“I met my husband, Daniel, and we got married when I was just 18,” Baker said. Their two children came quickly. Lydia is now a student at Appalachian State and Alex is a rising junior at Randleman High School.


Baker had left her studies at Randolph Community College to raise her family. But when she had more time, she began a career that has led to United Way.


She used the experience with her aunt to work at Randolph Health with IDD patients. From there, Baker was hired by Arc of High Point, an organization that supports people in the IDD community. 


“I became a program director at Arc of High Point,” she said. “It’s one of the most successful day programs in Guilford County for adults with IDD.”


Baker said she strongly believes in community but “Guilford County is not my community. They used to call me the Asheboro Girl because this is my town, this is my home, this is where I choose to work and play.”


Joel McClosky of Four Saints Brewing Co. is credited with bringing Baker back to Asheboro, naming her the community liaison with nonprofits. “It was the right spot for me,” Baker said.


Spending so much time with nonprofits, Baker said she “took a passion for learning the nonprofit world. This is who I am.”


With that passion, she took a class in Nonprofit Leadership at Duke University.


Then she met Mitchell.


“Without her, I wouldn’t have applied for the United Way job,” Baker said. “I watched the way she had given unselfishly to the community.”


A major duty of the executive director is marketing for nonprofits. “I love marketing,” Baker said. “People love to get together and do things for each other. I love to plan events to do good in the community.”


And, she loves the backing of the United Way Board of Directors. “They’re so supportive.”


Baker said she’s found that Mitchell has left the organization with an “incredible reputation. The brand is well-known. I just hope to honor the legacy. My first priority is to maintain that and move forward where it makes sense.”


That could mean adding new members to United Way of Randolph County to “move farther down the road.


“This is my dream,” Baker said. “I have wanted to work with and for United Way for years. I’m honored I was considered and chosen for the job.”