One of the many things I enjoy about my job is that I interact almost exclusively with people who choose to do what they can to make the world a better place. They volunteer, share stories of hope and ideas for change, vocally support systems and policies that benefit the common good, and they make financial investments in work that improves lives and communities. They do this according to their means and abilities. Some of these people you know; some you will never know; and likely one of them is you.
United Way is known best by its annual campaign – the communitywide fund raising appeal. In the 21st century, the United Way system has been working to broaden that appeal by focusing on the invitation to GIVE – ADVOCATE – VOLUNTEER. We see our role in the community today as a connection to opportunities to build a better community.
The annual campaign officially launched Sept. 17 with many on hand to show support and encourage others. This year we have developed a suite of volunteer opportunities for individuals and teams that tie directly to our work in the areas of early childhood development, financial stability and improving health.
Like the three focuses of engagement, our resources are directed to the three keys to quality of life: education, income, health. With many community partners, we are working on two broad goals: 1) children enter school ready to learn at grade level; 2) low-income working families have the skills to improve employment opportunities and manage and build financial resources. We also support programs that address health access, physical fitness, good nutrition and avoidance of high risk behaviors.
Of course, the primary focus during the fall campaign is on giving. But we understand that a gift is an investment in the community, so we calculated our return on that investment last year and found that for every $1 donated to United Way of Madison County, $2 was invested into the community. The local campaign provides us the opportunity to raise matching dollars and to partner with other organizations that have granted us direct funds or connected us to services that we can offer locally.
The scope of United Way in Madison County is broad, touching thousands of lives. A lot of things have changed over the years, including the size of our campaign and our community, but a constant is that United Way is the largest and most impactful community building activity here. We have been bigger, and with your help, we can be bigger again.
“Be the One” is our call to Live United. Rich Harwood calls it The Work of Hope. I hope our invitation changes lives for people who haven’t experienced the satisfaction of joining a cause or community effort. Are you the ONE?
Nancy Vaughan is president of United Way of Madison County Inc. Her column appears the fourth Sunday of each month.