The United Way of the CSRA kicked off its annual fund-raising campaign last fall with a festive football-themed rally.
With the Super Bowl just a week away, let's keep that allegory going. It's the fourth quarter for United Way -- and they need your help to push them to victory.
The charity organization has achieved about 80 percent of this year's $4.2 million goal. Getting to 100 percent is up to us.
Where will all that money go? Where won't it go? The local United Way funds 40 human services programs in 15 counties in Georgia and South Carolina.
Funded programs train disaster volunteers. They provide shelter for domestic violence victims and the homeless. They run an in-home senior companion program. They operate the only food pantry in the CSRA that serves victims of HIV and AIDS, and their families.
Disadvantaged kids can participate in Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts. Young mothers and fathers just making their way in the world can take advantage of classes that teach life skills and better parenting. Middle- and high-school pupils can pursue youth service programs to forge them into better leaders.
There are initiatives that teach job skills to those eager to learn, and offer jobs to people with disabilities. There's a crucial crisis hotline. Day camps. Summer camps. Free dinners 365 days a year for the hungry.
And don't worry about your sincere donation skipping town. More than 95 cents of every dollar donated in the Augusta area stays in the Augusta area.
"United Way is truly thankful to receive any amount of contribution, no matter what size the gift," said Rina Powell, senior director of resource development for the United Way of the CSRA. "Although Augusta has not been adversely affected due to our current economic situation like the rest of the state and nation, our campaigns have dropped during the last two years and needs in our community have increased."
The United Way knows people don't have as much money to spare as they have in past years. But the organization also remembers its roots. Locally it dates to 1936, the depths of the Great Depression. Sprung out of hard times. United Way helps others get through hard times.
"Community needs are outpacing resources, and many donors who have supported United Way for years now find themselves needing services from the very programs they have helped support," Powell said.
An easy way to give is through your workplace, and employee campaigns are a hugely important component of United Way giving. A one-time chunk out of your paycheck can be a tough hit these days, but a small amount over a longer period of time can yield immense dividends in the community.
"I recently heard from an employee of a grocery store who said United Way impacted her family several years ago, and she will continue giving as long as she can," Powell said.
United Way's campaign ends Feb. 22, when it will announce the total dollars raised. So you still have time either to call United Way of the CSRA at (706) 724-5544, or donate online at www.uwcsra.org.
Any amount you can give will be welcomed as a blessing, but reaching the $4.2 million goal truly will continue Augusta's proud, benevolent tradition of reaching out to help others.