They call it an “annual meeting.” But it may be the closest thing a community has to a family meal.
The United Way of the CSRA luncheon Tuesday at the new Augusta Convention Center, as usual, was more celebration than meeting.
The announcement that last year’s fundraising goal of $4.15 million was surpassed – $4,153,921 – was made in a fun, lighthearted presentation. But the fanciful “Mission Possible” theme only thinly obscures the fact that this annual endeavor’s real mission is deadly serious: The funds we raise support 42 programs at 23 nonprofit agencies, all of which the United Way insists upon yielding tangible results for our most vulnerable neighbors.
United Way programs promote health and wellness; strengthen families; provide basic needs; and help at-risk youth not only survive but thrive.
Nor is the United Way movement about money only.
It’s likely you would be eternally humbled by the stories of United Way volunteers, such as Christine “Chris” Edenfield – a truly tireless advocate for Rape Crisis Sexual Assault Services of Augusta. At any time, day or night, she is providing comfort and guidance to women and children victims of sexual violence, as well as their loved ones.
Such volunteers are asked to give 12 hours a month. Ms. Edenfield puts in 60 to 100.
Somehow she also finds the time to be a ray of hope to women prison inmates through Kairos Prison Ministry International, sing in her church choir and serve as a “Pink Lady” volunteer at a local hospital.
She may not have a fancy title. She might not have a corner office. And, except for winning the United Way’s Alvin W. Vogtle Volunteer of the Year Award Tuesday, she’s normally not feted at community gatherings like our politicians and CEOs are.
But we know of no better leader in Augusta. She leads by example. She leads by giving of herself endlessly. She leads – as our own Augusta Chronicle President Dana Atkins urged the luncheon participants to do – by knowing the struggles and strife of the people she leads.
We saw a lot of “family members” at the United Way lunch Tuesday. But Chris Edenfield instantly became one of our favorite relatives.
In presenting her with her award, Randy Johnson, of Southern Nuclear Operating Co., quoted Ralph Waldo Emerson: “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
That’s what the United Way, and people such as Chris Edenfield, are all about.