If you want to feel better about the world, go to a United Way meeting.
If you want to feel better about yourself, give to it.
Though focused on the life-and-death task of helping folks in a world of hurt, the spirit of a United Way meeting – such as the annual campaign kickoff in Augusta last Monday – is so upbeat and festive that this year they chose a carnival theme.
The cheerful trappings aren’t out of place at all. Indeed, helping your fellow man can be one of the most joyous things in life.
Yet all the while, givers and volunteers are ever-mindful of the serious nature of it all. On Monday, the crowd was reminded of that by two United Way success stories.
One is a man named Willie who, once homeless and living out of a car, was helped by the meal, shower, bed and guidance of the local Salvation Army’s Center of Hope. He’s now a married homeowner working for the very Salvation Army that he says saved his life.
The other is Sylvia Beam – a two-year recovering addict and sexual assault survivor saved by Augusta’s Hope House for women with substance and mental health challenges. A product of an alcoholic family, and an anxious youth seduced by the sedative powers of alcohol, Beam told of sinking into despair, joblessness and homelessness – despite being the first in her family to graduate from college, which she did with a 3.2 GPA.
Addiction can be like a flood – creeping up on you so gradually that you’re under water before you know it. And the flood waters can make you feel alone in the world.
Hope House – one of the 24 area human service agencies offering 45 programs made possible by United Way funding – not only plucked Beam out of her rising waters, but found its bright, young development director in the process.
“I was just able to learn how to live life again,” she told the United Way audience, which rose to its feet afterward.
What a beautiful moment. And it’s one that every one of the over 200,000 whom the United Way helps each year should experience. Perhaps they do, in their mind’s eye.
“I don’t know where my life would be if there hadn’t been someone to help me in my time of need,” Beam said.
These agencies, with the United Way’s help, are doing no less than saving lives – just as surely as those emergency responders who’ve been snatching flood victims out of raging Texas waters this past week.
You may think of the United Way as a big institution. And it is. But what is an institution, except a vehicle for real people to get things done? In the case of the United Way, it’s about improving and saving lives.
We’ve been involved in the United Way allocation process, and can tell you with absolute certainty that funds are used frugally, with receiving agencies held to account.
And when you attend a United Way meeting, you realize how easy it is to be a part of something bigger than yourself – as well as the fact that this isn’t about institutions or corporations; it’s about people – our friends, family members or, perhaps, even ourselves.
This year’s United Way goal announced Monday is $3.4 million. For Sylvia, Willie and all of our neighbors in need, please consider joining in, in any way you can.
We promise you, you’ll feel great about it.