United Way agencies give hope to the CSRA

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In December 2010, I retired from Savannah River Site. To my surprise, I received a call a few months ago from Savannah River Nuclear Solutions asking if I would work again – that is, to work as a “loaned professional” for United Way of the CSRA.

Technically, a loaned professional is someone sponsored by a company to work for United Way during its campaign season. To be more precise, though, it is someone who is handed a life-changing experience.

SRNS GRACIOUSLY agreed to be my sponsor and afford me this opportunity. For more than 40 years, I have given and participated in United Way’s campaign drives. I thought I was well-versed in its history. However, I learned how little I really knew. The old dog learned some new facts.

I had looked upon United Way as an agency that does great things by ensuring that many folks in the CSRA are given a hand up in improving their lives – helping folks get back on track and able to move on in life.

Our United Way is now based at the Kroc Center. I grew up near the Harrisburg community, so I enjoyed seeing how the coming of the Kroc Center had brought new life to this area. As I worked day to day with United Way, I realized that where United Way is located also is what United Way is. Just as the Kroc Center has given new life and hope to Harrisburg, United Way gives new life and hope to so many of our fellow CSRA residents.

THE KEY TO TRULY understanding the real United Way is the agencies. Before I go any further, I challenge everyone reading this message to call United Way – (706) 724-5544 – and schedule an agency visit to tour and hear about its programs. Anyone accepting this challenge truly will be moved.

The agencies are led by people with true compassion for their work. What a great attribute this is in today’s cold corporate atmosphere. In each agency, I felt that the leadership was qualified to be in a better paying position. I soon learned that these people are truly led to serve. Their demeanor and zeal in their presentations and their excitement to lead tours reveal that they have a wonderful gift. They truly love what they do.

After being with these leaders, we had the joy of seeing what they do – which reveals why they love it. I saw babies in a safe-environment daycare being loved on by “volunteer grandmas.” I saw challenged adults laughing as they worked each day on productive, paying jobs refinishing furniture. There were young adults, literally just off the streets, ready to go to work with new skills that will allow them to have jobs, raise their kids and have self-esteem.

ONE LADY, WHO is the only full-time worker at her agency, has rallied the neighborhood to volunteer for after-school programs. This one person is making a huge contribution by loving and leading. Others offer counseling and encouragement to physically and sexually abused children and their families. These young victims have a great chance for recovery if they can get this type of help. Otherwise, they will suffer for the remainder of their lives from this assault.

Amid a “tough” neighborhood, one leader glowed as she relayed to us the graduation rate of the children in another after-school program.

I read a powerful poster at one agency: “The cost for a child in this program is $1,300 a year. The typical incarceration cost is $252,000.” Please take a minute and let that sink in. If you make this program strictly an investment, how powerful is that statement? When you realize that it is teenage lives we are talking about, it becomes truly amazing.

May I close with an earlier statement? Call United Way of the CSRA – (706) 724-5544 – and ask for an agency tour. Be forewarned – your life will be changed.

Remember, every contribution counts! Please check out United Way of the CSRA’s website at www.uwcsra.org for more information about your United Way!

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soapy_725 12/02/12 - 11:56 am
UW does some good. No challenge.

The agency members and how the money is divided is an issue. The fact that the head of the UW organization makes about $900K per year. Who is their corporate sponsor? Why does a charity need a paid leader? Is that individual more valuable than the score of unpaid volunteers who sponsor themselves. Those volunteers who give their time, money and energy to do good. Why does someone who does not need $900K per year not volunteer? Surely there are enough corporate executives who would willingly speak to other unpaid volunteers.

Boy & Girl Scouts. They get a greater percentage than a school that works with cripple children or disabled adults. Why? Because the criteria is set by governmental guidelines associated with the "number served, no need served". Who is more in need of charity? Boy Scouts or Cripple Children? Who do we see in the "give money adds and on the buck slips"? Cripple children.

If you designate your entire donation to a singe agency, say, one you feel truly helps those in need and that contribution exceeds their allotment from UW, bingo, the budget sends t hose excess funds to someone else.

It is again, a system that does some forms of charity. Some monies make it to those in real need. But where the rubber meets the road, it is still just another business that handles other people's money and skims a portion from the top for administrative expense, capital property investments, salaries and "donation drives and solicitations".

Kick off luncheons and glad hands all around for executives luncheons who are timed to exclude the "real volunteers" round out the picture. We did our "do dilgence" for the little people. God bless us all.

Gary Ross
Gary Ross 12/03/12 - 05:05 pm
Great article, but...

Great article Richard, but see if you can change the United Way's stand on allowing gay leaders into an already safe and protected program! Do that, and restore the funding they once passed on to the Boy Scouts of America, and I may become a believer again. I still don't see how a non-profit organization could dictate how another non-profit organization runs it's program.

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