Why should people support their local United Way?
I had that question on my mind 40 years ago, when I went to my first United Way meeting.
It was a 20-minute standup meeting for all employees at the newspaper my family owned in Monroe, Mich. I was in my first full-time job with the company, and my co-workers told me the meeting was not optional.
At the meeting, I watched as my dad, president of the company, spoke to everyone with obvious sincerity about the importance of giving to United Way. And I watched as one of our printers stepped forward to tell everyone how his family had been helped out of a tough jam, thanks to a United Way agency.
Dad made it clear that it was up to each individual whether to give or not, and that he wouldn’t be checking to see who did. But he said he felt the United Way was so indispensable in our community that he wanted people to hear the message on company time.
Later, I asked my dad why he thought the United Way was so important. He explained that United Way was the one agency in town that looked across the entire community to see what was needed and provide the funding. And he said he had served as a volunteer on United Way committees that reviewed agency programs and budgets to make sure they were really meeting people’s needs – and cost-effectively. He’d seen it firsthand.
And not only that – he also told me that he and my mother “probably give more than most people” to United Way because they wanted to be sure help was there for the people of our community when they needed it.
I started that year to “give more than most people,” and I’ve done it ever since.
But I regret to say that it took me decades longer to become a volunteer with United Way . Two years ago, I submitted my name as a volunteer with United Way of the CSRA. Now I’ve served on United Way committees through two campaigns.
I’ve made site visits at UW-funded agencies, where I’ve met the dedicated people who meet local needs. I’ve helped organize the fundraising campaigns at my company in Augusta. And last year, I served on one of the review committees that examine agency budgets, services and funding requests.
Finally I can say from my own experience that my dad was right.
Thanks, Dad – sorry it took me so long!
And I can add one more thing: There’s nothing like hearing the personal story of someone who has gotten back on his or her feet through a United Way-funded program. Then, you know that your dollars are there when they’re needed, making a real difference in people’s lives.
If you would like to give to this year’s United Way campaign, you may give online at www.uwcsra.org, mail a check to P.O. Box 1724, Augusta, GA 30903, or call 706-724-5544 to donate using a credit card.
The writer is vice president of strategy, Morris Communications.