By Frank Wood
January is the time of year that we at the United Way of Southern West Virginia gather our thoughts and reflect upon the people, experiences and things in our lives and show gratitude.
We want you to know how much we appreciate all you do to help us create lasting change in our community. You play a valuable role in helping kids and families succeed. Thank you for all you do.
And if you haven’t already, we challenge you to reflect today. Think about the comforts we take for granted. Ask yourself how you can make our world, our country, and our community a better place.
Imagine what could be achieved if we all served in some way. It is an amazing thing to sacrifice a part of ourselves for the common good.
Today, we celebrate those who have chosen to make it their life’s work to help others; for it takes the whole community working together to change our social conditions for the better.
People in our community are making a difference by taking part, volunteering and giving their time and energy, working together, to build a brighter future for everyone.
Raising money and funding our 34 partner agencies is only the first step that the United Way of Southern West Virginia is taking to make things healthier for us all. We know that just meeting urgent needs is not enough — achieving an impact means involving everyone, bringing people together from all walks of life and mobilizing groups and businesses to achieve our common goals.
When we work together, we’re changing the conditions of not just individuals but neighborhoods as well — it’s what we call Community Impact and it’s what these stories illustrate:
A mother of three supports her family on the $900 a month she earns as a waitress at a local restaurant.
Another young woman works at night for $8 an hour, takes morning classes at a local community college and picks up her children in the afternoon.
A 34-year-old mother of two works two part-time jobs for minimum wage, not enough to cover her $1,200 in monthly bills that include rent, baby-sitting fees, medical bills and utility bills, not to mention gasoline and upkeep for her 14-year-old vehicle.
These are common stories in southern West Virginia, a struggling area of once-fiercely independent mountaineers who would rather starve than take a handout from the government or charity organization. Now the region has earned the unwelcome distinction of having the largest share of its residents living in poverty, according to new Census Bureau data.
All across our region, every single day, stories and tales of the poor reach our volunteers and staff at the office of the United Way, where individuals in our community are working together to improve conditions for everyone.
And as our United Way staff and many volunteers will tell you, there are lots of ways to lend a helping hand in making southern West Virginia a place where all individuals and families can achieve their human potential through education, income stability and healthy lives.
Our goal of $525,000 is ambitious, but with your help, and by utilizing our core strengths — a network of committed partners — we will succeed.
Making a tax-deductible pledge to the United Way is quick and easy and can be done either online (http://unitedwayswv.org), through a simple call (304-253-2111) or to our United Way office (P.O. Box 5456, Beckley, WV 25801).
— United Way of Southern West Virginia 2013-2014 Campaign chair Frank Wood is the publisher of The Register-Herald.