The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

January 20, 2014

Thanks for region's generosity

United Way column

By Frank Wood

— People in the southern West Virginia area again have demonstrated their generosity and caring with their contributions to the 2013-2014 United Way of Southern West Virginia fundraising campaign. The community has exceeded its $525,000 fundraising goal.

We want to thank the many companies, agencies, unions, schools, partners and volunteers who made our success possible. It takes a lot of people committed to helping others to achieve such a massive undertaking. We are pleased to have worked with such wonderful groups, enthusiasts and devotees in the community.

We are especially grateful to Executive Director Margaret O’Neal and her staff, Anna Lester and Teresa Kelly, along with Kathy Vance, for their untiring efforts to see that the $525,000 goal was met. Sherrie Hunter, an indefatigable young “Italian Lady,” was an awesome vice chair who provided support and counsel throughout the campaign. And the team of volunteers and advocates that came together to support such an ambitious mission several months ago is to be commended as well.

We also received enormous backing from corporations, individuals from all walks of life, foundations, nonprofit organizations and more. Our southern West Virginia community came together with a resounding vote of confidence and assurance for this year’s drive.

And though we knew from the beginning that this campaign was going to be directed in a tough year, especially with the doubtful economic forecast facing all Americans and a federal government shutdown, we were confident our determined community would overcome any obstacles in our path, keeping our goal of helping others in mind. Given the tenuous economic climate we all face, it is especially heartening that we live in such a thoughtful and unselfish community that cares about and helps each other in times of need.

The public knew from the start that the majority of every dollar the local United Way raises goes back into the community services that help people become healthier and more self-sufficient. Our goal is to advance the common good for everyone.

The campaign this year will provide funds to 34 local nonprofit agencies, aiding residents with programs to improve their health, become financially self-reliant and strengthen the educational success of our young people in the five-county area of Raleigh, Fayette, Wyoming, Summers and Nicholas.

Our distinguished board of directors is extremely pleased and grateful for such remarkable donor support in this year’s campaign. We have a lot to be proud of. But we also face many challenges in the future with the addition of Mercer and McDowell counties, as well as Bluefield, Va., and Bluefield, W.Va., slated to be added to our southern community in 2014-2015. We welcome the challenge of including new networks and families in our circle of United Way partners.

In reality, our children struggle to read and sometimes are not prepared for school, work or life. Hardworking families can barely afford to get by, and many people aren’t able to live healthy lives.

If we want to change our community, we must work together — strategically — to end poverty and help our neighbors build better lives. But we will only prosper and grow if there is a strong education pipeline for our children, if all families are financially stable and if people are healthy and have access to quality health care.

Our aspiration at the United Way is for better lives and better communities. Our mission is to bring together resources to improve the lives of people by helping them achieve their potential for self-sufficiency.

From our earliest beginnings, our resolve stemmed from a need to help others. And for decades the United Way of Southern West Virginia has accomplished this by raising money from the community and allocating to member agencies that provide health and human programs.

Lasting community change means improving lives by identifying the root causes of problems and then working to alleviate or prevent them by influencing community attitudes, networks and organizations.

The needs of our community today are greater than ever. And our success this year is testament to the hard work of so many dedicated leaders, volunteers, businesses, organizations and individuals who are motivated to help others. They made our success possible. They helped countless persons build better lives for themselves and their families by investing in solutions right here at home.

But we know that our work does not end here. There is still much to do, and we will ensure that donor dollars are at work in our community, solving problems and helping needy individuals.

With your help, we will continue to preserve key existing community relationships while forging new partnerships to properly identify core issues, share responsibilities, and ensure lasting, effective change.

We also know that real change will only result from the collective, community-level impact as we invest our resources in a way that will lead to long-term change.

We are confident that we can do just that, because when we join together with a common purpose of improving lives, we move forward as a stronger community.

— United Way of Southern West Virginia 2013-2014 Campaign chair Frank Wood is the publisher of The Register-Herald.