The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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November 5, 2012

Tree votes will help community

United Way column

BECKLEY — Once again the ribbon has been cut to open this year’s edition of Wonderland of Trees. Fifty-four beautifully decorated trees are now on display in the Lewis Automotive Suzuki showroom through Nov. 16. Doors are open daily Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m.

Thursday night, Lewis Automotive and the Beckley Raleigh County Chamber of Commerce hosted a preview Business After Hours to kick off this year’s showcase. More than 100 people came out to get the first look at the trees as well as enjoy great food and drink provided by Brian Williams and his team at Pasquale’s.

Winning the People’s Choice award is one of the coveted prizes of the Wonderland of Trees. It’s a treat to sit back and listen at each team’s plan to get people to make those $1 votes.

This year the world can vote as well by going to the United Way’s website at www.unitedwayswv.org. All trees will be photographed and listed so anyone can make donation votes toward that tree winning the People’s Choice award.

I can’t express enough thanks to everyone who has worked tirelessly to put this year’s event together. As we all know, our communities are still trying to recover from the effects of the blizzard and to listen to what challenges they have overcome to pull this together in time for our opening is overwhelming!

Remember to come out and see the trees at Lewis Automotive.

How does this all get pulled off?

I want to take this opportunity to talk about someone who is the one person who makes everything that goes on with the United Way of Southern West Virginia possible. Margaret Ann O’Neal works harder than anyone I’ve ever been around! It’s one thing to work hard for yourself, but that’s not what she does — she is working that hard for the people of southern West Virginia.

Please indulge me for just a minute to give you a snapshot of what one of her days looks like. Wednesday when the entire community was still covered in snow, she was one of those residents of Fayette County who had no power. She got up and drove to Beckley to take a shower and get dressed for a meeting that she had to attend in Charleston by 10 a.m., then she returned to Beckley to meet with the various teams that were coming to decorate their trees. And those teams kept coming in until 10 p.m.

Margaret is always quick to give credit to her unbelievable team that works with her. Anna, Teresa, and Kathy are always there to make sure every event and appointment go off without a hitch.

An example of what they do every day was on that same Wednesday, Teresa was working in the office past office hours and at around 6 p.m. she received a call from a woman who was coming into town on a bus that was arriving at 11:30 p.m. and all she wanted was transportation to the Pine Haven homeless shelter (one of the 32 agencies the United Way supports). And the question that has to be asked is, “What if someone wasn’t there to take that call?”

The Goal

I always want to share with each of you our financial goal for this year. Our goal is $500,000 to support the needs of those 32 agencies in Raleigh, Fayette, Nicholas, Summers and Wyoming counties. And I have to tell you that goal is NOT ENOUGH to help meet all the needs that the United Way gets requests for daily.

So please come out to see the trees, vote for your favorite, then come out to the auction on Nov. 16 at 5:30 p.m. because it is those dollars that will go a long way toward us meeting and exceeding our goal of $500,000

And as always, remember to Live and Give United!

— United Way of Southern West Virginia 2012-2013 Campaign chair Richard Jarrell owns the two Chick-fil-A franchises in Beckley and is a member of the Raleigh County Board of Education.

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