The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

November 25, 2013

Generous people impacting education, income, health

United Way column

By Frank Wood

— Poverty is the single greatest threat to individual human development in the United States and around the world.

Unless institutions and citizens take steps now to reduce and prevent poverty, we will face a horrific future that can be measured in countless numbers of destroyed lives, communities and institutions.

Research shows that poverty and inequality are responsible for adults often being too stressed out to parent well; inadequate access to nourishing food, clean water, and sanitation; dilapidated housing, homelessness, and dangerous communities; schools unable to educate children to read, write and think for themselves; conflict, crime, and violence; few work opportunities and low pay for jobs that do exist; daily struggles to manage personal, family and financial chaos; and risks for premature birth and early death.

Ultimately, poverty and inequality engender hopelessness, helplessness, and misery, and they tear at the social fabric of families and communities.

For children who grow up in poverty, risks for adverse outcomes far outweigh those experienced by children of more affluent families.

Research also shows that inequality in society is harmful to all citizens. More unequal societies have higher rates of most social problems, including violent crime, poor health, mental illness, low educational attainment, teen births, and lack of social mobility. Communities with greater inequality tend to have higher levels of these same social ills. Therefore, reducing poverty and inequality not only benefits the poor. It also leads to a better life for those who are relatively more well off.

The United Way of Southern West Virginia is helping to solve these and other similar social problems. However, the positive results are not happening by chance, but by choice, because generous people have invested in the United Way to make an impact on education, income and health.

Your gift of any size can make a difference. A contribution of $1, $5 $10, $25, $50, $100, $250 or more is combined with those from area businesses and industry along with those from your friends, neighbors and family to tackle tough community issues and find effective solutions.

Our community prospers when students graduate prepared for work, career or college; families achieve financial stability; and everyone leads healthy lives.

Deciding how your charitable donation can make the greatest impact can be challenging. At the United Way of Southern West Virginia, including the counties of Raleigh, Wyoming, Fayette, Nicholas and Summers, we understand the problems of our local people.

Every day, we work with community leaders, 34 nonprofit agencies and engaged citizens — people just like you — to make tough decisions about how to have the greatest impact on our community’s most critical issues.

As your United Way, we work for you — listening, compiling data, leading community discussions, motivating and inspiring volunteers, organizing collaborative efforts, and pursuing resources and partners to implement strategies that deliver measurable results.

What is more, the United Way of Southern West Virginia brings donors, partners and resources together to help people in our five-county area to tackle complex issues that no individual or single agency could solve alone.

We ask you to join us in raising this year’s annual goal of $525,000. Your continued and generous support helps family, friends and neighbors when they need help.

To volunteer or make a contribution, call 304-253-2111.

— United Way of Southern West Virginia 2013-2014 Campaign Chair Frank Wood is publisher of Beckley newspapers.