Most often when the end of a year approaches, we take stock of what we have accomplished, consider the things we wish we had done differently, and look forward to the next year with hope, planning to make better choices, to improve ourselves through lifestyle changes, and a commitment to learning new things or taking advantage of opportunities.  Some people succeed in these undertakings, while others return to old habits, but the common theme among all is hope.

As we reflect on 2020, it would be easy to be overwhelmed by the challenges of the pandemic, quarantines, and the economic and personal trials that most of the world has experienced. But, if we instead focus on the incredible dedication of essential workers, the many people lending help to their neighbors, and a persistent hopefulness that is true of human nature, we can look forward to 2021 as we have looked forward every December to a new start in a new year.  

At the United Way of Southern West Virginia, we partner with agencies and people who make changes in the lives of their clients every day. Child advocacy centers are child-friendly locations that provide coordinated efforts in the aftermath of child abuse. Senior centers provide home-delivered meals, support groups, and social services to a vulnerable population. Food pantries distribute assistance to families struggling with hunger. Baby pantries support parents in raising healthy children during times of need. Recovery programs provide individualized treatment to build and practice skills and avoid triggers. Family refuge centers and resource centers offer emergency housing, counseling, and support to victims and survivors of physical and sexual abuse.  Literacy programs offer meals and tutoring in a nurturing environment to students from low-income families.  

Our direct programs, the Equal Footing Shoe Fund and our 211 Information and Referral Hotline, also extend hope.  Our Equal Footing Shoe Fund gives a pair of new, athletic-style footwear to children in need, providing the opportunity to be on equal footing with their friends and classmates, safely participating in school without the risk, worry and stigma associated with worn, ill-fitting or weather-inappropriate shoes.  Marsha Shonk, our information and referral specialist, works to connect callers with resources to alleviate their need, giving hope for assistance to our neighbors who are unaware of local resources.

These programs and others supported by the United Way make a great impact to our local community on a daily basis. For many, the hope begins not at the start of a new year or on a Monday or at the first of a new month, but in a partnership with local agencies that extend life-changing support or services. 

Choosing to live, give, and lead UNITED will help us continue supporting the local agencies making an impact in southern West Virginia. Please consider an end-of-the-year donation by visiting unitedwayswv.org, calling 304-253-2111, or mailing a donation to PO Box 5456, Beckley, WV 25801.  

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