I am a new board member for the United Way of Jefferson & North Walworth Counties, and I am honored to serve this organization. To me, United Way is about providing equitable access to opportunity for all of our people, whether it be through early education, promoting well-being, job training, or something as simple, and yet essential, as transportation. The preamble to the U.S. Constitution states “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union…promote the general Welfare”, our pledge of allegiance talks of “liberty and justice for all” and Emma Lazarus’ poem at the Statue of Liberty says “Give me your tired, your poor…send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” Giving through United Way allows us to work toward achieving the founding ideals of our nation, fulfilling those promises we made to each other, and lifting one another up that we may all “secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity”. In short, it is about being neighborly, and helping each other.
Too often we lose sight of that ideal of equality in our effort to carve out a life for ourselves, and those in need are left behind. The United Way pillar grants help restore some of that access. Programs like Jefferson County’s Community Outreach/Wraparound and the Recovery Support Center’s Train the Trainer Recovery Coaches will provide life-saving support and addiction recovery for community members who may not otherwise be able to afford it. St. Coletta’s Genesis Project and the Jefferson County’s Literacy Council’s Communication Skills for Employment Workshop will provide job training to improve opportunities for populations that may otherwise be neglected. Whitewater LEADS will provide the Dolly Parton Imagination Library to any child in the community, opening up new worlds and ideas and promoting literacy. Other supported programs promote healthy eating and outdoor activity, financial literacy, and social and emotional learning, all things focused on increasing the well-being of our community.
Many of the donors to United Way are people from the middle walk-of-life, people who hold jobs that are enough to get them by and provide for their families, but know that life can be unpredictable and understand the value of a helping hand. Not everyone has a family that can lend support in times of trouble or has the expertise to plan a path forward. I had an older brother with learning disabilities who went off the rails when faced with imminent graduation from high school. My parents were at a loss as to how to proceed; when I got involved with United Way, my mother told me it was United Way that provided a solution and enrolled him in a program that could provide him with the support and training he needed to make that transition. Many of us are indebted to United Way in ways we don’t even realize, and by supporting United Way programs either through contributions or volunteering, we are paying back the helping hand of our community.
Outreach Operations Manager, University of Wisconsin Whitewater