Editorial: United Way touches many

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 19, 2011

Steve Fisher took a civic group through a telling exercise this week as he talked about leading this fall’s Rowan County United Way campaign.
He asked people to stand up — first if they had ever served on the United Way board, then if they had been on the allocations committee, then if they had worked on a campaign. Finally, he asked people to stand up if they’d ever contributed to United Way. Gradually, individual after individual stood up until no one was left seated. Everyone had helped in some way.
Fisher launched into the sitting down part of the exercise. Sit down if you’ve ever been in a car accident and had the Rescue Squad come to your aid. Sit down if you know someone with Alzheimer’s Disease who has been to Abundant Living. Sit down if you or someone in your family has participated in activities at Rufty-Holmes Senior Center — or received blood from the Red Cross or learned life lessons through Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts.
The 100-plus men and women in the room sat down quickly, until only one was left standing.
Fisher asked if he or anyone in his family had used the YMCA, and the last person sat down.
The message hit home. The United Way touches many lives in Rowan County, and not just by asking for money each year. All told there are 16 United Way agencies, and they serve the community in even more ways than Fisher described in the exercise he used with the Salisbury Rotary Club Tuesday.
This Saturday Communities in Schools will distribute school supplies to hundreds — maybe thousands — of students.
The Arc of Rowan advocates for the mentally handicapped in several ways, including a summer camp.
The Salvation Army provides food, clothing and other necessities for families that have fallen on hard times.
The Family Crisis Council helps victims of rape and abuse and provides shelter.
The Adolescent and Family Enrichment Council works to prevent teen pregnancy.
Meals on Wheels uses an army of volunteers to deliver hot lunches to 200 homes each weekday.
The Rowan Literacy Council helps adults pick up the reading skills they missed as children.
The Rowan County Youth Services Bureau helps teens at risk of getting on the wrong track change direction.
The 211 service shares information about where to get help with health and human service needs 24/7.
And Rowan Vocational Workshop puts people to work who, because of limitations in physical or mental abilities, cannot get jobs in the public workplace. As client Anthony Gillespie told the group Tuesday, “I hooked up with a good company I can rely on and trust.”
The United Way is a group effort, but it’s really about individuals — each donor making a gift to help individuals in the community, from the person who gets a job to the person who works out at the Y.
The campaign kicks off Sept. 2. Start thinking about what United Way means to you.