Wilson Cherry: United Way a priceless resource

Published 9:19 pm Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Here’s how to get the most bang for your charity buck

By Wilson Cherry

Special to the Salisbury Post

There I was, enjoying a vacation by choice for the first time in many years, without an accident or injury. No phone. No messages or text. No bills or smell of cigarettes. I was just beginning to get my groove on. Then I hear the breaking news on the radio, “Hurricane Harvey hits Houston.”

Having spent over 30 years in radio, the distressed, vivid description of the destruction and devastation brought me to tears even before I could witness the impact on television. My whole mindset began to change from the joy and peace of the anticipated break from my daily routine to the pain of seeing my fellow human beings suffering. Then, suddenly, I was overcome with emotion and began pondering, “What about the emergency readiness of Salisbury and Rowan County? What would we do?”

Quickly the reality set in that in the twinkling of an eye it could be the likes of Katrina in New Orleans, Harvey in Houston or Hugo in Rowan County. Whether it’s the unexpected drama in Milwaukee, Charlotte or Charlottesville, we need to be adequately prepared for natural disasters or unexpected emergencies.

No epiphany, prophecy or major revelation happened. Common sense kicked in — pray.

Then call Rowan County United Way; where the 16 local agencies would be “all hands on deck” to collaborate, share and work together in whatever manner necessary.

No matter whether it’s a factory having a major layoff or closing, fires, floods, domestic violence or the need for assistance to care for a disabled child or an elderly adult, one of the 16 agencies is generally there to assist. For when catastrophic events occur, there is no race, creed or color when it comes to fulfilling human service needs. It does not matter if you are a Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Muslim, agnostic, atheist or some other faith or philosophy; we all rally to help each other rise above the calamity.

Just a few of the other examples of how resources and volunteers are utilized include, but are not limited to:

The Arc of Rowan Summer Day Program which provides students with developmental disabilities the opportunity to attend camp to be involved in numerous community activities while giving them academic support. This also allows their parents or guardians the ability to continue work and not be concerned about the well-being of their loved ones.

The Community Guide Program helps link individuals and families with programs and services in the community where they can find assistance, resources and support.

The Salvation Army is active year round; however, one of their major projects each year is the Red Kettle Fund and coordination of the Rowan County Christmas Bureau, which provides for many families each year who otherwise would be struggling to have a happy holiday.

• United Way and the local Rowan Rotary collaborate to sponsor “Service Above Self” which annually honors, recognizes and inspires elementary, middle and high school students who go above and beyond their daily activities to assist and serve others.

• When the Literacy Council taught a young lady to read so that she could follow directions in a recipe in order to cook her husband a homemade meal, it was a major milestone.

Counseling and support for domestic violence victims, support to help keep young people in school — as well as being a conduit and pathway for many other services and resources — is directed by a small, committed, dedicated United Way staff which includes Melissa Robbins, Jackie Harris and Bob Lippard.

Working in an environment where I have had the pleasure and privilege to serve and train individuals with developmental disabilities has been very rewarding for me. The key word in our agency’s name — Rowan Vocational Opportunities — is “Opportunities.” It is the catalyst for promoting our consumers’ capabilities, rather than their disabilities.

I am very thankful to have been a recipient, volunteer and donor of United Way services. So, if you want to get the most “bang” for your charity buck, the United Way is the way to go. In addition to funding, the United Way assures financial accountability, transparency and program effectiveness.

I appeal to everyone. It’s a small price to pay, but it produces big dividends. Any size contribution will be an investment toward improving the quality of lives in our community.

Wilson R. Cherry is director of community affairs for Rowan Vocational Opportunities Inc.