Last updated: February 16. 2013 5:52PM - 649 Views

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FORTY THOUSAND. It's a big number.

Yet 40,000 is the number of people who were helped or supported in some fashion by your donations to the United Way of Wyoming Valley last year. This means one out of every seven of us who lives in the Wyoming Valley is being touched by the kindness and generosity of those who support the United Way.

While it is unfortunate that such need exists in our community, it is not surprising. The economic climate, an unemployment rate that is higher than the state and national averages, financial crises at every level of the public sector and last year's flooding impacted many of us. We all know family members, friends, neighbors and co-workers who might have needed help. Sadly, equally large numbers continue to need help.

I have been at the United Way for seven months and my first campaign as a professional is upon me. In preparation, I have met with hundreds of donors, volunteers, partners and service recipients since January. I have done a lot of listening and heard stories of why so many people contribute their time and resources, or what help is still needed and what challenges individuals, families and children still face.

Even though I still have a lot to learn, my appreciation for the critical and difficult work of the United Way continues to grow. The conviction we have for a better Wyoming Valley is stronger than ever.

Among our many dreams, we envision a community in which every child enters school ready to learn and where the elderly can age with dignity and have the support they need in their golden years.

We imagine a time when vulnerable individuals are no longer in the desperate grip of homelessness or addiction and when all families can earn a sustainable income so that all have access to affordable housing, health care and good nutrition.

We are hopeful that the lines to the soup kitchen or other social services will be shorter in the future and that today's generation of children will have an even greater opportunity to succeed as they travel life's journey.

None of us can eliminate the barriers to a better tomorrow or battle social problems alone. The origin of the United Way system dates back 125 years when leaders got together to involve the whole community in solving the most pressing problems of the day. Much has changed since then, but the emphasis on community and the goal of being united are the ideals we still continue to value and strive toward.

As we work to fulfill the meaningful mission of the United Way, we do so with efficiency and effectiveness. It would not be possible for all 25 of the agencies funded last year to raise on their own what they receive annually from the United Way process. The United Way of Wyoming Valley works hard to keep costs of fundraising as low as possible and, above all else, we ensure donated dollars are used as intended. Agencies that receive funding are well-screened and accountable to the outcomes leading to improved conditions for those who are served.

Our community needs a strong and well-supported United Way. This year, we hope more donors are inspired to help their neighbors and others in need by investing in the work of the United Way. Some 40,000 people continue to need help and will be grateful for your support.

Among our many dreams, we envision a community in which every child enters school ready to learn and where the elderly can age with dignity and have the support they need in their golden years.

Bill Jones is the president and CEO of the United Way of Wyoming Valley. He can be reached at 829-671 1 ext. 230.

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