IMAGINE GETTING a frantic phone call at work from your spouse telling you that 9-1-1 was just called because sparks were spewing from an outlet in your child's bedroom, black smoke was visible in the hallway and the smell of something burning was beginning to fill the house.
That was the scare I received this past Halloween and, unfortunately, it wasn't a trick. I rushed out of a United Way meeting and by the time I arrived home I was greeted by three very responsive volunteer fire companies on the street in front of my house.
To my great relief, whatever caused the electrical surge when the power was restored to our home after Hurricane Sandy created only minor damage, and the electricians were able to identify the problem, fix it and get us back in our house before bedtime.
While this incident could have been much worse, I certainly feel very fortunate that it wasn't. Yet, for a while, it was scary and numbing. As I drove home I kept thinking what will we do if ...? The sense of being vulnerable and in need was almost paralyzing.
As my family and I experienced, any one of us could be at-risk or in need at any time – you just never know what the future will bring. Last year, 40,000 Wyoming Valley residents, one in seven of us, had a need and were served by the dollars donated to the United Way. For many recipients, I am sure, it is a very humbling and anxious position to be in.
At the United Way of Wyoming Valley, we are beginning to wrap up the 2012 annual campaign. Raising money, especially in this economic climate, is tremendously challenging. I have written in the past about our goal and the reality is that our mission is much deeper than merely raising money. Our ultimate goal is to meet and reduce the needs faced by so many of us and advance the common good for all. Raising money, while critically important, is the means to an end – building a better, stronger community to call home.
Through the United Way, donors support at-risk children, fragile families, the elderly, those people impacted by mental illness, addiction or homelessness, the unemployed, the impoverished, those in crisis, people with disabilities and many others. Last year, in fact, 46 programs were funded with dollars raised through the United Way. That speaks to the significant but unfortunate volume of need that exists locally.
The only way we can succeed at reducing the needs that challenge our community is if we all support each other. It is a well-researched statistic that 85 percent of the people who do not give to a cause do not give because they were never asked.
If you are reading this, know that on behalf of our community, we're asking for your help. Please call me at the number below or visit our website, www.unitedwaywb.org, to find out how.
For me, filling out a pledge card is more than making a donation, it is making a statement – a statement that says you want to be part of a community that cares about its neighbors and are willing help to make the Wyoming Valley even better.
As we head toward the Thanksgiving holiday, I am reminded of the well-known German theologian Meister Eckhart, who centuries ago said, If the only prayer you ever said was ‘thank you,' that would be enough.
My prayer, if you will, for those people who support the United Way's mission to impact lives and for those in our community who care enough to come to the aid of others is simple and I can only hope it is enough. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.
Bill Jones is the president and CEO of the United Way of Wyoming Valley. He can be reached at 829-671 1 ext. 230.