Empire editorial: Living United

Posted: Sunday, October 10, 2010

This week marks the kickoff of the United Way of Southeast Alaska's annual fundraising efforts. It began with several businesses loaning some of their employees for a few hours to participate in the annual Day of Caring. This has become so popular, it has stretched into two days of caring in Juneau.

Volunteers teamed up and went into the community to tackle interior painting projects, shelter re-roofing, bulb planting and much more. All of these projects were chosen with the mission of improving the quality of life for the recipients or to enable social agencies to better serve the needs of the community.

Kick Off Week concludes today at the Red Dog Saloon with Souper Sunday. Local cooks have entered their prized soups, ranging from traditional favorites like potato soup to a good variety of tasteworthy delectables like jambalaya, in a tasting contest. The event begins at noon and admission is merely a non-perishable food donation, or a new or gently-used children's book.

Though Kick Off Week concludes today, the giving campaign is just getting rolling and United Way of Southeast Alaska needs and genuinely appreciates your support. The United Way has partnered with 35 agencies throughout Southeast, targeting three Areas of Care. (A complete list of partner agencies can be found by visiting www.unitedwayseak.org and clicking on the Partner Agencies' tab.)

Health. The United Way works to improve the health and safety of women, children, families and neighborhoods while providing education, counseling and assistance to those seeking self-sufficiency or freedom from substance abuse.

Education. The organization enhances the availability of quality childcare and mentoring services and to promote early childhood development. To expand and encourage programs which involve youth in community services and leadership. Focusing on reading at grade level by the end of the third grade.

Income stability. The group organizes comprehensive health and social services for people experiencing financial instability or crisis and to provide a safety net for those facing hunger or homelessness.

It is all too easy for many of us to be lulled into the false perception our tax dollars already provide for many of these services, but unfortunately this isn't the case. What is fortunate is our local non-profits can do what no federal or state agency can. Through volunteerism, local agencies can stretch your donations to unimaginable lengths. For example, for what it may cost a shelter to contract out to paint a single room, a group of volunteers could paint the entire building. This same extrapolation can be applied to all of the services provided by organizations under the umbrella of the United Way whether it be hospice care or mentoring a child through Big Brothers /Big Sisters. Your direct donation gets far more mileage and reaches the underserved through important, well-managed and much-needed programs.

While Juneau and Southeast have not been impacted by the economic recession at a level many parts of the nation have been experiencing, demand for services has been steadily growing. Recent statistics show 1 in 3 Southeast residents have needed one or more services. With philanthropic foundations seeing the negative impact of the stock market on their investment portfolios, there have been fewer grants and reductions in dollars to those organizations they feel compelled to support. This makes individual giving even more critical and good folks from all walks of life have been answering the call.

As the United Way moves forward with its campaign of giving, please consider giving at a level you feel is right for your circumstance and please know that any amount you give is going to be used here in Southeast and a great deal of good will come from your donation. With the distribution of the Permanent Fund Dividend checks this week, it's serves as a good reminder to consider using the "Pick.Click.Give." feature when filing your PFD application next year. It's a convenient and easy way to help your community.

If you would rather gain a deeper appreciation for the great work that is being done in your community, please consider becoming a volunteer. It doesn't require special skills or a large time commitment. There are opportunities to fit every schedule. If you can read a book, you can help. If you can hold the hand of a child, you can make a difference. If you can sit bedside with someone you've never met and offer comfort and compassion as their body frees them from this Earth, you can experience something life changing.

Please consider a donation in whatever capacity you are able whether of time or money.

Live United. Give United.

• Editor's note: Publisher Mark Bryan sits on the United Way of Southeast Alaska's Board of Directors.

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