A goal bigger than $17 million

For the next two months, all across this great community we’re fortunate to call home, thousands of donors and volunteers and hundreds of local companies will join with United Way of Greenville County to make our community a better place to live and work. 

They will do this by participating in our annual community campaign, which we kicked off Sept. 6 with a goal of raising $17 million for United Way programs and initiatives.

Supporting United Way of Greenville County and this campaign is important because of our unique approach to creating community change. We call it building a Cycle of Success. It starts with the foundation of meeting life’s essentials: food, shelter, health care. But focusing solely on providing those emergency services isn’t enough to create the kind of long-term solutions we need to make a lasting difference.

Instead, our gifts of resources and time are invested in strategies designed to build a Cycle of Success by making sure Greenville County children start school prepared to learn and go on to graduate, that well-educated graduates find good jobs and create stable homes, and children from those stable homes continue the cycle because they start school on track and prepared to learn.

In the past year, more than 132,000 people advanced along the Cycle in one or more of the four key areas: Life Essentials, School Readiness, High School Graduation, or Financial Stability.

That’s a big number, a great statistic, but we don’t lose sight of the fact that the number is made up of real people, facing real hardships, who have been helped by your gifts. Through them, we see the power of the Cycle of Success and the very real impact of our giving.

Through her work with the OnTrack Greenville middle school success initiative at Lakeview Middle School, Rushawnda Olden sees the impact of our generosity every day. As a Communities In Schools student support specialist, she sees talented students with great potential struggle to keep pace when faced with challenges that are often times outside of their control.  

United Way and its OnTrack Greenville partners are addressing those challenges by bringing together teachers, school administrators, health care professionals, nonprofits and community volunteers to identify students with academic, behavior or course performance challenges early and move quickly to address the unique needs of individual students and their families.

“United Way is creating a change in our community,” said Rushawnda. “Through United Way and the OnTrack initiative, my students have hope. With that little piece of hope, they’re seeing a future.”

The work being done in our OnTrack Greenville middle schools is fantastic, but one of the great things about United Way is that’s just one area of a holistic approach to improving our community. 

Over the past year, Meredith Morgan has served as an AmeriCorps member with United Way. She served at Little Steps, a United Way partner that works with young parents and their children. 

Many of them are just a year or two away from their diploma, a diploma that can create a life of success if earned or guarantee a life of poverty if not. Once they become a young parent, their graduation is at stake, but not only that, their children’s future and their readiness to enter school is at stake. 

For every one of the families Meredith serves, your dollars and support are what makes the difference. We are not only preventing or alleviating the poverty many of these young parents face, and what their children would have been forced to face, but we have also changed the future for their children. That’s the power of United Way.

These stories are why I accepted the challenge to lead this year’s campaign and why I believe it’s important for all of us, our entire community, to rally together to make sure that every individual and family reach their full potential and live a safe, successful and thriving life. 

A diverse group of people, businesses and organizations is coming together from across the community to make it happen. 

What we do over the next two months will have a multi-generational impact—not just for the thousands of families who will be helped by United Way and our partners—but our whole community, which will be strengthened by having more children ready for school, more high school graduates, and more financially stable families raising children ready for school.

Seventeen million dollars is a lot of money. It’s a goal that has eluded us for two years, but one I know that, with your help, we can reach 17 for 2017.

The campaign is off to a strong start. Thirty-five “Pacesetter” companies—including United Way and its partner agencies—have already turned in employee pledges totaling more than $3.8 million, or 22 percent of the overall goal. The figure includes four large campaigns—Fluor Corporation, Greenville County Schools, Greenville Health System and Michelin North America—which are still running, but have already raised almost $2.3 million combined. 

If you haven’t yet given, please consider joining with us in helping or community and its future through our support of United Way. 

There are three easy ways for someone to participate: 1) Give through your company’s workplace campaign; 2) Donate online by at unitedwaygc.org/give; or 3) Text “UWGC” to 41444 to access mobile giving.

Together, we will accomplish great things for our community.

 

Jennifer Johnsen, shareholder with Gallivan, White & Boyd, P.A., is chair of this year’s United Way of Greenville County community campaign. To learn more about how you or your company can get involved with the work of United Way, call 864.467.3509.