Editorial: Give to have a ‘perfect’ day

This Thursday and Saturday, about 600 volunteers will fan out across the county in the annual Days of Caring event that launches the fund-raising campaign for the United Way of Addison County. The goal remains the same, $775,000, as it has been over the past couple of years, but the challenges are bigger than ever: on top of a lackluster economy that has yet to recover from the Great Recession of 2007-08, are disaster relief efforts to help those individuals and communities devastated by the flooding of Tropical Storm Irene.
But while both events weigh heavily on people’s pocketbooks, they also stir the heart — and for good reason: there are necessities that desperately need to be filled.
“The good news,” said United Way Co-Director Kate McGowan, ”is people really do want to respond to that (the Irene disaster relief fund), and it’s raised giving to a really broad level. The scary part for us is does that mean that people will not have enough to give to the things that go on every day in our communities. So we’re really trying to remind folks it’s wonderful to give to this big, important, overwhelming cause… (but) there is a real immediacy of what has to go on in our local communities too.”
For those area residents who loyally give to the campaign, and make it their single largest contribution of the year, they know the role the United Way plays is, in a word, priceless.
“The United Way is the perfect way to give back to the community,” said Rob Alberts, chairman of this year’s campaign, “because it is the only organization that has a bird’s-eye view of all the immediate needs of the community and the best ways to meet them.”
For those not so familiar with the organization, a quick primer shows that it partners with more than 30 agencies in Addison County, raises a significant portion of some of those agencies’ budgets, and employs an allocation committee that directs open funds to the agencies with the greatest needs for each respective year. Donations, of course, can also be made to a specific agency or agencies of the donor’s choice.
For those who have more time than money, the United Way offers many ways for volunteers to contribute their time (see story on Page 3), including two new programs: the Everybody Wins reading program at Middlebury’s Mary Hogan Elementary School, which matches adults with fourth-grade students on a long-term weekly basis; and a shorter-term program that seeks adults to help supervise tax preparation sites at which eligible people can fill out forms and apply for Earned Income Tax Credits. McGowan says that only about half of Vermonters who are eligible for the tax credits, which can be worth from $1,500 to $3,000, apply for them.
But this is the pedantic approach to the annual United Way campaign; the nuts and bolts, the how-does-it-work aspect. The inspiration behind the campaign starts this Thursday and Saturday as volunteers roll up their sleeves and get to work for hundreds of great reasons.
As a well-known Arab Proverb says: “If you have much, give of your wealth; if you have little, give of yourself.”
Or as Winston Churchill said, “You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give.”
And that’s what this annual campaign of giving to our neighbors in need is all about. Most of us know there are families and individuals with needs to be filled, but we wouldn’t know how to give to whom and in the most effective manner. But the United Way does. Whether the need is for emergency shelter for families who suddenly find themselves without a home; to restocking the food shelf; to supporting elderly services or supporting our youth, the United Way steps in to fill the most vital needs facing Addison County. It is one-stop giving done with heart and through a process that ensures maximum efficiency, cost-effectiveness and the highest value for each dollar donated.
Why should we give? Vermont’s own Calvin Coolidge observed: “No person was ever honored for what he received. He was honored for what he gave.”
And perhaps the best-know quote about giving comes from St. Francis of Assisi when he said: “For it is in giving that we receive.”
But I’m partial to another: Revered UCLA basketball Coach John Wooden, who won an unprecedented 10 NCAA national titles including seven in a role, and who was well known for his bits of wisdom on life, once said: “You can’t have a perfect day without doing something for someone who’ll never be able to repay you.”
The message, in all its different venues, is the same and is all the stronger for its variety: giving makes you happy. Give this year to the United Way annual campaign, and make as many of your days as possible perfect ones.
Angelo S. Lynn

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