“I think it’s OK,” said campaign chairman Bill Stump. “A lot of our industries all came in ahead of last year. We’re blessed here to have relatively diverse industries. I talk to my friends around the state, and they’re not having the same success. In a lot of small towns, the banks and the car dealers drive the giving, and they’re the ones in trouble right now.”
The United Way, like many charitable organizations across the country, is waiting to see if current economic conditions will affect the campaign.
“It is still hard to say whether the economy has hurt our campaign yet since so many businesses have yet to turn in their campaigns,” said Patty Youngblood, United Way of West Georgia president. “We have had some really nice increases from some of our industrial partners and are hoping that trend will continue. But we have also seen some setbacks especially within the independent business division.”
Stump said the campaign is anxiously awaiting campaign results from the city and county governments, the Troup County school system and West Georgia Health System.
“Those are the people that really see the need and the impact (of the United Way),” he said.
Many of the 29 local United Way agencies use their contributions – as well as manpower – at this time of year to aid local residents during the holidays.
“This time of year we do tend to think of giving, but there are many individuals who are giving of their time, and talent as well as their treasure,” Youngblood said. “This past Sunday, volunteers from The Club of LaGrange spent the afternoon shopping for children who will benefit from LaGrange Empty Stocking Fund. In the coming weeks they will be sorting the gifts for the individual children who will be receiving them. The Pilot Club sponsor of the Hogansville Empty Stocking Fund is also deep into their holiday preparations, as is Salvation Army. And LaGrange Personal Aid is being hit very hard by an increase in requests for assistance this year. Companies and groups could hold food drives in conjunction with their Holiday celebrations and replenish the food pantry shelves.”
Stump, a Community Bank and Trust executive, said employees at his bank have stopped buying “token” gifts for each other at Christmas and instead pools that money to aid a local family.
“Ten or 15 dollars isn’t much by itself, but when you take it collectively and put it in a hat, you can have a big impact,” he said.
The local United Way embraced a new mission statement with its campaign kickoff in the fall: “Live United.” The three tenants of “Live United” stress not just campaign giving but also advocating (speaking out for causes) and volunteering.
“People have embraced the message,” Stump said. “They’re involved in the campaign with a mindset they didn’t have before.”
Youngblood said the Live United concept points out ways people can make a difference in the community.
“I think Live United resonates because it focuses on what people are already doing and what they can do to for the community,” she said. “The campaign videos this year emphasize the different ways people do make a difference, whether it is by making contributions to United Way, your church or some other organization whose mission you embrace, speaking out and up for a cause you believe in or through giving of your time to work for a cause you believe in.”
Jennifer Shrader may be reached at jshrader@ lagrangenews.com or at (706) 884-7311, Ext. 236.