A question I often get asked about my job is, “Why should I give my money to the United Way? What do they even do with it?” This is a difficult question to answer sometimes since the answer is multifaceted. Here at the United Way of Southern West Virginia, we do many things. To be brief, we give money to various programs and organizations that fall under our three core focuses: health, education, and financial stability. When you give to us you know your dollars are going to a program that has a specific purpose with one of those focuses.
To answer the question more in depth, we serve seven counties (Fayette, McDowell, Mercer Nicholas, Raleigh, Summers, and Wyoming) as well as the town of Bluefield, VA. We fund over 40 agencies in the region. The United Way is the world’s largest privately funded nonprofit, so the money we receive is from people just like you. Whether it is donated through the form of a vote for our annual Dancing with the Stars in September or Wonderland of Trees in November, donated through a workplace campaign, or even donated through Facebook, the money you give can help out people you know and is invested back into our community.
Many people we assist are ones who make too much money to apply for federal assistance but do not make enough to survive. The Economic Policy Institute published a study earlier in the summer saying “1 in 9 US workers are paid wages that can leave them in poverty, even when working full time” (https://bit.ly/2yDI20I). Going off of the census data estimates for 2017, the most recent year of the study, there are roughly 36,191,019 people to which that statistic applies. When applying this to the region we serve, there are roughly 28,968 people that work full time and can still be left in poverty. Granted, these numbers were found using basic math and West Virginia probably has a number of factors affecting the real number. Regardless, that number is near the number of people who live in both McDowell and Summers Counties combined.
Another reason you should give specifically to the United Way is often times, people just donate supplies or directly to the agency, which is appreciated and needed. However, when people usually donate say, to food kitchens/pantries, they donate food (which is obviously critical to that organization). But what about the money that is needed for dining ware? What about the building costs to keep the kitchen open? What about other necessities that may seem little and/or trivial but can add up? Since we give the agencies themselves money, they can help cover these costs where their usual donations fall short.
The last thing I will say about donating to us is sometimes potential donors are unsure of how much or how often to give. We have the solution with our workplace campaigns. In the campaign, we come into your place of work and give an extremely brief presentation about who we are and what we do. You then have the option to donate whatever portion of your PRETAXED paycheck to us. For more information about this, either for you personally or your company, please feel free to call (304)253-2111.
The holidays are full of giving spirit, so please consider giving to our organization.
Written by: Mary-Kate Bostick, AmeriCorps VISTA