We all benefit when we ‘Live United’

Published 8:37 am Saturday, December 25, 2010

How can my contribution make a difference? The Freeborn County United Way’s theme of “Live United” is how. Each and every year our local United Way agency takes a collection of individual actions and multiplies them together to create meaningful change in our community. The lives touched through these programs enhance the quality of our human experience in the Freeborn County area.

Chris Chalmers, Live United

What does it mean to “Live United”?

It is more than a campaign slogan. These past four years I have been fortunate to be a board member for our local United Way. The “Live United” concept is continually moving, like a river, but my perspective of “Live United” has been forever changed.

While still considered by many a newcomer to Albert Lea, I have only lived here for 21 years, I found out these past few years that there is still so much more I have to learn about our community. During our monthly United Way meetings I have been able to learn from local agencies first-hand about the impact they are making on lives in our community. Many of the stories are inspiring. The United Way of Freeborn County currently reaches out directly to 31 programs and 18 different agencies. Ninety-eighty percent of the funds raised remain in Freeborn County.

There is a ripple effect from the impact made on these lives for our entire community. Community is about coming together and helping those in need and supporting those who are struggling. The focus areas of education, income and health are not always easily attainable for all in our community. The United Way partner agencies step in and address these core values through a variety of programming. This is one more reason I am proud to call Freeborn County home.

Who decides where the money goes? An allocations committee of Freeborn County citizens volunteers their time to screen all applications and assess the level of impact the agencies are making. The local volunteers on the allocations committee and board are thoughtful stewards of each dollar invested.

Thank you to all who have made the individual action to donate this year and allow the United Way to work with local agencies to create the positive impact they do in our community. The power of our local United Way is found in the simplicity of giving, strength in numbers, community volunteers and the difference it makes on a daily basis in our county.

Oliver Cromwell said, “A man never rises so high as when he knows not whither he is going.”

I was not sure what volunteering for the United Way was going to be like, but I took the chance and I do not regret it. If you are new to our community or a lifelong resident, I encourage you to get involved with the United Way or one of many deserving local agencies making a difference in our community and Live United.

Chris Chalmers is the director of Albert Lea Community Education.