United Way is headed in the right direction

Published 8:01 am Sunday, September 8, 2013

Column: Live United, by Ann Austin

The United Way’s 2013 campaign officially kicked off Thursday. You will begin to see and hear more about United Way in the coming months, either through the mail, on the radio, in the paper or at your workplace. But our campaign is about so much more than raising money. It’s about raising awareness of local needs and giving hope to people who are struggling — showing them our community cares enough to provide extra support when they need it or opportunities to break free from what is binding them.

Ultimately, our goal is to ensure everyone has a chance at a better life, whether it’s having a good quality education, getting a job, creating healthier relationships or better physical health.

Ann Austin

Ann Austin

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United Way is charged with identifying and addressing the needs in our community, not met by other programs or services. We work to identify the root cause of the issues our community faces, so solutions may be found, rather than just allowing problems to perpetuate.

This September is the start of my fifth campaign. Since 2008, there have been ups and downs and ups again. It can be a roller coaster at times because we are impacted directly by the uncertainty of the economy and any other challenge our community encounters.

We’ve seen many changes the past five years with new programs emerging and others departing. It is part of the natural evolution of a community — sometimes the process has been painful and other times it has inspired.

This year, we are charged with raising $696,000 to meet the needs of local programs for next year. It certainly is not an easy task, but we will try our best and work, as always, to address the greatest needs in our community using the resources we have.

It takes time to make any significant impact with the challenges we face right now, but we are in a good place right now and are headed in the right direction.

Thank you for the role you play, whether you give, advocate or volunteer. You are making a difference in the lives of our neighbors!

I will close with a message I shared my first year, which bears repeating. It is a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

Tell me not, in mournful numbers, life is but an empty dream! For the soul is dead that slumbers, and things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest! And the grave is not its goal; dust thou art, to dust returnest, was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow, is our destined end or way; but to act, that each tomorrow find us farther than today.

Art is long, and time is fleeting, and our hearts, though stout and brave, still, like muffled drums, are beating funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle, in the bivouac of life, be not like dumb, driven cattle! Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no future, howe’er pleasant. Let the dead past bury its dead. Act, act in the living present! Heart within and God o’erhead.

Lives of great men all remind us we can make our lives sublime, and, departing, leave behind us footsteps on the sands of time.

Footprints, that perhaps another, sailing o’er life’s solemn main, a forlorn and shipwrecked brother, seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing, with a heart for any fate; still achieving, still pursuing, learn to labor and to wait.


Albert Lea resident Ann Austin is the director of the United Way of Freeborn County.