The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

Local News

February 2, 2014

United Way has long history of helping others

United Way of Danville Area operates with financial and volunteer assets bestowed upon us by generous donors. Guided by our mission of improving lives by mobilizing the caring power of our community, the volunteer board of directors develops policies and procedures, dedicated to investing donations wisely.

Securing sufficient funds annually to accomplish our mission has been a struggle the past several years, given economic activity, insecurity of state and federal government funding to local entities, competition for scarce resources, and myriad other changes affecting United Way’s ability to serve local residents. Now we are needed most.

Reflecting on this, I pulled out a history of United Way — “Grassroots Initiatives Shape an International Movement — United Ways Since 1876” by Richard N. Aft, PhD., and Mary Lu Aft, 2004. Reading it I was reminded of what our country and United Ways have survived through, making appropriate changes, seizing new opportunities, and in general being the local community “way,” not “organization,” helping steer everyone through the hard times. I liked the description in the book of us being a way, not an organization, because with our governance by and reliance upon volunteers and local residents, we are all united together, people helping people here at home. We are all United “Way.”

Reading it puts into perspective periods in our history when we needed to Live United to serve and survive and the ways we did it.

— 1930 — Great Depression, bread lines and soup kitchens opened to millions of new urban poor; severe drought covered 75 percent of the U.S.; business failures displaced millions of American workers

— 1932 — one of every four families in the U.S. was on relief; extended, multigenerational families shared housing to cope with unemployment/poverty

— 1942 — the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Holocaust in Europe; families participated in metal and cloth scrap drives, neighbors grew fruits and vegetables in communal Victory gardens

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