The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

February 2, 2014

United Way has long history of helping others

The Commercial-News

— 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

— 1950–60s — moderate to good economic growth, with ‘60s plagued by racial unrest/violence and war protests

— 1977-79 — recession and inflation

— 1981 — recession; unemployment rose to 10 percent; 25 percent of federal funds cut to human service agencies

— 1987-88 — dramatic drop in Dow Jones, signaling business down-cycle with corporate restructuring and downsizing

— 1992 — health care costs hit $838.5 billion, 14 percent of total economic output

— 1990 — welfare rolls reached record high — 14.3 million people

— 1998 — welfare rolls fell to 8 million, a 30-year low

— 2000 — number of children living on threshold of poverty surpassed 10 million

— 2003 — world economy hits worst slump since World War II.

Unfortunately in 2013-14, our number of children in poverty both nationally and locally is at an abominable high — 22-23 percent.

The need for us to help others continues now more than ever. We aim to reduce poverty by investing in programs that prepare children for school and life; help people enjoy healthier lifestyles; and help people achieve more financially stable lives. Help us live our mission by giving today for a better tomorrow for us all.

Give. Volunteer. Advocate. Live United. Thank you.

Jeanne M. Mulvaney is president of United Way of Danville Area, Inc., 28 W. North St., Danville, IL 61832. Phone: 442-3512.