Nobody's ever really surprised when the Columbus area tops its annual United Way giving goal. The greater Chattahoochee Valley's generosity, by this and many other measures, is well known and well documented.
But that doesn't make the occasion any less gratifying, or any less important. Especially to the people among us who depend on the programs and services United Way of the Chattahoochee Valley helps to fund.
This time the people who contributed to the local United Way's 2013 campaign didn't just top the goal; they set an all-time record by giving $7,030,034 -- well above the goal of $7 million, and significantly higher than last year's $6.9 million. TSYS alone raised more than $1.2 million, which earned this year's Million Dollar Round Table Award and set another record.
Scott Ferguson, president and CEO of United Way of the Chattahoochee Valley, reminded the audience at an end-of-campaign session at Columbus State University's Riverside Theatre that as as satisfying as it is to put up a big number, the real significance of this or any other United Way campaign is its effect on people: "Their generous support allows us to continue transforming individual lives and creating the kind of change that will better our entire community."
Chairman of the 2013 campaign was Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor, who told the audience that at least 100,000 people in this area will have some of their needs taken care of thanks to the people who gave to United Way. "This money is going to stay right here in our community and that's why I got involved," Taylor said,
Last year, United Way helped to fund 27 agencies in seven area Georgia counties, plus Russell in Alabama. The additional funds will mean more help for more people who need it in 2014.
Although the funding campaign is over, the work certainly isn't. It's just beginning for the United Way staff and volunteers who will now start the process of reviewing programs and assessing needs in order to allocate the money with which the community has entrusted them. And the work is never really over for the people who give of their time and energy to run those programs for the benefit of our less fortunate neighbors.
This fund-raising record is especially impressive coming as it does during a time of lingering economic pressures. It's a tough time for many to give, but they gave anyway because it's a lot tougher for those in real need.
Congratulating United Way on another successful campaign has become an annual event, like a holiday. But that doesn't make it routine. Generosity and caring are part of a local tradition we hope and believe will remain unbroken.