Opinion

United Way launches campaign to give more stories happy endings

There are relatively few among us who can afford to donate anything close to the $50,000 TSYS has given to the Red Cross for storm relief efforts, or the additional $20,000 it has pledged to match from team member donations. We can’t match the generous $500K Aflac is contributing to the Red Cross in Texas, and something like the Walmart Foundation’s $20 million pledge is for most of us beyond the realm of imagination.

But we can come together as a community and put up some pretty impressive numbers to do a lot of good for a lot of people.

As reported Thursday by staff writer Alva James-Johnson, United Way of the Chattahoochee Valley kicked off its 2017 campaign with a goal of $6.9 million and a theme of “Different Stories 1 Community” — a reminder of how many different kinds of needs there are and how many ways the various agencies and programs under the umbrella of United Way respond to them.

The local chapter of United Way funds no fewer than 58 programs sponsored by 29 partner agencies. They cover as broad a range of community, civic, charitable and humanitarian interests as anybody with a philanthropic spirit could ask for.

A very short list of United Way-affiliated agencies and programs would include services for the homeless, hospice care, scouting, Boys and Girls Clubs, environmental and outdoor programs, individual and family counseling, youth empowerment programs, various shelter services, the Salvation Army, Easter Seals, food banks … that’s just a start.

A detailed list of United Way benefits would be exhaustive, and a description of the efforts of the many volunteers and loaned executives who make it all work would be more than impressive.

But as this year’s campaign theme suggests, the individual stories attach faces and names and real-life human impacts to what this is all supposed to mean.

“You know, stories are exciting,” said Phenix City Police Chief and 2017 Campaign Chair Raymond Smith. “But sometimes life doesn’t give us those kinds of stories. And we’re here to talk about some of those stories today, and we’re looking for you to support us in making sure that even the stories that happen in life that don’t start off so well have a good resolved ending as well.”

A few of those stories — the kind that have involved dramatic changes for the better in what have been troubled lives — were told Thursday at the kickoff event.

One community really can make for more of those dramatic changes and those happy endings. For a lot of people who don’t know it yet, the story has just started changing for the better.

No joking …

The firing of a Cobb County police officer recorded telling a woman during a traffic stop last summer that “we only shoot black people” was probably a foregone conclusion from the moment the video surfaced.

Even under the most generous benefit-of-the-doubt scenario (and that would involve a lot of benefit and a lot of doubt), such a remark was, at best, spectacularly ill timed. Given the social and political tensions arising from the perceptions, and the realities, of violent confrontations between police and African Americans in the last couple of years, if the officer was trying to make a joke of the situation he was blowing Kathy Griffin numbers on the humor meter.

Even more dubious (or maybe just desperate) is the attempt by the officer’s lawyer to defend the remark as an effort to “de-escalate a situation involving an uncooperative passenger.”

Reports of the dash-cam video suggest the absolute opposite of escalation: The woman in the car said she was afraid to move her hands off the steering wheel when the officer asked her to pick up her cell phone.

We don’t pretend to know the adrenalized stresses of law enforcement, but an explanation of how a woman with both hands on the wheel could be perceived as a threat would be interesting to hear.

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