To say 2020 was a tough year for everyone is an understatement.
We have faced so much uncertainty and been challenged in unprecedented ways. No one has been immune from the far-reaching impacts of COVID-19. Families across our community are experiencing unprecedented emotional and financial strains beyond anything we could ever have imagined. Children are struggling in school despite the best efforts of our educators who work tirelessly to provide not only quality education but, also, emotional support for many who do not have a strong support system at home.
It is easy to be focused on what we have lost, but I also have seen hope for a better tomorrow. The way our community has responded to the increasing need of our friends, neighbors and those we do not know gives me hope.
I remember as if it were yesterday our United Way annual meeting on March 13, 2020, when we celebrated a successful conclusion to 2019, and Joe Young shared his 2020 vision as our new board chair. It seems like yesterday, yet a lifetime ago, all at the same time. We had very specific goals we had hoped to accomplish in 2020, but our dreams and aspirations quickly turned to meeting immediate, basic needs in our community. In the midst of a pandemic, Murray County’s devastating tornado in April heightened the crisis. Once again, the power of the people to lend a hand, lend a voice and give hope could not have been more powerful.
As the summer months showed no hint of the crisis ending and the impact of COVID-19 intensified this past fall, I was more than a little concerned that a United Way campaign would be impossible.
United Way of Northwest Georgia has a long history in this community and compassionate and caring leaders who believe it is impossible to have successful companies without a successful community, where people are healthy and able to care for their families. As our leadership met with CEOs and other volunteer leaders, the response was the same. We must have a United Way campaign even if it looks very different. Our community depends on United Way to provide vital support!
As the campaign kicked off virtually, we saw creativity and energy from our companies in their support of a campaign. New donors embraced United Way’s important work for the first time, and longtime supporters increased their support when possible. I am so proud of our staff and the staff of our community partners who believed in the saying, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” I was humbled by the year-end support from donors who wanted to help us reach our goal of $4.125 million. While we reflect on how much we accomplished, we know there is still more to do.
As we embark on a new year with new hopes and dreams, we invite you to reimagine a brighter future for our community. With your help, anything is possible. By reimagining a better story, we can begin to rebuild after the COVID-19 crisis. You can make an impact. It will require us to join the action and be hands-on in building better futures:
• Strong starts for children.
• Safe homes and warm meals.
• Fresh starts.
• Opportunities for physical activity.
• Access to health care.
• Thriving and successful families.
What we do together today determines tomorrow. We are excited to start a new year with you. Please join us at ourunitedway.org/give or mail a check to P.O. Box 566, Dalton, GA 30722.
Amanda Burt is president of the United Way of Northwest Georgia.