Learning from Living United

By Melissa Brunner

I thought I'd take a moment to bring you up to date on an activity that's kept me off the air quite a bit recently. You might remember that I am serving as an ambassador for this year's United Way of Greater Topeka fundraising campaign. Our work began with two weeks of training in August and continues with outreach to assigned businesses and, my primary focus, reaching put to new businesses and reconnecting with those with whom we've lost touch.

This week, our group of 20 or so is being asked to tell the United Way board of directors how the experience has impacted us. That is a wide-ranging answer and since I am supposed to boil it down to 30 seconds for the board, I'll take the liberty of expounding on it here!

The first thing that jumps to mind is how the group of 20 who hardly knew each other a couple months ago have bonded and become friends. Aside from working together on a project with a common goal, we have "united." these are relationships I hope continue long after the campaign ends.

I also have learned so much, both about the needs in our community and the partnerships that exist to meet those needs. One of my assignments involved calling people who had fallen off the donor list. It led to a couple of good conversations who were very candid about how they had lost their jobs and were struggling to make ends meet. I also spoke with some small business owners who said their main concern was trying to stay afloat and keep their workers employed. At the same time, I learned about programs in our community that go far beyond meeting the emergency needs such as food and shelter. There are programs to help people improve their job skills and teach budgeting strategies when you suddenly need to rethink your spending habits.

In both respects, I feel I have a deeper appreciation for what "live united" means. When organizations and programs unite for the common good, not worrying about whose territory this or that might be, they can rally around individuals and families and lift them up to a better situation. Likewise, when we as individuals unite for a common cause we can have an untold impact on our community and the people in it. One person cannot do it alone, but without each person's efforts, nothing gets accomplished either. I am more sensitive now to the needs that exist and my role and the skills I can bring to meeting those needs.

It's not too late for you to "live united" with us! If you haven't been asked to give, but would like to do so, drop me an email and I can get you a pledge form, or call the United Way office at 228-5111. You also can help by having a little fun this Thursday, Oct. 28. From 5:30-8pm at the Kansan Grill, 705 S. Kansas Ave., United Way ambassadors will serve up drinks and your tips will be donated to United Way. Hope to see you there.

Finally, if you are in need or if you want to lend a hand through volunteering, call the United Way's 211 hotline. They can let you know what opportunities are available.

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