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Letter to the Editor: Help make a difference in Madison County

Like many across the Big Bend, I was delighted by the gentle flurry of snow earlier this month. Although I had read about the impending winter storm, to me, the possibility of snow sounded like wishful thinking. Thankfully, I was wrong. The next morning, I watched tiny snowflakes dance across my window and was filled with certainty that anything was possible. It’s a morning I won’t soon forget.

That was my experience. However, for many across the Big Bend, their experience was far different. For those in our community who struggle on a daily basis to make ends meet, lower temperatures come at a high cost and snowdays don’t represent hope. They translate into higher heating bills, unbudgeted childcare, and making the impossible decision of which bill to pay when you’ve come up short.

We know from United Way of Florida’s most recently published the Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed (ALICE) Report that 56% of households in Madison County are struggling. While 25% are considered below the poverty line and are eligible for Federal aid and other assistance, 31% – more than 4,5000 households – make too much to receive help and too little to survive.

Living at the intersection of that rock and a hard place you’ll find men, women and children in Madison County who don’t make enough to cover their basic needs.  If you drill down even further, you’ll find that, more than half of the people who call Madison County home fall into this category.

That’s the hard news. Fortunately, the story doesn’t end there. While our community is filled with people in great need, it is also filled with people willing to help. As is with most cases, neither of these groups is mutually exclusive. I’m fortunate to have a window into our local giving economy and I’m proud to report it is teeming with people who care enough to contribute to absolute strangers because they know their investment has the potential to change lives.  I appeal to you to join me and the Madison County Campaign Team in helping to make a difference.   We need your help – so we can help those in our community.

Through workplace giving campaigns, events hosted by local businesses and by pledging online through United Way’s website (uwbb.org), investors are uniting together to make a collective difference that’s not just meeting immediate needs, but changing the trajectories of their neighbors’ lives. And here’s what may shock you – many of those who pledge their support are far from wealthy.

If you’re like me, you may wonder why someone with the least among us would choose to help. Some do it because they know the life-changing impact firsthand or have a loved one that’s benefited from programs created by United Way or administered by our agency partners. Others give because they feel called to do what they can to help those who can’t. However, many choose to invest because they know their time, talent and treasure will be leveraged wisely and thus make the greatest impact.

Consider this: Through United Way and its community partners, just $12 a pay period can be leveraged to feed a family of four for three months. I don’t know about you, but that gets me excited. That makes me know anything is possible. That gives me hope. And unlike snow, it’s not temporary.

If you haven’t invested in this year’s Community Campaign, I’d like to take this opportunity to encourage you to give. Please join me today in investing in United Way. To learn more, visit uwbb.org.

Jackie Johnson is the 2017-18 Madison County Campaign Chair and can be contacted at   jackie.johnson@j-fuel.com.  For more information, contact Audrey Smith at United Way of the Big Bend at Audrey@uwbb.org.

Glenda Thornton

United Way of the Big Bend

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