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United Way kicks off 'wonderful' campaign
Goal to raise $83,000 for Bryan County programs to help people in need
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Harold Eckhoff of VFW Post 7331 salutes as the colors are retired at the conclusion of the United Way campaign kickoff. - photo by Photo by Paul Floecker

How to help

To learn more about United Way’s fundraising campaign in Bryan County or to get involved, call 459-4111. For more information about the agencies funded by United Way of the Coastal Empire, go to

In the classic movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” George Bailey sees how different the town of Bedford Falls would have been had he never existed.

Playing off that, Bryan County United Way leaders asked supporters Tuesday to think how their community would be affected if United Way didn’t provide a number of programs and services to help people in need.

“Many lives would fail to receive the services and the resources that they desperately need,” said Kristi Cox, United Way’s Bryan County area director. “It would be a huge loss for our community if the United Way was not here helping fund these different agencies.”

With the theme “It’s a Wonderful Life,” United Way kicked off its 2015 Bryan County fundraising campaign Tuesday at the Richmond Hill City Center with a goal of $83,000. The campaign runs through Nov. 20.

“This is the highest goal we’ve had in Bryan County, and the needs are probably greater than ever before,” said Gregg Schroeder, president of United Way of the Coastal Empire.

“As a community, we can help our neighbors have a wonderful life,” campaign chairman Chris Barr told the crowd in the packed City Center ballroom.

Jennifer Sikes, the counseling director for Consumer Credit Counseling Services, spoke on behalf of agencies supported by United Way contributions. CCCS is a nonprofit organization that provides free financial counseling to anyone who needs it.

“Even though sometimes it’s not a wonderful life for them, your donation makes it wonderful,” she said.

The majority of Consumer Credit Counseling Services’ operating budget comes from United Way funds, Sikes said. She added that, thanks to contributions from the community, the organization will celebrate 50 years in operation in November.

“Every day I come to work, I get the opportunity to help someone,” Sikes said. “I lay my head down at night and feel blessed that I can work for an agency that helps people.”

Proper perspective

Sikes wasn’t alone in expressing how blessed she feels.

Cox explained that, driving home Monday night, she thought about the theme for the United Way campaign that would kick off the following day. She contemplated what “a wonderful life” truly means.

“I live a very blessed life,” she said. “Most of us in here are extremely blessed. We not only have our basic needs met, but a lot of wants and desires as well.”

Cox’s drive ended at her comfortable house. She went home to her loving family.

However, many people in the community are not as fortunate. Cox said she encounters them every day.

“We have people here in Bryan County that don’t have homes,” she said. “We have families that are sleeping in cars with their children. We know this because we work with them.”

Others struggle to have food on the table. A number of local families rely on United Way-funded programs such as emergency food assistance, a mobile food pantry, meals for senior citizens and Backpacks of Love, which provides food on weekends and holidays to children whose only meals might be during the school day.

“Some parents do not know where their child’s next meal is coming from,” Cox said.

Many senior citizens struggle as well. Elderly people often have to choose between paying their electric bill or buying their medication, according to Cox.

“That’s a reality for a lot of our seniors because they’re on fixed incomes,” she said.

To conclude her remarks, Cox returned to the question, “What is a wonderful life?” She referenced a quote attributed to Mother Teresa.

“She said, ‘If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one,’” Cox said. “Every contribution helps.”

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