By Mary Fuller.
United Way of the Coastal Empire was created by community members with the intentions of coming together to help our neighbors when they need it most. The founders knew that if people pulled together, they could make a bigger impact than any one of them could do individually. Our United Way started in Savannah but expanded out to Bryan County in 1984, seeing to our needs with the same commitment to our area and our neighbors; hoping to help Bryan County residents meet their full potential.
Our annual campaign is wrapping up for another year, and we’re moving into the Thanksgiving holiday, which happens to be my favorite time of year. So many can’t wait for Christmas to come and have already decorated their homes and put up trees, but not me. Thanksgiving is a time to look back and really search for and acknowledge the people and things for which we are thankful. Even in this difficult and uncertain year, great things have happened, and people have been there for each other. For that, I am thankful.
When the pandemic started for us in March, it was amazing to see the number of people donating to help those financially affect by the restrictions. Those donations allowed – and continue to allow -- us to help thousands of community members keep lights on and roofs over their heads. For the people who gave even when we were all affected by the pandemic in some way, I am thankful.
Throughout the year, United Way is involved in numerous community initiatives and collaborations that focus on some of our most complex issues, such as affordable housing, substance-abuse prevention and recovery, meeting families’ basic needs, and responding to local disasters. Our community partners include service providers, public servants, civic groups, local business owners, and affected citizens who are willing to take time out of their busy schedules to come together to not only talk about problems but to find solutions. For all our community partners and their commitment to making our community a better place for all, I am thankful.
Over the past few months, many of us have focused on our annual United Way Campaign. These donations are what allow us to fulfill our mission of improving lives through funding agencies that provide services (which may not otherwise be available) to our residents and funding the work that our Bryan County office does for and with the community. So many have donated to our 2020 campaign; some we can depend on every year as they are committed to our mission and understand our work, and some who have never given before but this year found it in their hearts to give to something larger than themselves. Donors include local businesses like grocery stores, banks, attorneys, realtors, and insurance agents along with our schools, local governments, and amazing individuals. For your generosity and kindness, I am thankful.
Community volunteers are often essential in ensuring some of our most valuable community services are available to everyone. Think of it, our Food Pantries are run by volunteers, our children’s sports are often coached by volunteers, and scout troops are led by volunteers. United Way is a volunteer-led organization where volunteers actively participate in financial decision-making and strategic focus. We depend on volunteers to help us fundraise and provide appropriate services. In Bryan County, volunteers are vital in supporting community events like mobile food pantries and helping individual residents meet their unique needs. Volunteers represent Bryan County in our strategic planning process and on Board of Directors. Our local Advisory Board members volunteer to keep us on mission, educate the community about United Way, and ask for donations when needed. For all the people who are willing to give of their most valuable commodity, their time, to help support the community, I am thankful.
I hope now you can see why this is my favorite time of year. It is the time I get to say thank you, to count my blessings, to give the gift of gratitude to all those who come together for the common good. Together, we will make this community, country, and world a better place. Always United. Thank you.
Mary Fuller is United Way’s Bryan County Area Director. She can be contacted at email@example.com