Personal Connection

Thirty-one thousand individuals in southern Chautauqua County depend on the success of the United Way, and if Thursday’s campaign launch is any indication, those people won’t be let down.

The 2013 United Way campaign, co-chaired by Deb and Deke Kathman, launched Thursday with great enthusiasm. The message delivered: Our stories define us, your gift protects us.

“Thirty-one thousand people have stories, and they are the reason that we’re here, and the reason that this campaign must succeed,” Deke said. “All the money raised in the next few months, will all be spent locally, and the decision as to who receives funds from the United Way will also be made locally by a group of volunteers. The return on this investment matters. It matters because it’s a father who found a job because he was able to find daycare for his child. It’s a senior who can stay in their home because they have the services that allows them to be independent. It’s a family that has a safe and affordable place to live.”

Deke invited a few United Way success stories, including Tom Abbott and Maddie States, to talk about how the United Way has helped them find comfort in life when it seemed that nothing else could.

“I started getting help back in 2004,” Abbott said, who is a Navy veteran and saw duty in the Vietnam War, and also served in the Persian Gulf. “It still isn’t easy to get around my place, but I get out when I can. But sometimes things just don’t work out, and that’s especially difficult, because it’s hard for me to cook for myself. On (days such as those), there’s a meal waiting for me from Meals on Wheels, and I don’t know what would happen if I didn’t have that security.”

States, who spoke next, uses Chautauqua Adult Day Care.

“I go three days a week now, but I used to go five days,” States said, who is limited by cancer. “But since I’ve been there, I’ve joined RSVP, and I work at Helping Hands on Fridays. They’re so good to me at the day care; anything I need done, and it’s done for me. If I need a day off from the day care, they understand, and there’s never any questions. If it wasn’t for the United Way, I wouldn’t know what to do. I have cancer, and my daughter has cancer, but life is good.”

Following the testimonials, the Kathmans broke down how the United Way is and will be successful through bullet points featuring 10 important numbers. Those numbers are:

$1,315,000 the 2013 United Way of Southern Chautauqua County campaign goal;

100 percent How much of what’s raised that stays in the community;

$1,030,758 the amount invested into programming this year;

31,000 the number of lives impacted by United Way-funded programs last year;

381 the number of tax returns filed by the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program in southern Chautauqua County;

$700,000 the tax refunded dollars returned to southern Chautauqua County residents through VITA;

1,063 the number of calls to 2-1-1 Information and Referral helpline from southern Chautauqua County;

39 the number of United Way funded programs;

18 the number of United Way partner agencies;

1 the person who makes it all happen: you.

Of course, even though Deke is recently retired, he admitted he is still an educator, and assigned homework to those in attendance of the event. The Kathmans referred to Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree” throughout the event as an example, and after those from the United Way passed out a copy to guests, the Kathmans asked everyone to go home and read it.

“We’d like to go back to the book for one more lesson,” Deke said. “Moving forward, we’d like to ask all of you to make all of these campaigns personal campaigns. Plan to have some personal conversation with the people you hope will contribute to the cause. Only by building those personal commitments will we attain our campaign goal.”

For more information about the United Way or the 2013 campaign, call the United Way at 483-1561, visit at www.uwayscc.org, check them out on Facebook: United Way of Southern Chautauqua County or follow on Twitter: @uwayscc.