Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Community Impact begins with you--by lending a hand

Entry by: Stacey Oelrich, Community Relations Development Coordinator

We’re just wrapping up the Marshfield Area United Way funding process. This is when community programs fill out an application packet detailing services, goals and how their outcomes are achieving results. The packet is evaluated by a review panel. Each program then makes a presentation to the review panel to answer any questions. The end result is funding for programs that meet all of these criteria.

That’s a quick look at months of work, but what you don’t see from the process I outlined is the effect it has on the volunteers making the decisions. At a recent community event a volunteer came to talk to me about her experience on the Review Panel. “I had no idea how good I had it,” she said. “The thought of one in four people where I live needing these services is eye opening.”

The Review Panel is composed of normal people—volunteers from all backgrounds, jobs and income levels. However, they share the common trait of wanting to help their community. After these few weeks are done and they have reviewed all the packets, asked the important questions and evaluated results—the impact is more than just money.

The true impact is a genuine interest in the progress of the programs or results they can accomplish. In some cases, they find a program offering a service they were searching for in their own lives. This one volunteer experience will change how members of the review panel interact with the community and how they find solutions in their daily life.

The United Way model of Community Impact shows us the quick fix isn’t going to work anymore. We are looking at the underlying reasons of why the problem is occurring in the first place. It’s more important to make positive change than to do just enough to get by, and we realize one person or program cannot accomplish this change alone.

This mission of increasing our community’s capacity to care for one another can be daunting. One night I was watching the evening news and the two lead stories were the state of emergency in New England from rising flood waters and the deaths in Iraq for just the first two weeks of the month. I couldn’t take the bad news so I turned off the television and went to bed.

In our daily lives it is so easy for us to tune out the bad news around us, even when it is as close as our own communities where we live and work.

So my challenge to you is get involved. Don’t turn off your television or walk away. It takes all of us—from all walks of life to lend a hand to benefit the community. Invest some time and interest in a project. You can see the impact it will have on those you’re helping, but you’ll feel an impact inside yourself as well.

To lend a hand with the Impact process or for other volunteer opportunities call 384-9992.