One of the great privileges of my job is having the opportunity to personally thank so many of our region’s most committed and generous United Way supporters who are doing the hard work of fighting poverty in our community every single day. Over the past few weeks, I not only had an opportunity to thank these individuals one-on-one, but joined with my colleagues in celebrating their efforts at our local Community Awards held in May and June.
From giving generously from the heart to organizing tremendous volunteer projects, we recognized local companies and individuals for their humble service to our most vulnerable neighbors. In my keynote remarks at each celebration, I asked each attendee to reflect on a concept called “social capital.” Social capital works a lot like financial capital, but rather than the money you’ve saved, it’s the goodwill you’ve built throughout your life. As people who have made it their mission to serve our community, it is a sure bet that our honorees have accumulated a fair amount of social capital, as it is for anyone who is dedicated to helping others – people like you.
Together, as we work to end poverty in our region, I encourage you to think about what it would be like to run out of your own social capital. If you were born in the United States and have obtained a job, it is commonly thought that you have accumulated 18 months of social capital. But imagine if you lost your job, or suddenly fell ill or faced some other catastrophic life event. Any of these unexpected hardships might force you to start withdrawing from your social capital account to the point where there is nothing left. Imagine not getting a call back or an email answered at the most desperate moment of your life.
For many of our neighbors, they’ve come to the point of overdrawing, leaving them isolated and with nowhere to turn. But because of the generous individuals and committed professionals hard at work within each of our local communities to make a difference, we are working to intervene earlier and ensure those critical supports are in place when our neighbors need us most. We’re proud to applaud and thank all of the honorees and supporters who step up to be the hand-raisers, the game-changers and the difference-makers for communities. Thank you for standing beside us in this important fight against poverty.