Another year, another kickoff, another goal, more volunteers, more publicity, more work -- some may think this is routine. But it isn't. Why? Because of the results achieved through all these efforts. Because of the lives changed.
My hope today is that I motivate and encourage each of you to stay involved with the United Way. In fact, we want and need more involvement from you and others you may be able to influence. Why am I involved in the United Way? There are lots of reasons, some of them personal enough to hit home, and some not so personal.
I, like many of us, have had family and close friends who have used United Way agencies in times of trouble, despair, need. But the bigger picture is where my focus is most of the time. The bigger picture makes sure that services are available whenever my family and friends are in need. Listen to how this comes all the way back to the beginning.
For instance, babies and young mothers and fathers need guidance and support to raise their children. We know for a fact that proper development in the first years of life makes a difference all through the school-age years.
Teenagers and adolescents who are on the wrong path or in a bad situation need role models, counselors, advisers, just somebody to talk to. If they're not getting that in their own lives, we need to create an environment that speaks to their needs, reaches into their minds and souls and shows them the possibilities in their lives.
Adults who are alcoholics, drug addicts, homeless, abused find it's hard to climb out of these situations. Our community must provide a hand up to truly be strong and healthy.
The elderly -- well, where would we be? They came before us and helped build this great community. It's our duty to provide for them when they need us, because they were there when someone needed them.
And the United Way comes full circle. We're needed in every stage of people's lives.
We all have our own reasons for reaching out, for giving a piece of ourselves to a special cause. As a member of the board of directors of the United Way, I have been exposed to a system that works and is working smarter all the time. The outcome of working smarter is the opportunity to change even more lives and to create and maintain a strong, healthy community.
If that's what I want for my family, then I have to do my part to make it happen. But it's not one person's responsibility, or two, or three. It's all of our responsibility to change lives.
And that's why we do this every year.
Jean Mason of Cape Girardeau is the Southeast Missouri division manager for AmerenUE and this year's campaign chairman for the United Way of Southeast Missouri. These remarks were made at the campaign kickoff luncheon Thursday.