Changing our area for the better with the help of county residents

November 14, 2008|By JENNY FLEMING

We've been hearing a lot about change lately. It's the time of the year when the leaves are turning, and we're getting ready for a new season. The campaign platforms of the election were based on changes for our nation. Just the mention of change conjures up many emotions - fear, excitement, anticipation and then fear again.

When I reflect back to think of a time of major change in my life, I remember the year 1998. Over several months, my mother died, I got married, my grandmother died and my father had a major auto accident. Talk about adjustment and redirection! Oh ... and somewhere in the midst of that year, I began working at United Way.

When I started, I have to admit that I didn't really know that much about United Way. I thought that it was great that I was going to work for an organization that did "good things," but wasn't really sure what else to expect.


It didn't take long to get hooked on the work of improving lives. It has been more a way of life than a job, and I have experienced much change at United Way in the past 10 years. However, none is more exciting to me than United Way's new focus.

As I began learning and determining what the ultimate goal of this new focus would entail, I looked at it from the perspective of someone who truly cares about this community. I asked myself this basic question: "Do I want to make a higher level of impact and long-lasting changes in my community?"

The answer was an emphatic "yes!" Sure, United Way's focus has always been based on improving lives, but what if the number of people helped increased tremendously and their issues were prevented or solved - forever!

Now, I'm not talking about eradicating anything such as poverty, which is almost insurmountable. However, we really need to start looking at a more collaborative way to approach problems, especially when the problems are getting worse.

Many services address only two factors affecting an issue, such as personal choices and family characteristics. However, we all know that there are so many more influences or barriers to a person's success or quality of life, such as economic conditions, public attitudes, neighborhood conditions, media messages, etc.

While a single service can't be all things to all persons, a collective approach in which agencies support one another can certainly provide a stronger network of care. Doing more means working toward a common goal by focusing on what causes a problem in the first place. It's not about living in the moment, but more about looking at what the future might be.

As a parent, I think a lot about the future. My 4-year-old son, Andy, is at the very inquisitive stage. He constantly asks questions, many of which I can't answer.

I'm sure many of you remember that frustrating stage of "but why?" But I think we can learn a lot from the innocent minds of youth.

It is so easy to get stuck in the status quo or in the same old routine of how we approach things

However, if you think about it, the same old approach doesn't really make sense, since change is constantly happening all around us. That's why United Way is working towards becoming more effective in an ever-changing environment.

Let's all challenge ourselves to a new approach of asking "why." Why is that child hungry? Why is my neighborhood unsafe? Why is that man homeless? Why?

The questions - and the answers - will reveal the daunting task at hand, but they will also give us a glimpse of the incredible opportunities that follow ... and of the change that our community deserves.

Jenny Fleming is the director of Community Impact with the United Way of Washington County. For more on the Community Impact Program, go to

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