Ted Swaldo: Co-Chair 2016-17 United Way of Greater Stark County Fundraising Campaign

I would like to share a story with you. As a local business owner, I run a workplace-giving campaign for United Way of Greater Stark County. While reviewing this year’s employee contributions, I discovered that a staff member named Charlie had made a rather generous donation.

I was familiar with Charlie’s job and pay scale, and I was concerned that perhaps he had accidentally put the decimal point in the wrong place on his pledge form. I met with him to discuss this and he assured me that the amount he gave was indeed correct. Charlie then told me about his recent life experience. He explained that – a few years ago – he was married with a son, owned a nice home and was working at a steady job. “Life was good,” he told me. However, he started missing work when his young son was diagnosed with a serious illness. Soon after that, everything fell apart. Charlie lost his job and his son died. His marriage couldn’t survive the tragedy, and his wife moved out. He was able to find a part-time job, but couldn’t afford to keep his home and ended up living in his car. He had lost everything that was dear to him, and it seemed hopeless…until he got help from United Way. He was given financial assistance for things like food and clothing, and even received counseling. Today – he is back on his feet and working full-time. He told me that giving back to United Way is his way to “pay it forward.”

I knew nothing about my employee’s incredible journey until he shared it with me. It made me think about how fortunate I am, and how quickly my life could be turned around by unanticipated events. It also made me consider the people with whom I interact every day – people who have their own story about overcoming obstacles, people who have struggled or are still struggling with financial challenges, unexpected circumstances, health issues. These are the people in our own community who are helped by your donation to United Way of Greater Stark County.

My family and I have been long-time leadership donors to United Way of Greater Stark County, because we knew our gift was making a difference in the lives of people right here in our community. We understand and value the important work being done by this local organization, so we were honored when asked to co-chair the 2016-17 fundraising campaign. We soon realized that what we knew about our United Way was simply the tip of the iceberg, and that this year’s fundraising campaign would have a different emphasis than in year’s past.

Instead of focusing on money, we’re focusing on greater outcomes. There is no thermometer gauging how much money has been raised this year. Instead, United Way of Greater Stark County is focusing on how contributions are leveraged to have the greatest impact on people right here in our community. Instead of focusing on a specific dollar amount, we will be focused on the number of men, women and children who are helped by United Way. Obviously we cannot make these things happen without money, but we are concentrating on how we are affecting lives and getting measurable results.

Our annual campaign launched on September 9th and will run through December 9th. With only a few weeks left, we want to remind everyone that their contribution – big or small – is what fuels the work we do every day in Greater Stark County. The money raised during the campaign will go toward United Way’s BOLD GOALS — Education, Income, and Health — United Way’s essential building blocks for quality of life. Our real objectives are to make sure kids are prepared to learn when they enter school, they have the support needed to stay in school and graduate, families are financially secure, they have a safe, affordable place to stay, they receive good job training, and we have a healthy community where they can live and thrive.

Right here at home, many businesses and individuals are facing financial challenges right now. Because of this, some of our reliable contributors are not able to make the donations as they had in the past. As we wrap up this year’s campaign, it’s clear that we’re going to come up short. That’s why I’m making this urgent request for your support of United Way and the important work being done throughout Greater Stark County. I believe in United Way’s mission and I know that the organization assists those in need, efficiently and effectively.

You’ll be seeing more stories like Charlie’s in the next few weeks as we wrap-up the annual campaign. I encourage you read these stories and think about how your life would be changed if you encountered similar challenges, then consider how your donation can help someone in a tough situation. You can visit the UWGSC webpage at uwstark.org or call the office at 330-491-0445 to make a donation. Your financial support during this campaign means more Stark County residents will have what they need to lift themselves up all year long.