UW Sunday Column 9-14-14: Our Community is Better United

The Becker Family
As originally published in the State Journal-Register, Our Towns section

becker smallThis past week, United Way kicked off its annual campaign, marking the 92nd year in which our nonprofit, community and business leaders came together for the betterment of our community.  Over the years, many of Springfield’s most distinguished citizens have stepped forward to lead this community-wide effort.

Individuals bearing the Lanphier, Troxell, Bunn, Schnirring and Cadigan names represent only a fraction of people on this long list of campaign chairs.   As such, our family is humbled and deeply honored to lead this year’s United Way campaign.

Within our family, we know that we are better together.  As a family, we share each other’s successes, we help each other when faced with a challenge; and, we believe that we are at our best when we are working together.   In addition, each of us shares a deep belief that we are not just members of the Becker family, but members of our Springfield family.  And just as each of our families is better when working together, our community is better when working together.  We are better united.

It is this belief in the power of family, the power of community, which led us to take on our community’s annual campaign.

When Robert Lanphier led our community’s first campaign in 1923, he did so because he believed that the best way to strengthen and grow our community was to assure that all families were given the opportunity to live a better life.  On Wednesday, Chris Hembrough, the President and CEO of The Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce, echoed this belief.

Over the years our community has grown, new businesses have come and gone and the needs of our families have changed.  Yet, one thing has remained the same…quietly in background, United Way has been working to meet those changing needs and to bring our community together to create effective solutions.

Many people will never experience the full scope of work done by United Way.  Work which is being done year round in partnership with our nonprofits, schools, universities, foundations , businesses and our chamber of commerce.  Yet, this work is vital to our community and the very reason why more than 80 different organizations and companies were represented at this year’s kickoff.

In our family, we are fortunate to have worked for employers, such as Kerber, Eck & Braeckel,  who are long-established in our community and deeply involved in our United Way.  This has allowed us to develop a better understanding of our community’s needs and of our need to work together.

Many people think of United Way in terms of its national marketing such as its partnership with the NFL.  But did you know that OUR United Way is an independent organization completely overseen by local volunteers, with every decision made by local volunteers?   Our United Way was formed by our community to strengthen our community and holds true to that mission today.

It is this community-centered and community-led structure which has made the community fund the most effective way to support the many needs of our community.  And its United Way’s effective use of your investment in our community which has led to nine local companies underwriting the administrative and fundraising costs associated with the community fund.  This means every penny of our investment in the community fund goes to local programs.

Many people and businesses don’t consider participating in the campaign because they believe they are limited to only contributing to United Way.  Our local United Way understands that each of us are driven by different events in our lives and different passions.  Therefore, our United Way allows us to direct our gift to any IRS recognized, 501(c)(3) nonprofit in the nation.  Of course, we believe the best way to strengthen our community is through an investment in the community fund.

As a family, we believe we can achieve extraordinary things when working together; and this fall we intend to convince as many people in our Springfield family that they can achieve extraordinary things if we are working together.

For 92 years, our local United Way has worked to meet the changing needs of our community.  This work has only been possible because those involved with United Way were willing to share their stories with friends, coworkers and neighbors.  Imagine the difference we could make if those familiar with United Way talked to just one more friend and if each of our friends, our local businesses or local community groups were to give us five minutes to show them how United Way and its partners are working together to strengthen our community.

So, from our family to your family, to our Springfield family and yes, to our United Way family, thank you in advance for helping to make this year’s campaign the best ever.

Dale & Cathy Becker, Christine Becker, Emily Becker, and Sam & Sarah Sevener serve as the 2014 United Way Campaign Chairs. Learn more about United Way at www.springfieldunitedway.org.  Look for United Way columns weekly in Our Towns.