These days, it's tempting to say: "What wealth?!!!"
In a recent Warren Times Observer front page poll the questions were: "Will you give more, less, or about the same amount to local charitable organizations this holiday season?" 9% of responders will give more, 40% will give the same, and the remaining 51% said: "Can't afford it."
But think about the wealth of services we citizens of Warren County RECEIVE every day, year in and year out.
Think about the Y kids learn to swim and play other sports there and many get started on life-long, healthy hobbies there. There's day care and education about healthy living, too.
Think about the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts. Kids learn skills there at last a lifetime; teamwork, leadership, service, and more fun stuff.
The Jefferson Defrees Family Center offers a wealth of services; health-related classes, day care, Court Appointed Special Advocates who work with kids in foster homes, meeting space for dozens of activities.
The Allegheny Community Center, Sheffield Hospitality Center, and the Ruth Smith Center offer services to seniors and others including fellowship, fun, and, in the case of the Sheffield facility, residential opportunities.
Service dogs trained by New Hope Assistance Dogs assist people with basic chores and share unconditional love with their masters.
The value the Don Mills Achievement Center has for kids with speech and developmental delays and what staff and volunteers share at Camp Talk-a-Lot can't be measured, it's that great.
Think of the wealth of knowledge shared as youngsters and their volunteer mentors take part in 4-H programs.
The Retired Senior Volunteer Program and the Youth Volunteer Corps are examples of how Area Agency on Aging programs teach the value of volunteers sharing their time across generations.
Caring for Life is a unique service that tends to the needs of people who have children with serious medical conditions. People who have "been there" share their support and wealth of experience in incredibly difficult situations.
The Salvation Army is another model of sharing through guiding spiritual development and providing food, clothing, and shelter to the needy.
The Red Cross shares expertise in disaster services with dozens of victims every year, coordinates the sharing of information between people in Warren County and their family members in the armed forces around the world, and teaches life-saving skills like CPR and first aid.
Low income people from Warren County get affordable dental care at Warren General Hospital's Crescent Park Health Clinic.
A Safe Place steps into domestic violence crises and stands by their clients as they maneuver through territory that is thankfully unfamiliar to most of us.
Bolinger Enterprises shares work-related and life skills-related training programs with people with disabilities, who then share their new-found skills with businesses and industries in the community.
The wealth of experience in end-of life issues at Hospice and the wealth of experience in helping people with mental health issues at Family Services of Warren County is shared with the community day in and day out.
All these agencies, all these United Fund agencies, create an umbrella by sharing their services and the wealth of experience of their staffs and volunteers for the benefit of the community. And I think it is safe to say that virtually everyone in the community is touched by one or more of these agencies directly or indirectly each and every year.
That's one side of the coin. Here's a question regarding the other side of the coin. How much coin does it cost for the agencies to do all this valuable work? The total is certainly in the millions and the United Fund subsidy is critical to the survival of all these agencies.
This year, the United Fund Torchlight Campaign's goal is $645,000. Everyone would agree that's a lot of money. But going back to the title of this piece, "Share the Wealth," puts it in perspective. The Warren County Council on Business and Industry estimates that there are about 22,000 people working in Warren County. Let's assume that they all get paid every two weeks. If each of those people gave $1.00 per pay, the contribution would be $572,000 or 88% of the goal! And if all the working people gave a buck A WEEK. $1,144,000!!! Both those totals would be enhanced tremendously by corporate and other special gifts, too. With a pot of shared wealth of that size, imagine how many more services could be offered and how many more people could be served. Would any worker actually miss $26 or even $52 a year?
So this is a request to everyone in the county to share their wealth. There's no bigger "bang for the buck" than a contribution to your United Fund's Torchlight Campaign.
Gary Lester, M.S., R.T.C., is the executive director of Family Services of Warren County-a charitable agency that helps people solve problems and be happier through counseling, substance abuse services, and support groups. Learn more about this important work at www.fswc.org.