United We Stand

by Gordon Krater on October 1, 2012

Over the past few years, I’ve become increasingly impressed with the work United Way does for Southeast Michigan communities—so much so that I joined the Campaign Committee. This means that each fall, I spend time talking with a variety of CEOs about United Way, encouraging them to run a campaign and donate to this excellent cause.

As a member of that Committee, I’m privy to certain inner workings of the organization that most others aren’t. Like their 2-1-1 hotline. I always knew it existed to provide information and assistance to local families in need. What I didn’t expect was how affecting it would be to listen in on some of those calls. From “We don’t have heat” to “I don’t know how I’m going to feed my family today,” the calls were heart-wrenching. It was encouraging to watch United Way staff react to those calls and help the families in need.

And make no mistake about it, it’s difficult for families in need to get assistance, especially from the state. To illustrate just how difficult, Southeast Michigan United Way President and CEO Michael Brennan has a paper scroll that he rolls out, and rolls out, and rolls out until it extends about 20 feet in length—double-sided. This is meant to demonstrate the amount of paperwork these often illiterate people have to wade through in order to start the process of obtaining assistance. I’m proud to be able to support an organization that makes it easier for people to get the help they need.

So why all this talk about United Way? It’s on my mind this week even more than usual because today marks the kickoff of Plante Moran’s firmwide annual United Way campaign. Over the past few years, United Way has focused its efforts in three important areas: education, income, and basic needs. The organization has set specific goals relative to each of these areas to accomplish by 2018. For example, in 2008, United Way launched a 10-year initiative to cut by half the number of young people who drop out of high school by 2018. It’s an ambitious goal, but I’ve seen what Plante Moran can do when we align in support of a common goal. Together, we can produce results that no one can produce alone.

That, after all, is the point—recognizing one’s blessings and coming together to give to others in need, whether via United Way or some other equally worthy cause. Here’s to doing our part to strengthen our communities and the power one person has to make a difference.

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