Letter: Evolving United Way fills so many roles

nsmimgThis letter was first published on The Times News.

Groucho Marx famously said he would never join a club that would have him as a member. I must say my own thinking was along these lines three years ago when I agreed to serve as the campaign chair and board chair for United Way of Alamance County.

After a long discussion with my wife and concern for the time it might take away from our growing family, we decided this was a place I could effect real change. That decision shaped these past years of my life for the better, showing me sides of this community I had not seen before and introducing me to the folks out there on the ground making a difference. In regard to our family, I think it has not only made me a better person but will undoubtedly make me a better father.

I believe community, now more than ever, is the lifeblood of today’s world. It is with our neighbors, coworkers and friends that we most closely share our worldview. It is these very similarities, however, that allow us to find common ground. While our nation sometimes feels stymied in ideology, close-knit communities cannot afford to not pave their roads, feed their poor or educate their children. We fill the gaps that ideology leaves.

We are lucky in Alamance County that our community has a partner in this mission. United Way of Alamance County is more than a partner, in fact, and more like a guide. No other organization monitors and assists the non profits, agencies and initiatives in this county like it does. No other organization watches this community so closely and anticipates its needs so acutely. No other organization steps up so quickly when our community needs it.

In my time with United Way I think it can be said that a new vision was shared with this community. The 90-year-old United Way model of taking gifts and redirecting them to agencies in need is dead. What is alive more than ever is the new United Way that connects compartmentalized action into cohesive, real world change.

I have seen this organization step up when Loaves and Fishes closed down three years ago. I have seen this organization connect our homeless populations to our community’s housing industry through the Rapid Re-housing initiative to get people into homes. I have seen this organization help connect Link Transit to ACC so that our poorest neighbors can educate themselves out of poverty. I have seen our leadership participate and guide community action to combine separate efforts into unified missions with real results.

In seeing these things and in feeling their effects, I can say with certainty that this organization has changed me. I will be a lifelong contributor and volunteer. Contrary to Groucho’s famous quote, I would say I join with this organization for the very reason that it would have all of us as members.


Griffin McClure, president of Green & McClure Furniture Co., is outgoing chairman of the Alamance County United Way Board of Directors and a Graham city councilman.