Tragedy turns Rabb into activist

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 18, 2002

NATCHEZ &045;&045;When Sheri Rabb’s house burned, fire destroyed much and insurance paid very little.

It was then that representatives of Catholic Charities came to her family’s aid, offering vouchers for everything from appliances to clothes.

Although her family ultimately got help from other sources, the offer made quite an impression on Rabb.

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Six years later, she chairs the United Way of the Miss-Lou’s fund-raising campaign, working to make sure that such agencies have the funds they need to continue those services.

&uot;One of the things that has impressed me the most is that 98 percent of what we raise stays in the Miss-Lou, helping people here,&uot; Rabb said.

Last year’s United Way campaign, which Rabb co-chaired, raised about $342,000.

Although Sept. 11 siphoned some charitable donations away from the Miss-Lou and some businesses were strapped due to the economic downturn, many businesses met or exceeded their goals, Rabb said.

That helped fund 25 nonprofit agencies ranging from shelters for the abused to recreation programs for youth to programs for the needy.

&uot;Chances are, you either know someone that benefits from these services or someone in their extended family has used them,&uot; Rabb said.

To raise funds for those programs, Rabb and her committee members will make presentations on United Way to local businesses starting in September.

&uot;We tell them about the different agencies, what their money goes to, how much we’re looking to raise,&uot; said Rabb, who was recruited as a volunteer last year by United Way Director Monica Lynch.

This year, she hopes to call on more Concordia Parish businesses than in the past.

&uot;We fund (nonprofits) over there, and people from Concordia Parish come to agencies over here. This isn’t just for Adams County,&uot; Rabb said.

Since planning for this year’s campaign has just started, Rabb does not yet know what this year’s campaign goal will be. The campaign will last through January.

But those who want to give do not have to wait until Rabb and company knock on their doors.

Many businesses have United Way fund-raisers throughout the year, such as casual dress days in exchange for $1 or $2 donations. Schoolchildren collect and contribute pennies for United Way.

&uot;If everyone (in the Miss-Lou) would just give $1, it would help out tremendously,&uot; Rabb said.

Meanwhile, Rabb works with her committee to firm up plans for this year’s campaign, work that she finds rewarding.

&uot;It gives you … a warm feeling,&uot; Rabb said. &uot;You can’t really describe it to somebody else.

&uot;When you pull up to a red light, you think, ‘That person may have been helped by United Way.’ That’s a good feeling.&uot;