United Way campaign at full throttle

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 15, 2010

In Charles Dickens famous work, “A Christmas Carol,” Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his old business partner, Jacob Marley, who is tethered in heavy chains.

When asked the significance of the chains, Marley replies, “These are the chains I forged in life, link by link, yard by yard. I was consumed by the petty business of our money changing house when I should have been concerned with the common welfare of my fellow man. Charity, benevolence, compassion, generosity and good will toward men should have been my business.”

With apologies to Mr. Dickens, I took some literary license to make a point about the United Way of the Greater Miss-Lou. This is what the United Way is all about: helping those in need at this special time of the year.

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The mission of the United Way is to increase the capacity in our region to raise funds to support needy causes and help those in need. Our goal is to fund programs that help those who are experiencing tough economic times and move them from dependency to productivity. Our funds also are used by agencies which enhance the quality of life for all residents in the Miss-Lou.

The United Way Board of Directors voted last spring to raise $175,000 in the 2010 campaign that runs from the popular jambalaya cook-off in August to Dec. 31. These funds are collected mainly through employee designated contributions deducted from paychecks and, also, individual contributions.

Dr. Roderick Givens, this year’s campaign chair, reports that “it’s 75 percent complete.” We applaud his leadership and thank him for committing so much of his valuable time to the effort.

The funds are then allocated under a rigorous peer-review process based on the needs of the applying agencies.

Before receiving United Way grants, the agencies must meet strict application guidelines established by the United Way Worldwide.

The funds collected last year where allocated by a volunteer committee chaired by Mrs. Sturleen Butler-Morris. We owe her and the committee members a great deal of thanks and appreciation for their hard work. The 2011 allocations process will be lead by Scott Kimbrell. His committee will decide how the 2010 funds will be distributed — the hardest and most important task of the United Way.

By the way, all funds raised here stay in the Miss-Lou!

I will be retiring from the chairmanship of the United Way this month after four years in the position. The 2011 gavel will be held by the Rev. Darian Duckworth. She will be joined by Cassy Muscalino as vice chair, Deanne Tanksley as treasurer and Alyson Bequette as secretary. Terry Trovato will chair the communications committee. Dick Walcott and Bradley Harrison will co-chair our popular golf scramble held in the spring.

The invaluable staff work will be conducted by Tiffany Mascagni as executive director and Tammy Prince as business director.

Kudos are also for Carol Folmer who worked with Tiffany in the first stages of the 2010 campaign. She laid the groundwork necessary for what is needed to meet the $175,000 goal. I would be remiss if I did not mention the fine work of our former executive director Marsha Colson and her administrative assistant Christine Brinegar. They set the standard for future successful campaigns.

Special thanks go out to the exiting board members who have served their six year terms: Lillian Edney, Genna Hopkins, Del Loy and Disa Taunton. We welcome the following new board members who will start serving in January: Vivek Bhargava, Calvin Butler, Kevin Ingram, Vance Laughlin, Mo LeBlanc, Esther Mingee, Brenda Moore and Tom Taylor. In addition, the following were voted in to serve three-year terms: Jeanine Harrington, Kofi Kumi, Lionel Stepter, Chris Vaughn and Julie Waggoner.

Please note that these new members, and the ones remaining on the board, are representative of the demographic profile of the Miss-Lou. Members also represent a wide variety of businesses and organizations on both sides of the river.

It’s not too late to contribute to this year’s campaign. Send checks (United Way of the Greater Miss-Lou) to P.O. Box 1466, Natchez, MS 39121 or visit info@unitedwaymisslou.org for more information on the best way to contribute to what Marley wished he had: “to the common welfare of my fellow man.”

It has been a privilege and honor not only to serve on the board but to chair the United Way.

Many thanks to the board members and staff that provided me with wise counsel and advice during my term.

Ave Vale Atque! And Merry Christmas to all!

Mike Gemmell is chairman of the United Way Board.