United Way honors locals at annual meeting


By Sarrah Peters, News Editor

On Tuesday, April 10, United Way of Etowah County held its annual meeting. The meeting serves as a way for the nonprofit to share the  organization’s accomplishments of the past year, honor local businesses and individuals for their contributions and highlight local issues in the community.

Last year’s United Way board president Shane Ellison presented a yearly review. He began with the organization’s financial report.  United Way received over $1.3 million dollars from over 6,000 contributors. The money supported 28 programs and services that United Way funds.

Ellison thanked the United Way board, campaign cabinet and loaned executives. Lee Cox was honored as the 2017 loaned executive of the year.

Ellison went on to highlight some of the services provided by United Way agencies last year. Success by 6 provided 1,500 books a month to local children. The 211 First Call for Help program took 14,000 calls and provided 26,000 resources.

Jackie Edmondson, the current United Way board president, recognized company and individual contributors.

Edmundson presented Alabama Teacher’s Credit Union and Quality of Life Health Services with Rising Star Awards. Both companies’ employees increased the amount they contributed over the last year.

Edmundson awarded the Excellence in Service Award to Regions Bank for its contributions and sponsorship of several United Way agancies.

Past President Ellison was recognized and presented with the President’s Gavel.

Past Young Leaders Society (YLS) President Heather New presented the Young Philanthropist of the Year Award to Mary Wood. Wood has served on committtees for YLS, United Way, The Chamber and Main Street Alabama. She will serve as a coordinator when YLS re-launches HYPE: How Young Professionals Engage later this year.

Tom McKenzie presented the Tom McKenzie Community Impact Award to Downtown Gadsden, Inc. Director Kay Moore, a longtime contributor and volunteer with United Way.

“She’s been giving to United Way for 47 years,” said United Way Director Joanne Hightower. “The Community Impact Award is all about longevity.”

After the awards were presented, Hightower thanked everyone present for supporting United Way.

“You’ve heard stories today about volunteers and board members and committees and companies that have made an impact,” said Hightower. “This is the group that is fighting for the health, financial stability, education and providing a safety net for this community. You are the ones that do that. When  we fight our most challengingdisasters or circumstances, you all are in the front lines of that. We win in this community because you choose to get involved and you get your hands dirty and you bring awareness and find solutions.”

Ruth Moffat, the 211 director, was introduced to highlight an issue in the community: homelessness.

Moffat began by discussing the role of nonprofits in the community.

“That’s what nonprofits do,” said Moffat. “We roll up our sleeves, we divide and conquer and we get the work done. When all the nonprofits are working as they should and coming together and filling those gaps then the community is covered.”

Moffat discussedthe reasons behind why people become homeless. Death, unemployment, mental illness, drug abuse, violence and natural disasters can upset the stability of a person’s life.

Moffat shared statistics of homelessness in Northeast Alabama. On any given night, 119 people are homeless. Last year, local United Way agencies assisted the local homeless community. The Salvation Army provided 32,000 nights of shelter in Etowah County. Thirteeth Place housed and cared for 51 teens. The American Red Cross provided emergency assistance to 208 families after house fires. The organization 2nd Chance Inc. served 122 clients with 3,378 nights of shelter.

To close out the annual meeting, attendees were put to work assembling care kits with hygeine neccessities that will be dispersed to local agencies to give to those in need.

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