An appeal for help

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 29, 2005

Twenty-five percent of adults in Hampton Roads are functionally illiterate. Seventeen percent of the children in Hampton Roads live in poverty, described as a family of four earning less than $18,000 a year.

These are among the thousands of people in Hampton Roads targeted by the United Way.

Suffolk campaign chairman Win Winslow cited these statistics among others in making an appeal for funding Thursday before the Suffolk Rotary Club.

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The statistics are more than a little disturbing if not cause for alarm.

If we don’t improve the statistics cited above, it’s bad news for all of us. If Hampton Roads is to continue to grow, we need a literate, qualified work force. There have been many news reports of major companies that once found the South an attractive place to do business, now regretting that decision because of illiterate, unqualified workers. It could happen here, too. With Simm City, Suffolk and Hampton Roads are bidding to become a major player in the world of high-tech commerce. It’s difficult to imagine that bid being realistic for the long-term unless there’s a large pool of literate, qualified workers.

Through the agencies it funds, the United Way reaches out to and helps these people learn to read, pay heating bills, find shelter and keep their children off the streets after school. And were it not for these agencies, in many cases they would have no help at all and little chance to improve their station.

As Winslow noted, the United Way means many things to many people. For most of us, it’s the agency that distributes money to charities; but for those in need, it’s a lifeline; it’s hope.

Suffolk receives more from the United Way of South Hampton Roads than it raises in funding. That’s something that should be of great concern. A community needs to be able to take care of its needs.

Many lives have been touched and helped in a profound way by a United Way agency. There’s a lot at stake n not just for those in need n in seeing to it that the resources are available to improve the quality of life and chances of success of those in need. Please give to the United Way.