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The United Way of Hampton Roads campaign is under way, and with it comes a lot of hard work by numerous volunteers as well as its dedicated staff. To help you better understand what the United Way is

Q. You’ve been involved with this project for some time. Tell me why you got involved initially.

Quite honestly, I did not know a lot about the United Way. I did know about some of the agencies that it funds, particularly the Boys and Girls Clubs. My husband and I moved to the Hampton Roads region while he was working with the Boys and Girls Club programs. My husband, himself, was a recipient of a Boys and Girls Club in Michigan, so I knew first-hand how an agency can have a lasting impact on one’s life. I found myself drawn to helping the families in need and ultimately was intrigued at the idea of working for an agency that works with over 70 agencies and 160 human service programs in our region.

Q. Can you describe how the money United Way raises will affect people in Suffolk and the surrounding area and why it’s important to people here?

Locally, United Way programs benefit people of all types of socioeconomic backgrounds, all races, and the young and old. More and more, our programs are helping the community’s working poor. With home prices increasing, people in our community are not able to provide the basic necessities. Over the last year, I have helped more senior citizens than ever. Imagine if you are a senior citizen living off of $800 a month. Your spouse is deceased and it is just you to cover monthly expenses. I have seniors who have rented the same home for several years at $400 a month. The homes are being sold and the new homeowner has to increase the rent to cover the new mortgage. Now this same senior has to pay $600 to $700 per month.

That does not leave enough money for utilities, medication and life’s most basic necessity: food.

This is just one example of the people that we serve.

Q. Sometimes people are critical of programs like this. How do you answer that criticism?

People who make critical comments about these programs are generally uninformed about the programs. Each of us is vulnerable to needing helpn whether it be natural disasters or terminal illness, or something as simple as a job loss. All of these can take a toll on our ability to provide for ourselves. We have to have safety-net programs to help people when they are in need.

Q. What’s a typical day for you?

A typical day consists of meeting with people in the community about programs and/or gaps that need to be addressed. I also meet a lot with local businesses about running United Way campaigns that generate dollars for these programs; depending on the day, I may do client intakes and then coordinate with Social Services and other agencies to identify resources to help the client.

Q. How can other people who have an interest in United Way get involved or help?

Volunteer! We are always seeking volunteers from the community to help guide the United Way process. If they have an interest in strategic planning, marketing or fund-raising, we have volunteer roles on our campaign cabinet.

If they have a finance, legal or social service background, we could use them in our allocation process. There are also opportunities to volunteer at agencies through our annual Day of Caring program. And most important, give! United Way’s audit process is the best way to ensure that the dollars raised in a community are getting to the programs that are having the greatest impact on individuals in our community. Each year, the need greatly outweighs what we are able to distribute.

Q. Is there a committee or board of directors that oversees the United Way of Suffolk? Who are some of the key people, and what roles do they play?

The Campaign Cabinet, which oversees special events and the annual fund-raising campaign, is: Tom Powell, Chair; Dr. Milton Liverman, Vice-Chair; Jennefer Ambrose, 2nd Vice-Chair; Bobby Ralph, Leadership Giving Chair; Thomas Woodward; Marty Cardwell; Michelle Partridge Lane; Bethanne Bradshaw; John Cotton; Sandy Hefferon; Lakita Frazier; Mac Birdsong; Lydia Duke; Harry Lee Cross; Mickey Garcia; Billy Chorey; Myles Standish; Scott Carr. The Allocation Panel, which oversees the annual audit process of agency programs, is: Priscilla Taylor, Chair; Kenda Council, Vice-Chair; Leonard Horton; Ken Thomas; John Cotton; Shirley Snyder; and Milton Liverman.

Q. Assuming you enjoy your position with the United Way, what’s the source of that enjoyment?

I enjoy that every day is different and I work in a community that is changing and allows me to create new initiatives and events. Ultimately, the end recipient keeps me going.

Once you meet the people that you help, you are forever a changed person.

To contact the United Way, call 757-539-1498.