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United Way kicks off fundraising campaign

Lakisha Bryant, president and CEO of United Way of Southwest Georgia, has set a goal of raising$1.2 million for this fiscal year.

Lakisha Bryant, president and CEO of United Way of Southwest Georgia, has set a goal of raising$1.2 million for this fiscal year.

ALBANY — Perry Revell, chairman of United Way of Southwest Georgia, called Thursday’s fundraising kickoff at the Merry Acres Conference Center the beginning of a very exciting campaign year, saying that a group of dedicated community leaders is already developing call lists, business lists, marketing strategies and recruiting even more leaders in an effort to reach the organization’s fundraising goal.

“Advancing the common good means creating opportunities for a better life for all of us,” Revell said. “When we reach a hand out for one, we influence the condition of all.”

According to Revell, the UWSG donation goal for fiscal year 2013, is $1.2 million, $100,000 more than was raised in 2012. In the first two months of 2013, a total of $55,665 has been raised.

Following an introduction by Revell, organization President/CEO Lakisha Bryant requested all estimated 250 attendees at the luncheon kickoff to take out their cellphones and text the word “engage” to a specific five-digit number. Doing so would enable the texter to receive an average of one or two texted “stories” sharing examples of how United Way and its local partners are advancing the common good, she said.

“The mission of United Way of Southwest Georgia is to improve lives by mobilizing the caring power of communities in Southwest Georgia by strengthening the building blocks that everyone in our community needs for a quality life,” Bryant said.

According to Bryant, those building blocks recognized by UWSW are education, income, basic needs and health.

“We know that if we get these four areas in good shape, we will have strong communities and stable, independent families,” she said.

One by one, Bryant introduced four success stories, recipients of local partner agencies falling under the UWSG umbrella. First to speak was a man who had been helped, he said, by the Albany Advocacy and Resource Center, or ARC.

“I am the United Way,” the man began, saying he’d earlier been incarcerated, then released to the ARC, which assisted him with such basic needs as rent, medical care and how to deal with mental illness. He said ARC is “like a family to me.”

A woman spoke of how she’d been assisted by Open Arms as a young girl trapped in poverty with a drug-dependent father who beat her mother and failed to provide for the family. After becoming pregnant while attending Westover High School, she made contact with Open Arms, which provided shelter, clothing, counseling and life skills.

Another woman said she found her way through Strive2Thrive, which seeks to help those in poverty pick themselves up and become successful at jobs or in business.

Liberty House, an Albany agency for victims of domestic violence, was helpful to yet another young woman who had married an abusive husband.

“My abuser told me that no one would take care of me like he did, that someone else would beat me worse,” the woman said.

According to the woman, Liberty House provided shelter and clothing and other support services for her and her son. She has been happily married to her second husband for seven years, she said, and Liberty House is still there for her if she needs help.

United Way of Southwest Georgia serves Albany, Dougherty County and 12 other nearby counties. For additional information, visit www.UnitedWaySWGA.org.