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Guest column: With holidays over, the need for giving still remains strong
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Once again, our community demonstrated its generosity during the holidays by the outpouring of support for programs and organizations such as Toys for Tots, Georgia Mountain Food Bank, The Salvation Army, Mayor's Motorcade and many others that worked to bring some happiness to our friends and neighbors.

Civic organizations, clubs, businesses, Sunday school classes, students and individuals devoted great effort to ensuring that children had toys and families felt the warmth of a compassionate community. I'm grateful to live in a place that cares about others.

Now it's almost the end of January, we've inaugurated a new governor and survived a winter storm. All the decorations are packed away not to be seen again for months and the holidays are only a happy memory.

But I truly hope that desire to give back was not packed away with the tinsel and the wreaths because the needs of many in our community continue when the joy of a new toy fades.

Certainly, the nation's economic downturn has taken a toll in Hall County. While we may have fared better than other parts of the country, the increase in unemployment, rising foreclosure rates and the dramatic increase in the cost of just getting by (e.g. food, utilities, rent) have left many in need of help. Added to that is the sharp rise in the cost of gas and even those with jobs are struggling to make ends meet.

For many, unemployment benefits have or will soon end and maintaining health insurance is no longer an option. Many times, families in our community are forced to choose between housing, utilities, transportation, health care, child care and food. These families face a never-ending treadmill of tough decisions. Do they use their income — if they have one — to pay their mortgage or feed themselves? Do they pay for a doctor visit or put gas in their car?

This isn't just affecting the poor. We are seeing a growing group of college-educated, middle-class individuals and families who are not able to sustain even a simple lifestyle. We believe one of United Way's roles in the community is to recognize and respond to emerging social conditions that impact the residents of Hall County. But we need your help.

United Way of Hall County's core strength is our ability to raise and steward donations and to invest those dollars in a wide array of strong agencies that are producing positive results. Utilizing a robust volunteer-driven process, we make informed and efficient decisions about the use of the financial resources entrusted to us by our donors.

We are accountable to the community and our stakeholders to deliver results on how we are fulfilling our mission of improving lives in Hall County.

At this point in our annual campaign, United Way has raised approximately $150,000 less than in our previous campaign. This will cause a severe impact on our partner agencies and the people they serve.

So we have a simple request. Take action: double your dollars. Through Feb. 20, any new dollars given to United Way of Hall County will be doubled through a matching gift. Even if you've already given, please consider making an additional gift. A $5 gift will turn into $10 and that will make a huge impact in our community.

You may send a check to P.O. Box 2656, Gainesville, GA 30503 or you may give securely online.

And as we have done since 1948, United Way of Hall County will be your partner in making this community a better place for us all. Thank you.

Jackie Wallace is president of the United Way of Hall County, 678-989-5335.

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