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New generation continuing United Ways legacy of giving
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Kelly Lee and her father, James Mathis Jr., talk Wednesday afternoon during the United Way’s rehearsal for its annual kickoff breakfast at the Gainesville Civic Center. Lee is one of a group of young leaders who are following in their prominent parents’ footsteps to take active roles in the community.

The United Way of Hall County is seeing a new generation of leaders following in their parents’ footsteps by giving back to the community.

Look no further than this year’s annual campaign chairwoman, Kelly Lee.

At 31, Lee is a member of the United Way’s Young Leaders Society, a group of around 200 people in their 20s, 30s and 40s.

Lee’s sister, Katie Dubnik, is the organization’s cornerstone campaign chairwoman.

Dubnik and Lee are the granddaughters of late community giant James Mathis Sr. and the daughters of James Mathis Jr., president and chief executive officer of the North Georgia Community Foundation.

Dubnik said giving back to the community is something she learned by watching her family.

“I think it’s something that for us was never expected, never taught, it was something that was learned and absorbed and became a part of us,” Dubnik said.

Dubnik said her grandfather was a positive example growing up.

“Of course my grandfather, just by his everyday actions and by all involvement he was in in the community, from big large scale projects that probably got him a lot of attention to serving cherry pie at his bank, it (has) always been something that’s been ingrained in me,” Dubnik said.

Lee said the United Way’s annual campaign, which kicks off at 7:45 this morning, is going to be different than in years past.

“Instead of having a keynote speaker or someone from outside the community coming and talking ...we’re actually having members of the community talk about what they’re already doing in giving back to the community and how they’re living united within the community itself,” Lee said.

The United Way is also adding a new emphasis on volunteering.

“We’re adding a goal of action,” Lee said. “If you can’t give financially this year, which I understand a lot of people won’t be able to do, you can give your time or your resources or your talents back to the community.”

Philip Wilheit Jr., chairman of the Young Leaders Society, said the group serves as a way to appeal to younger generations and get them started with community organizations.

“I’m sorry to say my parents’ generation and older generations are much more involved in the community than my generation is,” Wilheit said. “I think a lot of that is not that my generation is bad or doesn’t care, it’s just that times have changed. We have dual income households now, where both sides are working so there’s less free time to go around and donate to these different charities. We’re trying to make it more appealing to get people to get involved.”

Trey Wood, 24, son of Joe Wood Jr., said he and other young people he knows chose to move back home to Gainesville after college and get involved in the community.

“Gainesville is, in my opinion, one of the best places to live. I wouldn’t trade it out for anywhere else and that’s a big reason why I want to give back to it,” Wood said. “You see so much support in the community, you see so much involvement from high schoolers, giving back to their schools, you see people in college coming back here to work and in my case and a lot of other people’s case, to carry on family legacies.”

Wood said he feels a responsibility to carry on work through organizations that older generations started.

“Our parents set the groundwork and are passing it down to us so we can build it up and keep on passing it down,” Wood said.

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