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Editorial: United Way of Hall still is expanding its reach under new leadership
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United Way of Hall County
Where: 527 Oak St., P.O. Box 2656, Gainesville, GA 30503; Compass Center, 615 Oak St., Gainesville
Phone: 770-536-1121

Any worries that the United Way of Hall County might lose its fundraising momentum after the retirement of its longtime director has been blown away like spring dandelions.

The agency celebrated its fundraising success last week at its annual spring banquet after raising some $1.6 million in this year’s campaign, up from last year’s $1.1 million total.

Jackie Wallace retired last year after 16 years with the agency, the last nine as president and chief professional officer. Her leadership led United Way to amazing growth, even through difficult economic times, and funneled some $28 million to local nonprofits over the years.

New President Joy Griffin has been able to pick up the baton without a pause, bringing together volunteers and sponsors to reach the organization’s fundraising total.

In addition, the United Way has launched some new initiatives to benefit those in the community who need its services. One is the Read Learn Succeed program to expose toddlers to reading material before they start school in order to give them a better head start on learning.

The program provides books at birth to parents of babies born at Northeast Georgia Medical Center campuses in Gainesville and Braselton. Books also are provided at the Longstreet Pediatric Center for children from 6 months to 5 years of age. The goal is to move the needle closer to 100 percent literacy in Hall County.

“We are proud of the way this community has come together this year,” said Ruth Demby, program coordinator. The program was sponsored by a $25,000 grant by the Medical Center Auxiliary, which was honored for its efforts with the Advocate Award.

The other key addition is the Compass Center, a clearinghouse for nonprofit resources those in need can access for the right help. Visitors can call 770-536-1121 or walk in between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. weekdays at 615 Oak St., Suite A, in Gainesville. Volunteers there will steer folks to the right agency or benefit to fit their needs.

The center offers a complete database of resources, agencies and benefits available tailored to individual needs. Among the agencies chipping in are Goodwill, Action Ministries, Hall County Family Connection and Good News Clinics, along with classroom and meeting space available for workshops and training.

In the first weeks since its March 1 opening, the center fielded more than 300 inquiries for assistance, according to center manager Joshua Silavent, a former Times reporter well known for his passionate advocacy for the underprivileged.

The hard work and generosity from volunteers and the community have helped keep the United Way’s mission going strong. Wallace’s leadership was a key reason for this over the years, and it’s comforting to know the agency’s goal of funding nonprofits and connecting people with vital services remains in capable hands now and in the future.

And we remain in awe of the generosity of this community, with local residents willing to dig deep into their pockets time and again, then give even more when the need arises. It is a source of pride for us all.

Share your thoughts on this or any other topic in a a letter to the editor; you can use this form or email to The Times editorial board includes General Manager Norman Baggs, Editor Keith Albertson and Managing Editor Shannon Casas, plus community members Susan DeCrescenzo, Cathy Drerup and Brent Hoffman.

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