United Way urges Tri-State residents to help neighbors

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 5, 2005

Less than a month after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast and now Rita, we continue to see images of unimagined devastation.

It's clear that these images will continue for some time. As various groups mounted efforts to help people recover from these disasters, I wondered how successful they would be. I must confess, I was a bit skeptical.

First, it has been less than a year since the Asian tsunami. U.S. charities collected nearly $1.3 billion to aid that relief effort.

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Second, the sudden surge in gasoline prices caused many people to be concerned about the impact that will have on their standard of living.

My skepticism passed quickly.

Americans have mounted a relief effort that has no precedent in the history of our country. The Chronicle of Philanthropy reports that in the 10 days after the 2001 terrorist attacks, Americans donated $239 million to September 11 related charitable causes.

In the 10 days after Katrina, $587 million was raised to help victims of what it characterizes as "the largest displacement of Americans since the Civil War." And the fund-raising continues, with telethons and appeals of all kinds, ranging from special concerts to children selling lemonade to special collections at churches. Now comes Rita.

As the interim executive officer of United Way of the River Cities, I admit to watching this unprecedented outpouring of compassion with a mixture of pride and concern.

Pride, because once again the people of this great country have shown how generous they can be when moved by the devastating consequences of a catastrophic event. Concern, because of the impact it could have on this community's ability to attend to the needs of our neighbors in our area.

Countless people in our community need help.

As we work to improve our own quality of life, it's essential that we remember the real and often desperate needs of our neighbors in the River Cities area.

We launch the 2005 United Way Campaign knowing there are many residents of the area who are counting on us to help them in their time of need. Many local institutions and individuals have already stepped up to the plate. We ask you do so likewise.

And I'm optimistic that the generosity and compassion of members of this community will again prevail, as it did in the campaign following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

In the wake of the attacks we continued to support the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army as we do today. The victims of Katrina and Rita know they have our support.

Although new to this United Way, I am not new to the issues our partner agencies are addressing: supporting programs that help children, youth and adults develop skills to succeed, helping the working poor break out of the poverty cycle, and helping people in need receive critical resources such as health care, food and shelter. Together, with United Way, we have the power to work together to rebuild lives and shape communities right here in our Region.

Our nation's current economic uncertainties and the ongoing turmoil overseas make these very challenging times. Now more than ever, your investment will yield positive and meaningful results in our communities.

Please remember our friends and neighbors in our community who are struggling to get their lives back in order.

If I could wave a magic wand over our fund-raising efforts this year, I would wish for a giant campaign poster with tens of thousands of people United Way helps right here in the River Cities, 365 days a year. That poster would have the following caption: "We're counting on your help."

Now, more than ever, your community needs your support.

Rene Moquin is interim executive director of the United Way of the River Cities. To reach Moquin, call (304) 523-8929.