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The young, thin patriarch looked at his little family huddled around the warmth of a small fire. "Thank you for all our blessings," he said with a sad smile. "God bless us everyone," chimed in his youngest boy who leaned heavily on a roughly made crutch.
A scene from Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," yes, and yet not too far removed from the experience of many families here in the Lowcountry.
It's not an exaggeration to say that people in our community are hurting desperately right now. I
know it for a fact. Friends of mine have been laid off from their jobs. They have been furloughed. They are looking for work, any work, and can't find it.
It makes my heart hurt. People I know and family members of friends who used to be United Way contributors are looking for help. They are faced with bills they cannot pay and homes they may soon lose. The food on their tables is scant in a way it has never been before.
One of the things I love most about this community is how we all pull together, especially in difficult times. And right now I'm going to ask you to do just that, and lend your help in achieving a large goal.
A $2.5 million campaign is under way to make sure that local folks who are in trouble can receive help when they need it. Thirty-nine local agencies are committed to providing them with the best service possible, but they need money to do it.
Lots of people and businesses across the Lowcountry area have been very generous, and that's why we are at 83 percent of our goal with less than $500,000 to raise. It's vital that we raise these last dollars, and it's here that you enter the scene. We need you, we need you deeply, we need you for the first time and we need you again.
We need you to help us achieve this $2.5 million goal. We need your help to fully fund our 39 partner agencies and celebrate the hope that comes with this holiday season and the upcoming New Year.
Importantly, three local families are working hard to help you help us reach our goal. Together, they have pledged to match $100,000 in giving. Your gift will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $100,000, when you send it right now to United Way of the Lowcountry.
It's easiest if you make your pledge or donation online at our Web site, www.uwlowcountry.org. But you may also call our Bluffton office at 843-837-2000, or our Beaufort office at 843-982-3040 and pledge over the phone. Finally, you may put a pledge or gift in the mail, right along with the cards and packages you are no doubt sending to various locations across the nation: P.O. Box 3708, Bluffton, SC 29910; or P.O. Box 202, Beaufort, SC 29901.
This is the special time of year when, with our families and friends, we bow our heads in gratitude. And we remember those who shiver and worry and go hungry. Please don't forget them. Out of your bounty, however large or small, remember them, and join me and thousands of others in the community and give. Please "live united" and support the United Way of the Lowcountry's annual campaign.
Clarece Walker is president of United Way of the Lowcountry.