With a bitterly contentious political landscape everywhere and many families struggling to emerge from a tough economy that’s lasted more than five long years, it’s very easy to focus on the negative. There’s no doubt that we’re facing a lot of challenges — and some of those may continue for months to come.
But an honest reflection on the past year should give everyone a lot of hope. Not only do statistics and trends show an improving economy, but there are plenty of stories about how our neighbors have helped each other succeed.
Granted, it’s easy to miss. Because news coverage understandably focuses more on partisan divisions and tragedies, it’s easy for good news to disappear in the turmoil. That doesn’t mean that there’s nothing good happening — only that you don’t hear about it all that often.
Want an example? Take the dental truck.
Every month, our underprivileged and uninsured neighbors get the dental care they desperately need — thanks to scores of local volunteers and a mobile clinic operated by St. Joseph of the Pines, a health and retirement network based in Southern Pines. Dentists from the Lee County Dental Society and students from the Central Carolina Community College Dental Hygiene program offer their services free of charge in an effort that’s organized by the Helping Hand Clinic and supported by the Sanford Lions Club, which allows the truck to use the Lee County Fairgrounds two days each month. Local Rotary Clubs and community volunteers pitch in as well.
Speaking of the Lions Club, that organization also assisted with The Great Grocery Can-paign, a massive community food drive organized by the United Way of Lee County with help from The Sanford Herald and WFJA-WWGP. This year’s outreach collected almost three and a half tons of food to stock shelves at emergency food pantries operated by Christians United Outreach Center and The Salvation Army.
More good things were happening, as well.
After facing serious financial problems that threatened its existence, HAVEN in Lee County took a big step toward full recovery when local volunteers resumed working its 24-hour domestic violence hotline earlier this fall. The outreach for those escaping domestic abuses and sexual violence is making good progress toward reopening the shelter, which could happen in the next few weeks or months.
VolunteerLee.com, a new community website that connects volunteers with organizations that need help, opened for business and now serves as a virtual meeting place for nonprofits and volunteers. If your organization needs volunteer help or if you have some time to assist, you now a place to go. Even if you just want to learn more about groups in our community, VolunteerLee.com is the perfect source.
Almost 900 kindergarteners in Lee County Schools were welcomed to the Class of 2025 with T-shirts provided by businesses and nonprofits as part of Project PK-14, an ongoing effort to enhance local education and encourage student to remain in school through at least two years of college.
People with disabilities found new freedom when The Stevens Center and COLTS, the County of Lee Transit System, began offering weekend transportation for just $1 for each one-way ride.
Nonprofits throughout Lee County gathered last spring for Compassion’13, the annual community roundtable, to learn how they can manage their organizations more effectively in tough economic times.
Children from Emma Smith’s third-grade class at Broadway Elementary collected 125 coats to help needy students at the school and others. Teen mothers received help from the Coalition for Families to stay in school and raise a healthy child. And the list goes on.
These “good-news” stories, large and small, are happening every single day, in every area of our community, thanks to hundreds of volunteers working through churches, nonprofits and governmental agencies.
As executive director of the United Way of Lee County, I’m in a good position to see these encouraging things as they happen — especially for those initiatives we lead, like Project PK-14, VolunteerLee.com and the Compassion roundtable. But we try to make sure everyone else knows, too, with notes in “Neighbors,” our quarterly newsletter, as well as frequent posts to our website, Facebook page and Twitter feed.
Your contributions to the United Way of Lee County are making many of these thing happen by supporting nonprofits operating right here in our area.
The list is a long one, but here it goes: 4-H of Lee County, the American Red Cross Sanford Office, Blandonia Day Care Center, Boy Scouts of America Occoneechee Council. Boys and Girls Clubs of Sanford/Lee County. Center for Independent Living, Christians United Outreach Center of Lee County and Coalition for Families in Lee County.
Also, Communities in Schools of Lee County, Family Promise of Lee County, the Girl Scouts’ North Carolina Coastal Pines, HAVEN in Lee County, Helping Hand Clinic, Highway to Healing, Johnston-Lee-Harnett Community Action, LCI Inc., Lee County Firefighters’ Burned Children Fund, Legal Aid of North Carolina’s local office, t.l.c. home inc., The Salvation Army and Warren Williams Child Development Center.
As the year winds to a close, you can help next year’s good news happen by contributing your money or time. But most of all, remember that even with the difficulties we see in the media, that a lot of good things have happened this year. And even more good news will be taking place tomorrow, next week and every single day to come.
Jan Hayes is executive director of the United Way of Lee County.