May 5, 2018 | Source: Lubbock Avalanche-Journal
By Doug Hensley
If there has been a consistent theme among the people of West Texas during my nearly four decades in Lubbock, it has been their unquenchable desire to be generous toward others. Certainly, part of that can be attributed to the agricultural heritage of the region and a belief that neighbors always help neighbors. Likewise, it’s true that as a community where the roots of faith run deep, people here have always been willing to share what they have with those who may not have as much.
Giving to others – no questions asked – just comes with the territory. It’s one of the many things that makes our little corner of the world so special.
Many years ago, Dave Sharp, then publisher of the Avalanche-Journal, told his employees something I have never forgotten. “Volunteerism is the rent we pay for living in a community.”
Even if he borrowed the sentiment from someone else, it was one he believed in deeply. Those who donate their time, talent and treasure change the trajectory of communities through their efforts. They touch one life one moment at a time. At the time, I was just beginning to engage as a United Way volunteer, but those words have stuck with me (and with many of my former newspaper colleagues) for a long time.
It has been a pleasure and a privilege through the years to be involved in a number of United Way campaigns. It should be considered nothing less than an annual miracle. We have hundreds of people working together to raise millions of dollars to help incredible partner agencies do the absolutely necessary work of making sure the least, last and lost do not fall through the gaps. They fulfill in an amazing way the Lubbock Area United’s Way Mission: Giving People Hope.
The amount of space I have available precludes my telling something about each of the 23 United Way partner agencies, so I will only ask you this question: Can you imagine what our community might look like without the local United Way and those agencies?
Having worked on the inside of the campaign year after year, it is incredible to see the way the dollars are allocated and accounted for – by the United Way as well as by its partners. Year after year, I have been amazed to watch the community meet its United Way goal. The secret sauce in that success is no secret at all. It is the people and their bedrock belief in this community we share.
Every year, faithful donors from all walks of life – schoolchildren, blue-collar workers, CEOs and everyone in between and all around – do not WHAT they can but ALL they can to help. I am thankful to live among so many big-hearted people.
Yet, United Way is about so much more than the money. Yes, it takes money to make everything else happen, and yes, the partner agencies (along with all the other excellent non-profits in Lubbock) can always use more money and more resources so they can make more of a difference. The annual campaign that will start in a few months (WOW!) is the most visible part of United Way, but the organization has a year-round focus and a year-round mission that also is only made possible by the people of West Texas.
If you read nothing else, please read this: Thank you. Thank you to the generations of volunteers who have kept United Way not just surviving but thriving as a local resource since its inception as the Community Chest in 1946. One main reason I have stayed involved with United Way for more than 25 years now is my respect and appreciation for so many of the servant leaders in this community who have served previously.
Thank you for the sense of stewardship that has been a pervasive hallmark of the institution from its earliest days. Thank you also for the difference United Way agencies and staff have made in the fabric of this community through their faithful witness and determination to help others with a hand up, not a handout. The Lubbock Area United Way has a proven track record of superior achievement. The overwhelming majority of that is because of the people of West Texas. They see a need and they react. Check that. They react even before they see a need.
I’ve been fortunate to be a part of some of the city’s most influential corporate citizens. The Avalanche-Journal, United Supermarkets, the Texas Tech University System and now, the Reagor-Dykes Auto Group. The common denominator among these organizations is leadership that empowers people to effect change not just in the marketplace, but also in other places.
Dave Sharp was right: Volunteerism is the rent we pay for living in a community. I’m grateful to live among so many others cheerfully paying the rent every day.