'Tis the season to be giving, touch some lives

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to reflect on the blessings we have received throughout the year. It's a time to thank and acknowledge loved ones, friends and colleagues who have touched our lives for the better.

It is also a time to reach out to those less fortunate here in our own community - they might be a neighbor, a co-worker or an individual or family you may never know.

Our 2011 United Way Community Campaign is over the half way point, garnering 57 percent of goal. We are at the toughest stage of the campaign and we need your help and support to reach our $871,000 goal.

Last year, your generous donation benefited individuals such as Skye Valdez, who helped to kickoff our campaign. Skye, the Victoria County Boys & Girls Club member of the year, and our keynote speaker, told her story about how the organization helped turn her life around.

"I am a very hard worker, but I need a lot of help. At the Boys & Girls Club, the staff has helped me with my school work and showed me how to handle my problems," she said. "I have learned to control my attitude because it was always negative. I learned to respect my mom and understand where she is coming from.

"When I graduate from high school, I want to be a dentist," she continued. "I would be the first person in my family to go to college. Going to college would mean I broke the cycle. It would mean me, my brother and my sister will have more opportunities in the future. My experience at the Boys & Girls Club has been life changing. I believe in myself more. Life can be tough, but because of the Boys & Girls Club, I believe I can do anything."

Stories like Skye's encourage, inspire and cause me to pause and be thankful. Thanks to United Way, I have found that when we work together, we can accomplish more than we could individually. I hope that you agree with me that by supporting organizations like the Boys & Girls Club, Perpetual Help Home and the Victoria Senior Citizens Center and sixteen other organizations, we do make a difference in the lives of many citizens.

Please make your pledge now, give through your United Way campaign at work or give directly. I hope that you will match, or even exceed last year's contribution. If you have never given before, take a moment and consider a small gift . every gift counts, no matter how small. You can also pledge online by logging on to our website at unitedwayvictoria.org, click "Donate Now" and follow the instructions.

Thanks again for your ongoing contributions. When a child gets a hot meal, when a single mom gets counseling, when a family gets decent housing, it is you who were there to help. These challenges are real and they are being lived out daily right here in and around Victoria where your United Way is serving.

As we celebrate Thanksgiving and the holidays in December, join hands with family and friends, open your heart, lend your muscle and find your voice. Together, we can inspire hope and create opportunities for a better tomorrow.

Happy Holidays.

Russell Janecka is the chairman of the 2011 United Way Community Campaign.