Op-Ed

Giving is a team effort

TNS

As my two-year term as chairman of the board of United Way of Miami-Dade ends, I can say one thing with certainty: Miamians want to help.

They want to give back and are willing to contribute their time and resources to make our community a better place to live and work.

Just consider the hard work of the United Way’s board members, the commitment of its staff and the dedication of thousands of volunteers across the county.

This organization’s legacy of generosity is an inspiration and speaks to a larger truth about the role of philanthropy and community service.

Giving, advocating and volunteering is a team effort.

As a team grows, so, too, do the chances to solve more social problems and influence more positive change throughout our communities.

With this in mind, now is a good time to consider joining the growing ranks of those who donate time, talent and resources to build a stronger Miami.

There are compelling reasons to add your name to the list of those who are helping out in any way they can.

Chief among these reasons is the simple fact that there is a pressing need to take action.

A good number of Miamians might be surprised to learn that many families in our community are one emergency away from falling into poverty.

In late 2014, United Way released the ALICE Report (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed), a study conducted by Rutgers University, which found that half of all households in our community and 45 percent across our state could barely cover their basic living expenses of housing, childcare, food, healthcare and transportation.

A majority of those who are struggling, 242,237 in Miami-Dade County, are working people who take care of our children and older adults.

They serve our meals and keep the tourism industry booming.

A large, committed and active team is needed to help address not just the immediate needs of those who are struggling financially, but to get at the root causes of the ongoing, silent crisis.

When we confront our challenges together we begin to strengthen our whole community, and that is good for everyone.

In other words, it’s not just about other people — those who need our help — it’s about all of us.

Whether it’s access to education, the push for affordable housing and improved access to healthcare, or the effort to create higher-paying jobs, if we all work together to make advancements we all then become the beneficiaries.

That is exactly what is happening in Miami already, thanks to our many volunteers who give their time passionately and often.

I know this from personal experience as my colleagues at Bank of America logged more than 6,000 volunteer hours last year.

Of course, there are as many ways to give back as there are reasons to do so.

Some donate to the specific causes in our community that they care about most.

Others give their time to help individual nonprofit organizations carry out their missions.

Feeding South Florida is one such organization, which relies heavily on volunteers year-round to sort, sift and pack thousands of pounds of donated food to help nearly 1 million households in South Florida that are food insecure.

Miami-Dade businesses are playing a greater role in the equation as well, offering direct financial assistance and implementing incentive programs to encourage employees to volunteer.

While Miami’s team of committed volunteers and donors is growing, there is plenty of room for more on the roster — and there’s no better time than the present to pitch in. As we say at the United Way: Live united.

Gene Schaefer is the 2013-2015 board chair of United Way of Miami-Dade and the Miami market president for Bank of America.

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