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Cliff Williams / The Outlook Retiring Lake Martin Area United Way director Sharon Fuller, center, has a little fun with her grandson Merrett Fuller and Lola Popov at a luncheon in Fuller’s honor.

A staple of the Lake Martin Area United Way is taking another leap of faith.

For more than 10 years Sharon Fuller has been helping others in Tallapoosa and Coosa counties as the United Way’s executive director. But just because Fuller is retiring, doesn’t mean she is walking away from helping others.

“I’m just going to enjoy being a grandmother, taking the time for my Bible studies and just taking care of people,” Fuller said. “I’ll do what my heart says to do. If people are in the hospital, I’ll bake something, just give of my time.”

No two weeks have ever been the same in Fuller’s 10 years and some of those weeks often we longer than 50 hours getting in the way of family and personal life, but Fuller’s husband Steve, children Steve and Haley and other family members made the United Way a way of life.

“It says a lot when your family sees you working so hard and they want to be there for you — that’s real special,” Fuller said. “My husband and family have helped tremendously in my time at the United Way. My mother, when I first started, was at every single event — my daughter was too. Haley is one of my biggest cheerleaders or supporters. My son would be too if he lived closer.”

Fuller started in June 2011 as things were still shifting in the local economy and Russell Corp. and its subsidiaries had been the largest contributors to the Lake Martin Area United Way. Fuller plowed ahead and shifted efforts focusing on developing relationships with individuals and small businesses while also educating everyone what the agencies of the United Way did for the community.

Fundraising efforts under Fuller saw more than $5.5 million raised to support agencies across two counties adding seven new agencies to the Lake Martin Area United Way umbrella. Individual giving rose with Red Feather Leadership Society membership growing from 85 to 169. Red Feathers are individuals who give $1,000 or more per year. Fuller also established ways for others to give and be recognized.

Fuller enjoyed helping organize and plan events, but it was to serve the community.

“I’m not a pushy type of person,” Fuller said. “I want you to give from the heart. I want you to give for the right reasons. It’s about relationships and people. You have to educate them on where their money is going. That’s what I hope I’m leaving, a good footprint.”

Fuller said her God given talent proved useful in her time at the United Way.

“I love planning and organizing. That is just a gift I have, being able to see the community and being able to match people with their strengths and talents,” Fuller said. “Volunteers come in and I can put them in different places where they will be great. I know how they intermingle with people and their personalities.”

It’s a way Fuller and her family try to live even when they have time outside the United Way.

“I try to live my best as a Christian especially in the things I do and the way Steve and I give,” Fuller said. “But there are things the United Way can do that a church can’t always do. That is where we work together. I’m always going to say give to your church first and you if you don’t have money to give, then give your time to help others, do something to give back to help other people.”

Fuller officially retires Wednesday but her focus will still be serving her community and family.

“I will be doing something in planning even if it's planning my grandson’s birthdays,” Fuller said. “I’ll be there for my family. I’ll help others. I’m excited to see where God will lead me.”

Cliff Williams is a staff writer for Tallapoosa Publishers.

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