A succession of people bore witness Tuesday morning to the importance of city employees giving to the Lake Martin Area United Way, not that they need the motivation.
City of Alexander City employees have gone from donating $2,841 in 2016 to $26,182 last year and their goal this year is $27,000, according to LMAUW executive director Sharon Fuller.
The donations have risen so dramatically the United Way chose the city as a Pacesetter in hopes other organizations will be inspired to give more than ever.
“We’re going first,” Mayor Tommy Spraggins told city employees gathered in the lobby of city hall on Tuesday morning. “Our campaign is ahead of everybody else’s. They want to see success. This year our goal is $27,000 but it’s OK if we hit $30,000.”
Fuller stressed how vital United Way’s 28 agencies are.
“Over in Coosa County, there was somebody who wasn’t able to pay their power bill in this heat and we were able to get it turned back on yesterday,” she said. “We’re so blessed in this area, when there is a need someone steps up. We helped 25,000 people through our 28 agencies last year and 99% of the money stays in the community.”
Spraggins, who served on the United Way board 10 years and has been its campaign chairman twice, buttressed those remarks and challenged employees to be generous.
“It helps thousands of people in our area,” he said. “When you give your money to United Way, every dollar is looked at seriously. The agencies have got to defend what they spend to the board. I’d like to ask you to give your fair share — one hour’s pay per month.”
Spraggins said the city’s water distribution department already has 100% participation.
The United Way exceeded its goal of $535,000 last year by $35,000 and its 2019-20 goal will be announced Aug. 27 at 5:30 p.m. at the Betty Carol Graham Center on the Central Alabama Community College campus.
The city employees’ contributions to the United Way grew from $2,841 in 2015-16 to $18,842 in 2016-17, then $19,000 in 2017-18 and $26,182 in 2018-19.
Late Alexander City Mayor Jim Nabors pointed out the giving got better as morale improved among city employees.
“Morale was bad,” he said in December. “It’s a lot better now; there’s more camaraderie. United Way is a prime example of people competing with each other. That’s all about trickle-down influence and competitiveness.”
The United Way provides funding for 28 agencies designed to help infants, children, youth, adults and senior adults. Those include Goodwater Head Start & Early Head Start, Sav-A-Life, Camp ASCCA, the Tallapoosa County Sheriff’s Girls Ranch, The Learning Tree, Alexander City Rescue Squad, American Red Cross, Central Alabama Domestic Violence Intervention Center, Habitat for Humanity of Alexander City, Rape Counselors of East Alabama, TallaCoosa Aid to People, The Lighthouse of Tallapoosa County, Salvation Army, Volunteer Connections of Central Alabama, Boys & Girls Club of the Lake Martin Area, Boy Scouts of America, Girl Scouts of Southern Alabama, Camp Fire USA, Coosa County Sheriff’s Reserve, DARE of Alex City & Tallapoosa County, Head Start of Tallapoosa County, Palmer Place Children’s Advocacy Center, Tri-County Children’s Advocacy Center, Children’s Summer Reading Program, ARISE, Lake Martin Laubach Literary Council, Meals on Wheels and Home Depot Veterans Projects.
Alexander City police chief Jay Turner said he decided to start helping United Way when the Red Cross fed him and other officers when they were stranded in the March 1993 blizzard.
“We were stuck for three days,” he said. “We slept in the jail during the day. Nothing was open but the Red Cross fed us every day. The worst people to be around are fire, police and rescue people who are hungry. That inspired me to start giving my fair share. I was broke and yet I didn’t miss it.”
Turner also spoke on behalf of the Tri-County Children’s Advocacy Center, saying it saves abused children from becoming damaged adults.
“I remember my first child abuse case,” he said. “A child had been beaten with an extension cord and as I sat there looking at the father who did it, I wanted to take him out back. I saw him as a wasted breath. And kids have to live with that for the rest of their life. But counseling through Tri-County builds that trust. It’s not the kids’ fault. It breaks the cycle because all they have known is abuse. Otherwise they might beat their own children someday.”
Sharon Moore of Sav-A-Life recalled being able to help a pregnant woman move back home.
“There was a woman who moved here and was pregnant and her boyfriend left her,” Moore said. “She came in to see us several times and finally decided she wanted to move back home. She didn’t have any way to do it. We figured out it what it would cost to get a truck to move her and I called Sharon (Fuller) and later that day we had the money. She was able to move back home and she had the baby and she is doing well.”
Jay Taylor and Ken Cowart of the Alexander City Rescue Squad said donations help them provide grieving families closure when someone has been lost on the water.
“When you give $5 that’s another hour we can spend looking for your loved one,” Taylor said.
Cowart remembered a bittersweet Mother’s Day searching for a drowning victim in Elmore County.
“The mother hugged my neck and said, ‘I know you couldn’t save him but this is the best Mother’s Day present I could get. You brought my son home to me.’ That is our pay.”