The theme of this issue is a hot button for me. I love the heart Columbia has for the people of our community. If you don’t think this is true, then you aren’t putting any skin in the game. If a person gets involved by donating their time, talent, and treasure to the social issues of our community, then you can’t help but notice the thousands of people tirelessly giving of themselves in all ways. Nothing proves this more than the way we rallied together to pull our non-profits through the horrible last 18 months of the pandemic. Non-profit organizations that rely heavily on the generosity of our community for operating funds went into the pandemic with heightened requests for services and a fear that funds would be diminishing. The executive directors that I’ve talked to all have confirmed that their needs were amply met.
There are so many issues to focus on that it can become overwhelming. Affordable housing, food insecurity, transportation, education, workforce development, safety and security, even pets! My heart has been broken over and over by stories of those that go without and are hurting. The desperately poor in our city struggle to figure out how to feed and clothe their children. The refugees running from terrors we couldn’t imagine that struggle even more because they can’t speak English. Do you know who sees everyone across all spectrums? Columbia Public Schools. The answers to many of our social issues, in my opinion, lie directly in the heart of equipping our public education system with more resources. Education isn’t just about throwing caps and getting degrees. It’s not even about whether or not to wear masks. It’s about so much more than that. Education is about helping people learn to thrive and change family legacies.
People need to be able to work, they need to be able to have transportation to that work, and they need an affordable place to live while they do so. But these aren’t problems that are fixed quickly. These are problems that need to be addressed systematically. I know that the citizens of Columbia are smart enough to do this. The answers lie in what we can all do together. Can you imagine if we had more counselors assigned to fewer children? What about more advocates that work directly with families stuck in the judicial system so no one is left alone?
This is one of the reasons that I love our United Way so much. United Way has the ability to be a convener for all organizations working to improve in all of these areas. Not only do they help raise funds and awareness for dozens of entities each year, but they also work on capacity building for staff and boards. They work on creating and implementing metric systems to ensure that each of the funded organizations are being effective in meeting their stated goals and objectives. And, where some may fall short, they surround them with the help and structure they need to improve. Lastly, they can see from a 30,000 foot view where overlap exists and where the holes exist.
In closing, I urge you to find the thing that you get passionate about. Is it kids? Is it animals? Is it our veterans? Find that thing, and give all you have to it. Your efforts will be felt by our community. Don’t know what that is yet? Maybe the heroes receiving our Impact COMO awards this year can inspire you.
And if you want the 17,422 words I had to cut on this topic, email me at [email protected]
All my best,
Erica Pefferman, Publisher