Lynaia South Orr: Give to United Way |

Lynaia South Orr: Give to United Way

— There has been much talk recently about the Steamboat-style friendliness for which Steamboat Springs is known. That hospitality sets Steamboat apart, especially in the troubled economic times our country is facing. The Chamber is even offering Steamboat culture training in an effort to improve or perpetuate this Western hospitality.

But we need to do more than treat our visitors as our guests. We need to treat our neighbors as our friends and family. How can we claim to be hospitable and friendly – a true community – if we let our neighbors go without basic shelter, basic nutrition and health care? And how can our employees be expected to provide good service if instead of focusing on the customer, they are worried about how they will pay for their child care bill – the child care that allows them to come to work every day?

I believe in good service, but more importantly, I believe in service to others. That service to others starts with making sure the most vulnerable in our community can meet their basic needs. And right now, I don’t believe that is true. To bridge that gap, we rely on the 40 health and human service agencies and programs supported by United Way.

That gap is the largest I have seen in Routt County. Our culture training should include a discussion about these basic needs and who is going to meet them. Lift-Up provides emergency housing and utility assistance, and the increase in needs they have seen is staggering. Advocates Against Battering and Abuse creates a safe environment for individuals and families that are the victim of domestic violence or sexual assault. It is well-documented that the need for these services increase when the economy is bad – and Advocates’ numbers already reflect this. Other United Way agencies provide medical and dental services to the under-insured and uninsured. Who among us is not frightened by the thought of paying for medical bills?

It is difficult to choose which of these agencies should receive the limited amount of money that I can give each year. By giving to United Way, I give to all of them. United Way’s funding process requires outcome measurements of each agency, so I know that my money will go to programs that do what they say and have a real impact on our community.

There certainly are many ways to give. The Community Thanksgiving Dinner allowed those with cooking talents to give in a special way. Even those of us who are not that great at cooking could give back by working the service line or the dishwasher. The Christmas Wishes program ensures that children in Routt County share in the joy gifts bring during the holiday season. But the needs of our community are year-round. Who will meet these needs in January and February, when the holiday decorations all have been stored away? The United Way agencies will. But only through the generosity of this community through the United Way annual campaign. That’s why I give to United Way. Whether it is $5 a paycheck or $500, each dollar counts to ensure that our neighbors feel that western warmth.

Lynaia South Orr

Steamboat Springs

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