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United Fund kicks things off

By By Susan Smith
I have just been asked the age-old question, "Aren't you glad it's all over?"
I know I shocked the person with my reply. What I said won't shock those that know me because I'm accustomed to saying what is unexpected most of the time. My reply was this.
"Over, this is where it begins. The real work of asking you to give starts now." That's what this Kick-Off Celebration was all about. As tired as I am, the ones who did the majority of the work seem to have had the most fun. Every agency called the day a success. They told myself and the board members they were able to get the message out about what they were doing for the people of Atmore.
What a great event. If you missed it, I can only tell you everyone kept telling me, and I believe them, they were having fun. From 5:30 p.m . until 7:30 p.m. we saw no one leaving. Luke Manning, band director for the Escambia County High School Marching Blue Devils led everyone from the Atmore Area YMCA building, across Main Street and into Heritage Park single file. Everyone stopped to listen and watch as they approached. Rev. Dan Rhoads, pastor of the Atmore First United Methodist Church, gave the invocation followed by the presentation of the flags and pledge by the local Boy and Girl Scout of America troops. Immediately following the Escambia County High School band played the National Anthem. A brief welcome was given and the celebration began.
The United Fund has been in existence in the Atmore area since 1955. It has remained strong for many reasons. I think two of the main reasons are the board of directors and the community itself. I work closely with a board of directors who believe in what their task is. That task is to serve and help others. I know this is the reason so much is accomplished in the one hour that we meet monthly. Most companies would pay large sums for a board like this one. Ours does it for free and we consider it a privilege. When we have a difference of opinion, we listen to each other, we discuss it, we vote on it, we make a decision and then we leave as friends. When I need a committee and volunteers, I only have to ask and they volunteer. We are a diversified group of young, old(er), black, white, male and female. Did I mention some of us are beggars? We don't mind doing it when the need calls for it. I was also reminded that there have been times when a few of us have had to climb through a window on a second floor balcony just to hang a banner announcing the kickoff for United Fund and exposing our better sides.
What then makes us so different?
I believe all too often we tend to be distracted by individual agendas. We lose our focus. Clearly this board knows what its focus is. Our task is to set an annual goal. Once the goal is set, we approach businesses, individuals, churches, schools, etc. and secure the money needed by the agencies we approve to help the Atmore area. This is a tremendous part of our task, but only a part. Prior to this, a process of screening the agencies takes place. I tell you this so you can appreciate this board of directors as I do. A simple "Thank you" is so inadequate.
When the Kick-Off Celebration committee started planning this event they approached Emilie Mims at the Atmore Area Chamber of Commerce about including us with the "Business After Hours." The Chamber agreed to let us be a part of their event and included the Chamber Ambassadors to help. Thanks Chamber. We also knew we wanted it to be free. The committee worked diligently toward free games, drinks, food, games, face painting, snow cones, audio, prizes, and live broadcasting. When I heard food, my first thought was, "What if 5,000 people show up." OK Rev. Dan will be there and I'll bring five fish and two loaves (I'm only kidding I never thought that). Most of all we wanted you to see what the agencies you support are about. If you're an outsider listening in you're probably thinking it will never happen. Tell that to Ann Glavan, Carol Crook, Carolyn Crane, Brenda Coleman, Adam Prestridge, Stephen Van Pelt and Shep Marsh. They are the committee members who put this event together and it went off without a hitch. Thank you committee. To everyone who participated and donated to the event, thank you. Your generosity speaks loudly of your commitment to the community and its people in which you live and do business. Most of you ask me not to mention you by name. That's the kind of people you are. Always giving, never expecting anything in return.
Let me take this opportunity to say that I believe Atmore has the greatest young people on the face of the earth. I saw some of them last Thursday. We will be in good hands under their direction. Thank you for participating Atmore Chamber Ambassadors, Escambia County High School marching band, Escambia Academy varsity cheerleaders, our local Boy and Girl Scout troops and each of you who helped with the drawing of prizes.
Our goal for the coming year is $75,000. It will take all of us working together to make this a successful fund drive. The money we raise here stays here. You give to us, we give to the agencies and they give back to the community through its needs.
Susan Smith is president of the Atmore United Fund.