Note: This originally appeared as a Tulsa World editorial by Karen Keith on November 7, 2021.
As co-chairs of the 2021 Tulsa Area United Way campaign, Tim Lyons and I spent the past six months touring all 59 United Way partner agencies. Tim, who is the president and CEO of TTCU Federal Credit Union, and I listened as agency staff talked about their struggles, successes, and the impact of United Way’s funding and expert consultation.
Now, you may know some of United Way’s 59 partner agencies, and some you may not. For instance, Eastern Oklahoma Donated Dental Services provides free dental care for low-income seniors and individuals with disabilities in eastern Oklahoma. If you’ve ever had a toothache and you can’t get to the dentist, that affects your whole life. It’s hard to work. It’s hard to eat. It’s hard to think. So Eastern Oklahoma Donated Dental Services makes a real difference in people’s lives.
I’ve witnessed the impact of United Way’s partner agencies over and over as a reporter for 26 years and now as Tulsa County Commissioner. I have so many stories to tell, but today I want to share their impact during the flood of 2019. That’s when Tulsa County had approximately 300 households under three-to-six feet of water. These families were desperate for help but didn’t know what to do and where to go. That’s when United Way agencies stepped in to change and save lives.
The Salvation Army was on the wet ground day one. They were giving out food and water to flood victims and also to the caring people working on the frontlines of the disaster. Then, in the aftermath of the flood, Salvation Army was there to help victims connect to vital resources in the community, including food, clothes, temporary housing, and more.
Sand Springs Community Services, another United Way partner agency, also played a key role in helping flood victims. They worked alongside area churches to give hands-on help, including mucking out houses, giving out supplies, and providing a never-ending supply of elbow grease to get the hard work done.
This, and more, is why I said “yes” to co-chairing United Way’s 2021 campaign. I know what United Way does when families need their help the most. I’ve seen it. I’ve experienced it. And I am personally grateful to help ensure United Way’s 59 partner agencies do not have to cut vital services in 2022. But the fact is that reaching the goal will be just as difficult, if not more, than 2020.
You probably have felt the increased prices for goods and services that you use. Companies have certainly felt it in their bottom line. At the same time, TAUW and partner agencies have felt it in the cost of providing those services that save and change lives. As of this writing, United Way is short of its goal and has extended the campaign by a week to look for additional support and a way to make the goal for this year.
company doesn’t run a campaign, let United Way help you. There are even matches for new gifts, increased gifts, gifts from foundations, and gifts from Women United members. Together, no matter how big the lift is, we are stronger. The flood and the pandemic proved that. If you have given, thank you. If not, please give to United Way today by visiting tauw.org/donate.Your gifts are important and make a difference to the campaign. If you haven’t given yet, I’m asking you to donate today. If your