Peggy Simmons Editorial: United Way work reflects the spirit, resilience of Tulsa

NOTE: The Tulsa World published this Peggy Simmons editorial October 29, 2022. You can read it online at tulsaworld.com. Peggy Simmons served more than four years as president and chief operating officer of PSO and is now AEP’s executive vice president of utilities. She is a member of the Tulsa World Community Advisory Board.

When people ask me why I’m chairing Tulsa Area United Way’s nearly $26 million campaign, I tell them stories about resilience — stories like Elma’s.   

Elma feared for her life during the pandemic for two reasons:  She was battling cancer for the second time, and chemotherapy had weakened her immune system to the point that going out for groceries was dangerous. Elma’s treatment bills left her with barely enough money for food.    

In desperate need of help, Elma turned to Toni Godwin, executive director of Bristow Social Services, one of 59 Tulsa Area United Way nonprofit partners.

Hearing Elma’s call for help, Toni went to work. She collected items from her nonprofit’s food pantry, including basic sustenance and special things she knew would make Elma smile. 

Then, Toni packed up her car and personally delivered them to Elma’s front porch. The groceries fed Elma, but talking to her friend Toni during a time of fear and isolation fed her soul.   

That right there is the foundation of the Tulsa Area United Way: People helping one another — being part of something bigger than our individual selves.  

Elma is now in remission and is doing well. When she looks back on the worst of times, Elma says, “I really don’t know what I would have done without them … I think everyone, the people who delivered the food, the people who donated to United Way, the services here, all of it took people helping people. And that’s what it’s all about — just do what you can.”   

When you consider making a United Way donation, think of Elma. Her story demonstrates the impact your support already has had, and it points to the continuing need. It demonstrates why the United Way is so vitally important … to all the Elmas in the world. 

When the 2022 campaign began, we knew we would face real economic headwinds. Local employers are dealing with the triple challenge of inflation, supply chain issues and labor shortages. Oklahoma families are struggling with inflation and an uncertain world.    

Still, I am confident we will bring the 2022 United Way campaign to a successful conclusion. I don’t say that as an enthusiastic optimist, although I am that. I say it with the confidence of history and rational analysis.  

I say it because I know the spirt of this community is strong, that we are resilient, that Tulsans will always remain united … despite the current challenges.  

Tulsans know how United Way touches lives because it has touched their own, their family’s and their neighbors’.  

They also know that an unforeseen event could leave them in desperate need due to no fault of their own. Supporting the United Way is an act of kindness, compassion, and enlightened self-interest. 

United Way does the greatest good possible because of the close efforts of more than 200 volunteers, who have spent more than 5,000 hours analyzing the finances and operations of the 59 partner nonprofit agencies to ensure donations are used efficiently, effectively and on the highest priority projects. 

So, please, help your friends, your family and your neighbors, and people like Elma — strangers perhaps, but angels unawares — by donating to the Tulsa Area United Way today. 

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *