Augusta, GA (WJBF) — Twenty-five agencies across the Central Savannah River Area (CSRA) depend on the community’s support of the United Way of the CSRA to help them keep their doors open and assist those who need their help. LaVerne Gold and Sylvia Beam explain exactly where that money goes and the difference it makes in the community.
Brad Means: Our first segment about United Way does such incredible work in our community and has for a long time. And as I mentioned, they constantly need your support to pull off the feats that they do each and every day. Laverne Gold is the President and CEO of United Way of the CSRA. Sylvia Bean, the Development Director of Hope House, one of the 25 member agencies of United Way. Sylvia and Laverne, welcome back.
Sylvia Beam: Thank you.
LaVerne Gold: Glad to be here.
Brad Means: Well, it’s a pleasure to have both of you all here. Laverne, we were talking about year end.
LaVerne Gold: Yes.
Brad Means: That is unfortunately a time of year when people kind of forget about you.
LaVerne Gold: They kind of forget about us and kind of forget about charities in general, but we want to encourage the community to not forget about United Way. Every year we have to come to the community asking for their support, our goal this year is $3.4 million dollars. We’re about 47% of that, and we’d like to be at 50% and above. We run our campaign through February, when we have our annual meeting, on February 27th at the Augusta Marriott, but we got a little ways to go, and so we need the community to really step up and help us our with that.
Brad Means: Who are you talking to right now, corporations or individuals?
LaVerne Gold: We’re talking to both corporations, and individuals, and small businesses too. They haven’t had an opportunity to give. We want them to not forget us during the season. And for those individuals who are not at a work site, retirees, we’d love to have them to be able to help us out during this campaign time.
Brad Means: Alright, I want to talk to you a little more about that in a moment, but first, Sylvia, we welcome you back to The Means Report. Development Director of Hope House, a place where women can go to get treated for substance abuse and addiction, and recover from that. And let’s just say that it is an understatement to say that you have a lot of credibility in that department, you come from a place that lets you connect with the clients at Hope House. So my question to you is, how is it going over there? We wish that you didn’t have any clients, but you do, and how are your efforts at Hope House right now?
Sylvia Beam: We have a great need in our community. We had over 1,000 people apply for our program last year, and we’re able to serve on average 100 families per year.
Brad Means: Wow.
Sylvia Beam: So it just goes to show the need in our community.
Brad Means: And what kind of services do you provide? Is this a place where they come and stay, and if so for how long and until they get on the right track?
Sylvia Beam: So we have 42 apartments on campus. One, two, and three bedroom depending on the family size. So at any given time 42 families will be there. Our services range from, we have a therapeutic childcare center, which United Way funds that program, and our Ready For Work Program so women are able to pick up the pieces and get their life back together. Then there’s an atmosphere for their children. It’s the only facility in 13 counties where kids can come with the mom. So they’re able to focus on tackling issues that they may have had, because a lot of times they’ve been through some pretty rough stuff by the time that they’ve gotten to us. We provide individual counseling, group counseling, parenting courses, life skills. Being a former resident there myself, and now having the honor to work there, I really just learned how to live life again. Being in a safe and sober environment and having that support really made a difference for me in my life.
Brad Means: Well, you’re not just living your fie, you’re thriving, and this community celebrates you. Sylvia.
Sylvia Beam: Yes.
Brad Means: What is the most common problem for addiction or issue that someone has when they come through your front door?
Sylvia Beam: We’re seeing a rise in the opiod epidemic.
Brad Means: Oh, yeah.
Sylvia Beam: And so a lot of the women, the state sets a priority that pregnant IV users get top priority, the IV users. We have a lot of women right now who are in that bracket that are high priority for us.
Brad Means: Laverne, how do you decide I’m sorry, what were you gonna say?
LaVerne Gold: No, waiting on you.
Brad Means: I was just going to ask how do you decide who gets how much money? 25 member agencies is a lot. We want your campaign to exceed it’s goal, what happens after that?
LaVerne Gold: Well, after the dollars are collected, then we have a panel of volunteers, about 70, that go out every year and review the agencies. They’re looking at outcomes, and Sylvia just talked about outcomes with Hope House. They’re looking at the financial status. They’re looking at their capacity to provide the program and the quality of the program. And these volunteers really do an in depth job making decisions on who gets what. So it’s not just United Way staff, it is volunteers, people who are givers and donors, who take their time to really investigate the agencies and make recommendations of which our board then receives and then responds to.
Brad Means: What’s a good amount for an individual, or someone who’s part of a huge corporation, to think about paycheck by paycheck that they could give?
LaVerne Gold: Well, you know we try to encourage people to do what we call the minimal, which gets them into what we call the Caring Club, which is $150 a year. That entitles you to access to about 50 vendors that provides discounts throughout the year. Jiffy Lube provides a 15% discount on all services anywhere in the CSRA. French Market provides free dessert. Lots of restaurants providing all kinds of discounts when you come there, some buy one get one free. So that’s a win-win-win. Not only does this provide services to the person who is using the Caring Club, but it also sends businesses to that particular venue. And then the more dollars that are raised, the more we’re able to put back into the community.
Brad Means: Alright, that’s wonderful.
LaVerne Gold: And $150 a year is less than $5 a month.
Brad Means: Sure, people can swing that.
LaVerne Gold: Sure, that’s a cup of coffee a month.
Brad Means: Yeah, it absolutely is, and we can all do without one of those fancy cups of coffee at least one time a month.
LaVerne Gold: Absolutely.
Brad Means: Sylvia, we talked about the women and families who come in your door, what do they look like when they leave? Where do they go after Hope House?
Sylvia Beam: I’ve seen so many women just in whenever I was a resident there and then also working there that have just completely changed their lives. A lot of times I’ll be out in the community telling my story and often times people think, “Well, you’re just the exception to the rule.” and that is not true. We have a 67% success rate in our program, and we recover. We become tax paying citizens. We become value members of society again. Women who are living with a substance use disorder, there’s hope. Often times we hear about all the negative stories in the media on addiction, but recovery’s very real. There’s over 23 million Americans in recovery today.
Brad Means: Do people’s problems get worse this time of year across the board? Do you see that?
Sylvia Beam: Absolutely. A lot of people are depressed. A lot of people don’t have family support. They don’t have the traditional family atmosphere that you and I are accustomed to. So we do have a lot of folks that end up with depression, and sometimes that depression will lead to excessive use of substance abuse. So sometimes people end up in our programs like that. The good thing about United Way is that we have 46 programs that are outcome based, so it is just probably the best way that an individual can help support the entire community.
Brad Means: You probably already answered this question when you talked about how affordable it is to donate, but what if someone says, “Look, I give to my church. I’ll let the church figure out what to do with the money. That’s how I support charitable causes in my town.” what would you say to that?
LaVerne Gold: I’d say that that is a great place to start, and I’d also ask them to consider the broader community as well. Things like Hope House, because that church may not focus on that. They may focus on one particular issue, but when they give to United Way, that money gets spread out to so many different programs.
Brad Means: Well, I appreciate the information. I know the campaign is gonna finish strong.
LaVerne Gold: We hope so. We’re very hopeful that it will. We need the funds. The agencies depend on it.
Brad Means: Well, the community typically pulls through. Historically we have huge celebrations in February at the meeting. Sylvia, anything else? Did I miss anything?
Sylvia Beam: No, you didn’t miss anything. If there’s anyone out there watching, I would just, I know that people who are struggling with addiction, it can seem like a really dark time for not only the person who’s going through it, but for the family members as well. But there is hope out there and out of anything that would be my biggest comment.
Brad Means: Well, I could not have said it better myself. And remember Sylvia’s words folks, if you’re in your darkest hour, Lavern, Silvia, and their team at United Way are here to help you. Always. And for those of you who aren’t in your darkest hour, thanks for helping those who are. United Way CSRA, we have the information right here on your screen. How you can help them do the most good. There’s their website. There’s their address, and there’s their telephone number.