Not long ago, a very accomplished friend of mine who has influenced nonprofit leaders all over the country sent me an adorably cute picture of her 4-month-old daughter. Being the sap that I am for such things, it made my day to hear from an old friend who is now a brand new and very proud parent.
As I thought about my friend’s influence on national nonprofit work and her obvious excitement as she embraces parenthood, it occurred to me that most parents and nonprofit leaders share a similar characteristic: both dwell in the inspiring world of hope and possibility.
If you are or have been the parent of a young child, it’s likely that your dreams for your child are or were filled with limitless possibilities. Naturally, we want the best for our kids. My hopes for my two teenage daughters haven’t changed since the day they were born. I hope they have tremendously happy lives, successful careers, look great in a habit and get along well with others in the convent! (I can still dream, can’t I?)
As nonprofit leaders, most of us are in the business of hope and possibility as well. Our work is extraordinarily hard, but our hopes are high. Charitable organizations, such as the United Way, exist to make something, someone or some condition better. We wouldn’t be doing the work we do if we didn’t believe it is possible to make a difference.
During the national “Week of the Young Child” from April 6 through 12, the United Way of Wyoming Valley will be involved in two important initiatives as we begin to set sail on our new strategic direction in an effort to make an even greater difference.
First, we are hosting a forum for community leaders titled “From Poverty to Possibility: A Presentation and Discussion on Childhood Poverty in the Wyoming Valley.” The event is designed to bring attention to the impact poverty has on a rapidly increasing number of children and their families in the Wyoming Valley and how as a community we can begin to work together on this very critical issue.
Poverty impacts educational achievement, workforce readiness, health care, crime and safety, social service need, government funding and regional economic development. In one way or another, poverty impacts all of us. Children do not choose to grow up in poverty. Yet, for one in every four children under the age of 18 in Luzerne County, poverty is a very real issue. We need to work harder and differently to help families with young children find pathways out of poverty, and I am encouraged by the early response the United Way is receiving from our community.
Second, in support of the Week of the Young Child, the United Way will be partnering with the Greater Wilkes-Barre Labor Council to collect new and gently used children’s books. Together, we will promote the importance of early childhood literacy and education. The books will be distributed to children in need. If you can help, we would welcome your donations.
Nearly 30 years ago when I was just starting my career as a banker, I had the privilege of being a “loaned executive” to the United Way of Wyoming Valley. At about the same time, the late Whitney Houston released her smash hit “Greatest Love of All.” The first line of the song says “I believe the children are our future …” While that might be a bit cliché, if you do believe that children are our future, the reality is that their future is truly in our hands.
From new parents to grandparents to those who just care about our kids, our community and our future, investing in children makes sense. Sappy or not, this investment is especially valuable if you, like me, dwell in the world of hope and possibility.