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  • Triangle United Way

    Your United Way works . . .

    Mary Jacobs, senior administrative assistant for the Dean of Faculty of Arts and Sciences:

    "Basically, the reason that I enjoy giving to the United Way is that I wish everyone could be as blessed as I am and I wish to share what I have with those who arenít as fortunate.

    "I was never really taught about money or how it could be responsibly used. But as I have gotten older, I have realized that what we do with our money is a part of our maturity. Being a responsible citizen means responsibly using our resources for our own well-being as well as contributing to the well-being of our community. By reassessing my priorities, I have been able to set aside a portion of what I earn for the United Way to support those programs that are so critical to so many."

    Scott Silliman, executive director of the Center on Law, Ethics and National Security at Duke Law School :

    "My real connection with United Way is more personal -- as a recipient of its services. Shortly after I retired in 1993 after 25 years of practicing law as an Air Force judge advocate to come to Duke Law School to teach and establish the center which I now direct, my wife was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She succumbed after a heroic two and one-half year struggle. In the final six months of her life, she was under the care of Triangle Hospice, an organization supported by United Way. I was so impressed with the compassionate care rendered to my wife and the dedication of the people associated with Hospice, that I not only made a direct contribution to them but I also agreed to speak about my experience to the Duke Law School faculty at a special meeting promoting participation in United Way. I was then, and still remain, a firm supporter of United Way and its supported activities."

    Michelle Coleman, staff assistant at the medical centerís Clinical Research

    "I used to work at a manufacturing firm in Onslow County, which is not one of the highest-paid areas around, and at least 85 percent of the people who worked there gave to the United Way. I donít know if it was done out of loyalty. We just believed in trying to support the community. And with payroll deduction, you didnít even miss it. Not everyone could afford to give $10 or $20 per payday. They may have given only 50 cents or a dollar, but that adds up, too. Every little bit helps.

    "I just found out that at Duke thereís only 13 percent participation. Thatís astounding. A few people asked me, ĎWhy should I give to the United Way?í Besides all the good deeds that the United Way does and all the help that it provides, it makes me feel good knowing that Iím helping my community."

    Tom Robinson, director of publications at the law school and an instructor with the Duke Institute for Learning in Retirement :

    "Iím one of these fortunate folks who has not needed the United Way, but there are a whole host of people who have not been as fortunate. My strong support for United Way flows from a strong commitment to the American Red Cross. All of the money I give to the United Way goes directly to the Red Cross.

    "I am a pheresis donor -- people who have various types of cancer, particularly leukemia, anyone going through a bone marrow transplant, they have a great need for platelets and you get those platelets through pheresis donations. They basically take blood out of one arm, run it though a machine, take out the platelets and then put the blood back in your other arm. With all the bone marrow work in this area, the tremendous cancer research and treatment, there is a great need for platelets.

    "Iíve got all these platelets in me, someone else could use them, so why not give them up. To me, the Red Cross is the one doing all the work. Theyíre the ones who deal with the logistics of getting the platelets from donor to patient. Thatís one arm of the Red Cross. The other is the one that helps people after some type of disaster. Theyíre the ones who deserve the credit."

    Another Duke story . . .

    Seven miles from Duke's campus, Teisha bites her lip and struggles with a math problem that stands between her and her future. She's passed four of the five tests she needs to get her General Equivalency Degree, but the math test is by far the hardest, and she doubts that she can do it, no matter how hard she studies.
    Help arrives in the form of math wiz Shannon Pollard, a Duke graduate student. "Hey there, Teisha," Pollard says, as she slides into a chair next to her student. "Oh good, you're working on percents. I've got the greatest trick for percents. You're going to love it." Pollard speaks with infectious enthusiasm, and her confidence radiates like a neon light. The student lets out a sigh and smiles with relief.
    Fifteen minutes later, Teisha is smoothly solving the page of problems that had so daunted her before. Pollard tutors three days a week for the Durham County Literacy Council. "It's exciting when a student passes one of the tests," Pollard explains. "I know what some of them have gone through, and I know how much it means to them to pass."
    Pollard is one of the many volunteers assisting the Durham Literacy Council, one of 86 agencies that receives funds from the Triangle United Way. According to the Literacy Council, an estimated one of every five Durham residents is functionally illiterate, which means they can't read a newspaper article, fill out a job application or find a location on a map. Without these most basic tools, they face a life of limited opportunities.
    The Durham County Literacy Council attacks the problem of adult literacy with an army of volunteers who help teach small classes, work one-on-one with individuals or, like Pollard, assist with GED classes. "I wanted to do something that really counted," Pollard says, explaining why she chose to volunteer with the Literacy Council. "Getting their GED is really important to the students I work with, and it makes me feel good to be able to help them. But it's also important in a bigger way. I'm helping people become productive members of society."
    Lucy Haagen, executive director of the Durham County Literacy Council, agrees."What we do is like that old proverb," she says. "We give people the means to fish, not just give them the fish."
    How can the community help this important work? "Volunteer," Haagen answers immediately. "We have a waiting list of people needing to be matched with tutors." But if you can't give time, you can help by supporting the Literacy Council through the Duke-United Way Partnership, which is currently underway.

    by Mesa Somer