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United Way of Lancaster County


This Thanksgiving, I am grateful for the helpers (opinion)

Fred Rogers, the creator and star of Mr Rogers’ Neighborhood. (Source: PBS)

  • “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” — Fred Rogers

I am a PBS Kid. Today’s children will never know the thrill of sitting in front of the (analog) television during a pledge drive, waiting for their names to scroll by after their parents made a donation.

As a PBS Kid, so much of what I learned on Sesame Street and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood remains with me today. I still whisper “C is for Cookie” when I’m having a snack, and Mister Rogers’ quote about looking for the helpers has run through my head over and over again as I age.

As a grownup, I have spent more than 17 years of my career working for community benefit organizations. As someone deeply engaged in the health and human services sector, I am also deeply aware of the vast need and disparity in our community and in communities around the world. The sheer scale of despair can sometimes be almost too much to bear.

I am comforted, however, by the knowledge that for every community problem, deficit, gap, or concern, there is someone who cares deeply about the issue, knows far more than I do about possible solutions, and is working tirelessly to make our community better.

Maybe they are on staff at a community benefit organization. Perhaps they are a volunteer. Maybe they are starting a coalition to bring people together around an issue. Perhaps they are advocating for a solution. Regardless, they are giving of their time and talent to make this community better, and I am exceedingly grateful for the helpers.

This year in particular, I am grateful to be part of the United Way of Lancaster County team. Given my familiarity with the community benefit sector, I have always known about United Way and the good they are doing in the community. However, even I have been amazed by the depth and breadth of the work being carried out by our amazing staff and our volunteers.

From 211 navigators walking alongside our neighbors in their darkest moments; to VITA volunteers helping community members with tax returns; to our Community Impact Committee making grant decisions in order to get financial support to impactful organizations across the county so they can do what they do best, United Way of Lancaster County is full of helpers amplifying the work of other helpers in the community.

As I sit down at the Thanksgiving table this year, in addition to the gratefulness for health, for the warm home and the ability to share a meal with loved ones, I am thankful for the helpers.

I am thankful for the staff and volunteers at community benefit organizations across the county, meeting the needs of our neighbors.

I am thankful for the coalition builders and the advocates and the mobilizers who ensure the voices and concerns of all community members are heard.

And I’m grateful for the team at United Way, who have welcomed me and allowed me to work alongside them, the helpers, to make our community a better place.