A ‘United’ kickoff

Published 6:07 am Saturday, October 15, 2016

The United Way of Southeast Louisiana (UWSELA kicked off its 2016-17 fundraising campaign Tuesday afternoon, encouraging the community to come together to fight the scourge of poverty.

The ESM United Methodist Church hosted the luncheon, which had more than 100 people in attendance.

“We are truly grateful for the remarkable individuals and companies we have in our region that support our work,” said Michael Williamson, president and CEO of UWSELA. “Donors, advocates and volunteers are helping every day to advance the quality of life for people in Washington Parish and the region as a whole.”

Williamson noted that 51 percent of families in Washington Parish are living in or on the threshold of poverty. He said that they aren’t meeting basic needs, including housing, child care, health care, food and transportation.

The luncheon’s keynote speaker was former state Sen. Ben Nevers, who now serves as the chief of staff in Gov. John Bel Edwards’ office.

Nevers said that poverty may appear to be an overwhelming crisis, but every community can do its part to battle the local problem.

“There will always be poor people in the world,” he said. “But the goal for eradicating poverty in southeast Louisiana begins right here.”

Nevers said that the fight against poverty can be compared to a “three-legged stool,” and without each of the three legs the stool will fall. Those three legs are education, strong health care, and a long-term vision to fight the problem.

“Some people say the magic is gone in The Magic City,” he said. “But I don’t believe that. I believe the magic is in you.”

Washington Parish executive director Charlotte Champagne also recognized the five businesses that donated the most to last year’s campaign. They were International Paper, Our Lady of the Angels, Rayburn Correctional Center, Entergy and Centerpoint Energy.

Larry Miller is returning as the Washington Parish Leadership Council chair and campaign chair for 2016-2017, and Linda Jenkins is the vice chair.

Donations collected by United Way help fund many non-profit agencies in the parish, which help meet the needs of all citizens regardless of age, gender and race.

The goal of UWSELA is a bold vision of equitable communities where all individuals are healthy, educated, and economically stable in Washington, Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Tammany and Tangipahoa parishes.

For more information, visit unitedwaysela.org or call the Washington Parish Office at 985-732-2305. The United Way is also on Facebook at “UnitedWaySela” or on Twitter at “@UnitedWaySELA.”