by Sam Sentelle
Margaret Ann O’Neal with United Way
Fighting for a better community
December 5, 2017
“If we can make this a better place to live, people will come, people will build businesses here,” Margaret Ann O’Neal told Putnam Rotarians. “Families will live here, and you won’t have to travel halfway across the country to see your grandchildren.”
Since last August, O’Neal has taken the helm as President of United Way of Central West Virginia, which “partners” with nonprofit agencies in Boone, Clay, Kanawha, Logan and Putnam counties.
“Our job is to take care of our people,” she said. “Any nonprofit in our area can request funding. Since June of last year, United Ways across the state have engaged in flood recovery. Every dime donated went into flood relief,” she added.
O’Neal cited research indicating that one in four children in the state goes to bed hungry every evening. Poverty and homelessness are major issues. Half of our children will be obese by age twelve, she said. “You ask children where they go to get a drink of water, and they tell you, ‘Out back,” or ‘from the creek.'” Dental clinics are needed.
United Way wants to provide a “safety net,” she said. The organization keeps an open phone service for assistance with basic needs.such as food, shelter, clothing, and help with rent and utilities. The phone number is 2-1-1 for help every day of the week and around the clock as a guide for health resources and support groups. Conversations are confidential. Highest on the list of community needs is an aid for recovery and rehabilitation from substance abuse.
“If we don’t stop it,” said O’Neal, “if we don’t figure out a way to do something, we’re going to be facing a generation of children in crisis — not just down here, they’re going to grow up and they’ll be in crisis out there.”
Volunteers are invited to work with a Community Impact Committee in Putnam County. Churches, parent groups in schools, and civic groups all are encouraged to contact United Way to set up workplace campaigns forgiving, and to join the fight for stronger communities.