GUEST COLUMN: Reflections as Past Board Chair of United Way of West Central Mississippi

Published 8:00 am Friday, February 25, 2022

By Susie Calbert | Guest Columnist

The late Stephen Covey once said, “There are three constants in life — change, choice and principles.” During the past two years, we have faced many changes, complex choices, all the while trusting the facets of our principles. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to reflect on my journey as Board Chair for the United Way of West Central Mississippi. It has been an honor to serve our community and witness the continuous growth of this organization, and it is our hope the lives we have touched have made a positive impact and unlocked the potential to create a better future for our community. 

My term as Chair of United Way of West Central Mississippi finished at the end of 2021, and I’ve spent the past few months reflecting on the productive changes that have occurred over the past two years; the choices and decisions that have been made for the betterment of our community; and the principles that guide United Way of West Central Mississippi in our efforts of improving education, developing and maintaining financial stability, creating healthier lifestyles within our community and supporting our neighbors in times of crisis. 

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I think of the vision and leadership exhibited by the board members, staff and community supporters. Although there is continuous work to be done, our community has become fruitful in its fundraising efforts that support programs, form educational partnerships, expand literacy programs, and introduce initiatives such as the Mississippi ALICE (Asset-Limited, Income-Constrained, Employed) Report. Published through a partnership of United Ways across Mississippi, the ALICE Report highlights households that earn above the Federal Poverty Level but not enough to make ends meet and serves as a vital tool to community organizations and policymakers, who utilize the information to invest in programs and policy that create a positive impact. 

By working with parents and children, I know first-hand the struggles families face each day. Many households in our community rely on programs from United Way or our network of 17 partner agencies for critical needs such as healthcare, safe and independent living, food security, educational support, affordable housing and youth enrichment. These United Way-supported services not only play a pivotal role in building healthy families and strengthening our community but also by empowering community agencies, schools, healthcare facilities, and childcare centers through networks that connect them to additional services for the individuals they serve.

Imagine having a child who is having difficulty with reading; now picture that student thriving as part of a free, after-school tutoring program. Think back to a time when someone you loved needed a safe place for their family; now imagine that family safe and warm in a stable housing situation, working toward a better tomorrow. This is why the decisions we make are important to me. Everyone should have peace of mind knowing they will have their basic needs met and that in times of crisis, they can count on their community.  

It is my hope that my time as Board Chair for United Way of West Central Mississippi serves as but a stepping stone for what is yet to come, and I’m excited to see how the organization continues to strengthen our community. If the three constants in life are change, choice and principles, it is easy to see United Way of West Central Mississippi reflected in each: our programs enact meaningful change; our donors make the choice to make a difference; and our principles — our dedication to our community — shapes every decision we make and action we take. 

Together we’re stronger — that’s why we LIVE UNITED.

 Susie Calbert is the outgoing Board Chair for United Way of West Central Mississippi.