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I know that when I contribute to the United Way, as I have for fifteen years, I am supporting my community and my neighbors in a way that I otherwise could not.   I like knowing my contributions are used to help fund a wide variety of programs.

The United Way supports many programs that for personal reasons are important to me.

Some friends of mine are long-time literacy program volunteers. Like them, I believe literacy and education are the foundation of independence and accomplishment.  The United Way supports many such programs through the King Street Family Center, the Lund Center, the Retired Senior Volunteer Program, and the Boys and Girls Club of Burlington.

We all know the crippling effects that drug and alcohol abuse can have on individuals.  And the impact it has on families is devastating.  Supporting the United Way is my way of supporting the Howard Center and Spectrum Youth & Family Counseling Services.

The United Way-supported Working Bridges program does great work right here at the UVM Medical Center. The human resources benefits team has been privileged to partner with Lisa Jensen, the program coordinator. If any of my contributions support this program, it is money well spent.

Since college, I have been interested in understanding our society’s aging population and the challenges those demographic changes present. Now those challenges have a more personal meaning.  My wife and I are doing all we can to support our parents as they deal with health issues, transportation difficulties, and the day-to-day struggle of maintaining the homes where they have lived for decades.  Our families provide a great support network, but we can’t always do everything ourselves.  That’s why we are grateful for community resources like those supported by the United Way.

Recently, I’ve been fortunate to serve on the board of directors at the Champlain Valley Agency on Aging (CVAA) – a group supported by the United Way.  I know that contributing to the United Way in turn supports a number of programs critical to the well-being of seniors.  The CVAA coordinates a Meals on Wheels program, it manages congregate meal sites, it supports independent living with a team of dedicated case managers, and it offers a Senior Help Line.  Other important United Way-supported programs include home-sharing, end of life care, and senior daycare centers.

Being directly involved with the CVAA has strengthened my ties to our community and has underscored the importance of supporting the broader mission of the United Way.  Please consider giving to the United Way in 2014 – and look for a way to make your own hands-on contribution.

John Herko is the benefits manager at the University of Vermont Medical Center.

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