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The Community is the Real Winner

I will admit that deep down inside sometimes I feel a little pressure. That little voice inside my head pipes in every so often and says, “Are you sure this is good enough?”

There is absolutely no one to blame for this trait. My folks were amazing. I’ve been educated, encouraged and supported my entire life. No one is pressuring me at United Way either.

I have a great Board of Directors, amazing community impact committees and a world class staff. I guess I am just wired this way. It’s a blessing and a curse.

Being the director and “in charge of all things United Way,” I’ve adapted to being pretty self-motivated. I’ve learned to be comfortable and satisfied because I know we are making a difference in people’s lives.

The “we” I am referring to are my colleagues and donors. United Way is fueled by the generosity and passion of hundreds of Pickens County folks who totally support our amazing work in education, financial literacy and community basic services.

Public acknowledgement and positive affirmations are a rare occurrence, so when I get them, it feels really good. It makes me even more driven to succeed.

Last Thursday, I attended the Easley Chamber of Commerce annual meeting at the request of my friend and Chamber President, Cindy Hopkins. We go back at least 20 years when she worked for the United Way in Anderson County. I had to support her because that’s what friends do for each other.

I went home to Pickens to feed my horses, put on a suit, and headed back to Easley. It was a lovely affair and even though I knew a lot of people, there were many young professionals that hadn’t crossed my path.

Note to self: You need to get out of the office more.

Imagine my delight when United Way of Pickens County was named Nonprofit of the Year. The Chamber did an incredible job keeping mum and because I didn’t expect any recognition, I was truly surprised.

Camp iRock is just around the corner and I can’t wait to write about it. June can’t come quickly enough for me. The progress made by the campers is nothing short of miraculous.

Their test scores are instant gratification but I truly think that the positive impact of Camp iRock will happen long after I am gone. It’s how the children will feel about themselves and the expectations their families will have for them.

Here’s how I know. Last week, a Clemson University student had to interview a nonprofit leader and she chose me. It was a great experience and I loved her. After the formal question and answer period was over, she volunteered information about herself and her life.

She was born to a teen mother who was a student at Easley High School. Betty Garrison was Assistant Principal at the time. Despite this unforeseen hurdle, Mrs. Garrison kept her student focused on the future. Mother passed that drive to her daughter, who will graduate from Clemson University this spring.

Hundreds of Pickens County children and their families will hear the same important message at Camp iRock. You are smart. We have faith in you. You can do anything and be anyone you want.

The world is your oyster because we live in a community that “gets it,” a community that really believes from the depths of their souls that this village can raise a child and isn’t afraid to roll up their sleeves to help.

Recognition? It’s nice. Children who can read and feel good about themselves? Now, THAT is the real prize.

This post by Julie Capaldi first appeared in the March 17 issue of the Easley Progress.