When all you can do is beg

September 16, 2020

By Julie Capaldi, President, United Way of Pickens County


COVID-19. I am just SO over it. The coronavirus propelled so many hard working families into poverty. It’s just shocking how quickly it happened. The children may be suffering the most… ripped away from school and their friends for months. Now they are back in school but it’s a completely different experience…masks, protective workstations, social distancing. UGH!

United Way’s ability to execute the programs our community so desperately needs is dependent on the generosity of our community. My husband, Jim used to tell people I begged for a living. It really ticked me off but that is what I have become. A BEGGAR. Asking for money, day in and day out. It’s never been more important.

So many people are dependent on me. It’s overwhelming but I just can’t throw in the towel, crawl into a hole and quit. The issues that have been important to Pickens County…3rd grade reading and moving families out of poverty are even more serious now.

Less than half of Pickens County 3rd graders are reading at grade level. If those children do not read at grade level by 3rd grade, it is nearly impossible for them to catch up. There is a good chance they will not graduate on time or find a good job.

When a child struggles at school every day, he feels worthless and hopeless. These feelings follow him forever. Can you imagine how hard school will be for him now?

The challenges of the coronavirus have made it even more difficult for children to learn. Months away from the classroom have taken a toll on our youngest learners.

United Way of Pickens County has been tackling the challenging issue of 3rd grade reading by supporting programs that work. Programs like Camp iRock, an innovative summer program, that in partnership with the School District of Pickens County and the YMCA, helps struggling children improve their reading abilities.

It’s my life’s mission. MY PASSION. When the coronavirus threatened to derail Camp iRock this summer, I thought I would just crumble. No hugs from my babies, no one to high five me, or tell me I looked like gramma.

The team got creative and figured out a way to offer Camp iRock virtually to 130 struggling readers. It was a challenge but still fun, meaningful and… successful. Reading improved!

I don’t know what next summer will look like for Camp iRock, but it doesn’t really matter. Whatever comes our way, we’ll make it work because we always have. There is nothing more important to me.

The coronavirus is making it harder to fund this work because grants and other donations we’ve counted on in the past are gone. That is why we need you so desperately. By supporting United Way, and even increasing your support this year when others can’t, you are going to make an even greater difference this year.

A child’s future is at stake. To make a secure donation, go to our webpage or mail a check to United Way of Pickens County, PO Box 96, Easley, SC 29641.

This editorial first appeared in the Sentinel Progress on September 16, 2020.