What does it mean to Live United?
If you’re Gary Henderson, president and chief executive officer of the United Way of Denton County, it means bringing together varying segments of the community to pursue solutions to universal, pervasive problems.
That means working with area law enforcement and court systems to better address mental illness in Denton County — including at the Denton County Jail, the largest in-patient facility for behavioral health in the county.
That means striving alongside the Denton County Veterans Center to help connect veterans and their families with food, housing, health and financial resources.
It involves partnering with county school districts to lead food drives and improve access to education and lifelong learning for county families.
It also means working with numerous advocates, schools, county resources and others to help coordinate effective responses to homelessness.
But perhaps most importantly it means recognizing the unique challenges now facing a booming community, in which fewer dollars are earmarked for increasing numbers of people and issues, and helping to orchestrate a united front in response.
Henderson and other members of the leadership team at the United Way this past week addressed the Editorial Board of the Denton Record-Chronicle. The presentation preceded the annual kickoff breakfast for the United Way’s fundraising campaign and helped frame September as Live United Month.
For Live United Month, the team is helping to raise awareness — and yes, you will see much more to come in the pages of the Record-Chronicle — about these four areas: mental health; homelessness; children and families; and veterans and their families. When you are faced with some of the statistics that define these areas of need, you can appreciate why the United Way has made them its focus:
- One in five Denton County residents will be impacted by a mental health condition this year.
- Approximately 1,200 people will experience homelessness this year in Denton County.
- Almost 117,000 residents in Denton County don’t know where their next meal will come from.
- Of the 41,000 veterans in Denton County, about 9,000 suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
The challenges to making a dent in those numbers are immense, primary of which is always money. The United Way is an umbrella organization that feeds into a number of area charities and community efforts, but with increased charitable options comes increased competition. And it’s still unclear how the landmark tax reforms will impact charitable giving this year.
The United Way, however, has responded to the challenges with a refined focus, facilitating conversations and fostering partnerships that will effect change. Donations made to the United Way will most certainly have a local impact — and not just for those in need but rather in an elevated livability for the community at large.
The majority of the United Way’s support comes from workplace campaigns, which will be kicking off soon. We encourage you to participate.
In the meantime, expect to hear and learn more about how the United Way is moving the needle in several key gauges throughout Denton County. Identifying areas of need, serving as a conduit for effective partnerships and securing key improvements — that’s what it means to Live United.