Like many people, my original exposure to United Way was through an Employee Giving Campaign – when a speaker from one of United Way’s partner agencies came to our staff meeting and talked about the difference that United Way made.
The story was compelling, so I became a donor. At that point, I didn’t give a lot of thought to the big picture of United Way in the community.
Over the years, I was exposed to more and more stories through our company’s campaign, and I even got involved in our company’s Day of Caring. I began to see some of the direct effects of United Way’s work and that, through UWATX, we were all making a difference in a broad way, but I still wasn’t where I am today.
The big change happened about a year ago when I was approached about being involved in the relaunch of the Young Leaders Society.
From the start, it was clear that this was going to be a different kind of philanthropic group. It was one that was going to make a difference for a specific group kids during one of the hardest times in their life – middle school.
I remembered my own middle school experience, and how awkward and difficult everything seemed. I can’t imagine going through that along with the financial, family and language challenges that some of these kids have. So, I jumped at the opportunity to support the Target Graduation program through financial contributions and volunteer projects.
Giving is about more than the money. It is also about contributing your time and talents to causes that you believe in – making an investment in what you believe in any way that you can.
It’s clear to me that the Target Graduation is making a difference and the most pleasant surprise has been the students. They are clearly in charge of the projects we participate in and are engaged in making improvements to their school and their community. The students are the real inspiration and make me feel lucky to be able to help out.
After years of donating, these students have shown me what it means to be committed to a cause – and I’m proud to associate with the YLS members and the middle school students we work alongside. So proud, in fact, that I’m serving as the communications chair for the group this year and have been voted to the UWATX Board of Directors.
When I came to Austin 20 years ago, I fell in love with this city. But my experiences with United Way showed me that there are lots of people that don’t have the same opportunities that many of us have.
As this city grows and becomes more affluent as a whole, the challenges for those that are less fortunate is growing greater. I believe that those of us who are fortunate have an obligation to do our part to make Austin greater.
Jeremiah Bentley is the Senior Manager of Corporate Communications at Texas Mutual Insurance Company, the Communications Chair for the UWATX Young Leaders Society and a member of the UWATX Board of Directors. In his own words, he’s really “just a guy whose mom raised him to give back in every way possible.”