BRISTOL, Va. — How can United Way make a difference in people’s lives?

That question was answered at the 2014-15 United Way of Bristol campaign kickoff Thursday when area residents shared their personal stories of how the organization has helped them.

This year’s campaign theme is “The Power of Caring … The Power of Us!” To campaign Chairwoman Lola McVey, it means that when caring individuals unite the effect on others is greater.

One of those was WCYB TV 5 anchor Julie Newman.

“United Way goes in and it fills in all these gaps in people’s lives,” Newman said. “When they need help, we don’t always see it because you can’t always tell who’s been touched by United Way, but look what it does for our community. Or on the other side, what would our community look like without United Way? If you step back and you look at our community as a whole it’s overwhelming how you can see the positive impact. It’s because of that that I think it’s really important that I speak out.”

She shared her story about how Big Brothers Big Sisters was beneficial to her after her father died due to cancer when she was only 5 years old. Her mother engrained in her a strong sense of community service and took her along when she provided meals to people through Meals on Wheels. Because of that experience, Newman still works with Meals on Wheels and involves her children.

“I think learning how to give your time and your money and your service and your volunteer efforts is something that you learn,” she said. “It’s not only up to us to do what we do, but it’s up to us to pass it on. We can all make a difference and we all have the responsibility not only to make a difference but to teach others and encourage them and inspire others to make a difference as well.”

Actor and East Tennessee State University professor Pat Cronin also spoke at the kickoff. He quoted Mother Teresa who said, “If you have not learned to serve, you have not learned how to live.”

“You realize as I realize as we all realize if the community isn’t thriving,” he said. “Then what have we got? I am proud of everyone who contributes. If you don’t give, you don’t get, you don’t have. You don’t get until you give.”

The amount of money that this year’s pacesetter campaign has raised since it began in August was revealed to be $393,483.91. The goal this year is to raise $1.425 million, the same as last year, which was exceeded.

“We still have a little over a million dollars to raise,” McVey said. “It’s going to be a challenge, but the people in this room get it and we’ve got some great volunteers. What we need to remember is the impact that that money will have.”

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