Northeast Tennessee United Way agencies unite for regional campaign kickoff

Sue Guinn Legg • Aug 9, 2018 at 11:52 PM

United Way leaders from across Northeast Tennessee joined Thursday to kick off their annual campaigns to collectively raise $7.3 million for nonprofit organizations working to improve the health, education and financial stability of the region.

Kristan Ginnings, president and CEO of the United Way of Washington County, welcomed the United Way agencies of Kingsport and Bristol and Carter, Greene and Hawkins counties to the regional kickoff luncheon she said has been held every year for the past two decades for several good reasons.

“We are all fighting for health, education and financial stability of our community,” Ginnings said, “Collectively we raise $7.3 million. We impact almost a half-million people. We cooperate. We work together because we are stronger together.”

Robert Williams of Home Trust Bank said it was his company’s honor to the be presenting sponsor of the regional United Way kickoff and a long-running United Way partner because the United Way is an effective and efficient means of improving our community. “It is our responsibility. And its success depends on the people here,” he said.

Retired Eastman executive James L. Harlan II, whose 37-year career with Eastman spanned more than two dozen technical and senior leadership positions, 12 countries and four continents, was the speaker for the event.

Harlan opened by telling the United Way leaders “you are the game changers, your are the people who make a difference” and encouraging them to “believe what you are doing is the right thing.”

In encouraging others to support of the United Way, he said “you must capture their hearts with your sincerity.” And he quoted Winston Churchill’s philosophy that “in order to convince others you must believe in yourself.”

Harland said that in an region filled with the blessings of a safe and prosperous communities, quality schools and health care, there are also many people for whom hope is elusive and he noted that Tennessee is No. 2 in the nation in the consumption of painkillers. “These are not somebody else’s problems. These are our problems. They are in our backyard. That’s why we are here,” he said.

In solving substance abuse and food insecurity and improving children’s reading, “we must work together and leverage our community’s resources to help each other,” he said.

Harlan compared the success of regional cooperation in business and community development to the cooperative approach taken by the region’s United Way agencies.

And rather than waiting for others to reach out, he advised the United Way leaders to start conversations, make phone calls and send emails to share the things they are good at and to seek help in the area where they are stuck.

“These organizations you represent can be better if you work together,” he said. “You can learn from each other. And you can start by asking questions.”

Email Sue Guinn Legg at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @sueleggjcpress. Like her on Facebook at facebook.com/sueleggjcpress.

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