“There is a difference between living a life of ambition and living a life of impact. One of those things you do for yourself, one of those things you do for the people around you.

“Making an impact. That’s what the Wiregrass United Way does,” Lauren Bradford told the Coffee County civic leaders, elected officials, area beauty queens and the Enterprise High School band and cheerleaders filling the Enterprise YMCA Fitness Center Sept. 23 “That’s what all of you are doing.”

Bradford is Miss Alabama 2021 and she was among those riding the Wiregrass United Way Tour Bus through six counties, with short stops in each, to meet and greet local WUW supporters.

The bus tour started that morning at the Abbeville Boys and Girls Club and then traveled to Barbour County for a campaign kickoff stop at the downtown gazebo in Eufaula. In Dale County, the bus stopped at the Vivian B. Adams School for a campaign rally before heading to the YMCA in Enterprise.

Bus stops at Hartford’s Ketchem’s Restaurant and the Dothan Area Chamber of Commerce completed the journey.

Bradford was the special guest on the bus tour that also included members of the WUW leadership team and Walter Hill, who has served as WUW Executive Director since 2003.

The overall WUW goal this year is $2,750,000, Hill told the crowd. The Coffee County fundraising goal is $400,000—with $224,237 raised as of Sept. 23, Hill said. “That is 56 percent of the goal and that is the highest percentage of any county that we have been to so far.”

Each year approximately 100 area businesses and organizations commit to conduct their employee fundraising campaign for the WUW between early August and mid-September. These businesses are called “Pacesetters” because they jump-start the annual United Way campaign and “set the pace” for the remainder of the year, Hill explained. “Pacesetters are vital to the success of the overall campaign because they allow the Wiregrass United Way to start their overall fundraising one month early,” Hill added.

During the stop at the YMCA, Pacesetter awards were presented to River Bank and Trust for raising $7,272, Enterprise State Community College for raising $2,395, Enterprise City Schools for raising $21,270 and the Mitchell Automotive Group for raising $28,500.

Scott Bowers from AAA Cooper Transportation is the Board of Trustees Chair and Mike Smith from Servis1st Bank is the overall Campaign Chair. “Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier,” said Smith. “What that means is that we can do more together than we can by ourselves.”

This year’s campaign slogan is “The Way to a Better Wiregrass,” Smith said. “It is from the Bible Book of John Chapter 14, verse 6 where Jesus says ‘I am the way and the truth and the light.’

“I want you to know that ‘the way’ is not a direction. ‘The way’ is a people. We are the people of ‘the way’ and there is no better example of that the Enterprise YMCA where we are standing today,” Smith said, citing the center’s “service, lending a helping hand and providing a positive atmosphere for our children.”

“Thank you to the Wiregrass United Way and for the awesome way that God uses you all as His instrument to make a difference in many, many lives,” said Enterprise YMCA Executive Director Richard Pipkin, as he led a group of YMCA preschoolers out of the fitness center to their naptime. “Thank you all here for giving from your heart. God bless you all.”

There is a county board of directors for each of the six counties served. Mary Sue Cain is the Coffee County Board Chairman, Angie Sullivan is the Coffee County Campaign Chairman and Mindy Collier is the WUW Area Manager for Coffee County.

“Coffee County, y’all make me so proud,” said Sullivan. “This is the biggest bus stop turnout so far.”

Cain agreed. “The YMCA is one of our amazing agencies and I can assure you that everyone of our agencies uses every penny that they receive wisely and it does make a difference in the lives of so many people,” she said.

Covering Barbour, Coffee, Dale, Geneva, Henry and Houston counties, the WUW has 38 partnering agencies serving people in those counties. “We work throughout the year to raise awareness and funds for the community and our agencies,” Hill said. “We coordinate workplace campaigns with hundreds of employers and advocate for positive change in the areas of education, income and health.

“Our goal is to create lasting changes that prevent problems from happening in the first place,” Hill added. “We operate under the idea that when we reach out a hand to one, we can influence the condition of all.”

Among the WUW partnering agencies are the 4-H Barbour County, 4-H Coffee County,

Boy Scouts of America, Ala.-Fla. Council, Boys and Girls Club of Lake Eufaula, Boys and Girls Club of the Wiregrass, Boys and Girls Club of Southeast Alabama (Ozark), Christ Child Circle, 334 Project (Dothan-Houston County Substance Abuse Partnership), Enterprise School Health Services, Enterprise YMCA, Girls Scouts of Southern Alabama, Girls, Inc., Southeast Alabama Youth Services, South Alabama Chapter of the American Red Cross, Catholic Social Services, Christian Mission Centers, the Salvation Army of Dothan, Wiregrass Area Food Bank, Wiregrass Habitat for Humanity, Wiregrass 211,

Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind, Guide Dogs of America/Tender Loving Canines, Living Waters Counseling, SpectraCare Health Systems, Vaughn Blumberg Services, Vivian B. Adams School, Wiregrass Rehabilitation Center, Alfred Saliba Family Services Center, Coffee County Family Services Center, East Geneva County Senior Citizens Center, Elba Public Library, Enterprise Public Library, Exchange Center for Child Abuse Prevention, Family Service Center Barbour (The Clearing House), The House of Ruth, Mary Hill Family Services Center, Ozark-Dale County Public Library and Wiregrass Angel House.

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