Letters to the Editor

Viewpoint: Healthy families advance the health of a community

Back in 1776, we found common ground around “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Today, while we respect and honor our Americanism, we tend to find ourselves belonging to an ever-evolving variety of diverse groups. How we increase our capacity to recognize common ground when our groups honor a cornucopia of different values and missions can seem daunting at times.

At United Way of San Luis Obispo, we believe we can find common ground around “Life, liberty and the pursuit of education, income and health.”

We’re advancing the common good through our focus on education, income and health — the building blocks to a good quality of life.

In San Luis Obispo County, the high school dropout rate is 9.7 percent (California Watch); more than 1,300 children are homeless (Homeless Enumeration Report); and more than 600 domestic violence calls were placed to law enforcement (ACTION for Health Communities).

While San Luis Obispo County remains a wonderful place to live, work and retire, the statistics that I am sharing underscore the need for our perseverance in taking preventative measures to ensure a better today and a strong tomorrow. United Way of San Luis Obispo County believes that households, with youth achieving their potential, better financial stability and healthy family members are the foundation for thriving communities.

Under the guidance and oversight of local community leaders and volunteers, we are mindfully putting to use every dollar contributed to our Community Impact Fund. To encourage long lasting change, we are leading in these efforts with a two-pronged approach.

In the short term, we are continuing with our annual Community Impact Fund Grants program, which offers important funding to local programs that help provide for our most vulnerable neighbors throughout the county.

In the long term, United Way is offering programs that are increasing self-reliance and underscoring the need for our youth to be achieving their potential, for families to be financially stable and for people to have good health. Imagination Library, Born Learning, Money Talks for Teens, Youth Board and Nonviolent Communication are some of our programs that are a part of our long term strategy.

How do we increase ontime high school graduation rates, stop the cycle of homelessness and prevent violence? How do we nurture well-being? Obviously, there is no one answer, as there are many strategies, with their advocates and lobbyists.

Nevertheless, no matter the strategy, it has become critical that we always maintain a common ground connection. A uniting thread if you will, and perhaps that can be character.

Since United Way’s 1887 inception, in Denver, when a rabbi, two ministers, a priest and a woman realized that they could improve more lives by mobilizing their caring power, United Way has come a long way. Learning from our past has paved our way into 41 countries, all with diverse cultures attempting to meet very similar universal needs. At United Way, we’ve come to know common ground as “Live United.”

It is our combined time, energy and resources that will help to sustain and improve the quality of life we enjoy and value so much here on the Central Coast. Here’s to Happiness in 2012.

Rick London is the CEO of the United Way of San Luis Obispo County