The Power of One

Can one make a difference? Really?
The United Way’s Connie Smith says yes, and she’s seen the proof
We hear about the power of one: how through word, deed or example, one can empower legions of others to move mountains. Some may dismiss this concept as rhetoric, cliché. But I’ve seen it with my own eyes — many times.
A career in broadcast journalism has introduced me to many charities and charitable causes: some professionally organized and executed, others in isolation, looking for community connections. So many of the individuals involved in both the “need” and “need to give” sides of this wonderfully powerful human-dynamics equation today comprise my stable of personal heroes.
They don’t all — in fact very few — have a lot of money or elite positions in society. But they all share a sense of compassion that infuses everything they do.
This year as Hamilton Chair of the United Way Campaign, I am adding more personal heroes to my stable and I’d like to share them with you in hopes that they can inspired you to exercise your power of one.
I don’t even know their names but this is how I came to know them:
Denninger’s launched Oktoberfest on a beautiful sunny September Saturday with their first of what is to become an annual United Way fundraiser downtown Hamilton. A $5 ticket got you an amazing Denninger’s hot BBQ lunch. I manned the cash box.
At one point, two obviously street-wise young men approached the ticket table. Mindful of my fiduciary responsibilities, I clutched that cash box close to my chest.
“Lunch, gentlemen?” I inquired.
“Yeah,” came the response.
After they passed me two $5 bills, I began to tear off two tickets. One put up his hand.
“What, you don’t want a lunch?”
“No. Give it to someone who needs it. Someone helped me once.”
The power of one …
A few minutes later an elderly, disabled man in a wheelchair approached. To me, he appeared in need and my first thought was to offer him a meal for free. But he pointed to a black leather pouch chained to his wheelchair, gesturing for me to open it up.
“You want to buy a ticket?”
He nodded. It was clear that this lovely soul didn’t want charity. He wanted to help someone else too.
The power of one …
King’s Buffet, another incredibly generous corporate partner, agreed to a first-ever Thanksgiving Buffet Dinner to benefit the United Way. Ninety-nine cents for all you could eat!
Well, as you can imagine, there were lineups that stretched around the plaza multiple times as people waited in line for hours. When the last seating began, a revelation came to us when a mother of a large family confided that had it not been for this event, they couldn’t have afforded a Thanksgiving Dinner. But again, with their 99 cents per person, each member of that family was donating to help others. What a wonderful sense of empowerment.
The power of one …
Most recently, a collaboration between our Hamilton Ticats, Carmen’s and Reebok athletic wear, called “Kicks for Kids,” sent more than 100 inner-city kids on a dream bus ride to the Reebok warehouse to pick out their choice of a free pair of running shoes. Many turned in their old pairs, tattered and ripped beyond repair. The program raises funds every time Ticat Justin Medlock kicks a successful field goal over 40 yards at Ivor Wynne Stadium.
Ask Justin, or PJ Mercanti of Carmen’s, or a member of the dedicated United Way staff, what it was like to see the joy in any one of those faces about … the power of one.
Our United Way goal this year is to raise $6,999,999 to fund 73 social service agencies, administering 133 programs to meet an ever-growing need. That’s one dollar short of $7 million. But we believe in the power of one … one dollar … one person … one smile. One community — and when it comes to reaching our goal, we are not just achievers, we are over-achievers.
This year one in three of us will turn to a United Way agency. If we all give just a little, we could move those proverbial mountains and change a life. It could be a friend, a co-worker, a family member, maybe, one day, even you. Change starts here.
Connie Smith is Hamilton Chair, United Way Campaign, 2011.
Postscript: For the first time, the Hamilton Music Awards have partnered with the United Way and Connie Smith will be one of the awards presenters. Purchase tickets to this weekend’s concerts and award shows at a savings through the United Way of Burlington and Greater Hamilton and a portion of the proceeds will support the good work of the United Way. OR call 905-527-4543.