This is a special time of year—the time when the University of Georgia community comes together to offer a level of service and support for friends and neighbors, colleagues and strangers who are in need.
Letter from Mary Adams
Dear UGA faculty and staff,
It is my honor to serve as honorary chair for the 2013 Campaign for Charities. Mike and I have been very proud of the campus community’s support for the campaign during our time here.
For 12 years in a row, the faculty and staff Campaign for Charities has been awarded the Governor’s Cup for the highest contribution per employee for organizations with 9,000 or more employees. Last year, more than 20 percent of UGA faculty and staff contributed almost $422,000. Your generosity is inspiring.
The simple truth is that the strength and power of many are united in this campaign to help our neighbors in need.
The goal this year is $425,000 and 25 percent participation, both of which are easily attainable given UGA’s record of giving in recent years. I am confident that, even in these difficult times, the UGA community will continue its record of generous giving.
The theme for this year’s campaign is “Give from the Heart.” I know that the people of this community have caring and generous hearts; I have seen it in many ways in the 16 years we have been at UGA.
There is no better feeling than to know you have helped another person. The Campaign for Charities offers a range of options by which you can offer that assistance. Whether it be caring for adults or children with special needs, supporting a food bank or soup kitchen or assisting those agencies who help the homeless, the Campaign for Charities addresses a wide spectrum of our community’s needs.
I hope that each of you will consider even a small gift in support of the campaign. The cumulative impact of the individual gifts serves to improve the lives of our neighbors in need. Payroll deduction is a convenient and easy way to make a gift. Together we can accomplish our goal and, more importantly, help others.
UGA First Lady
Honorary Chair of the 2013 Campaign for Charities
To donate online, visit http://webapps.ais.uga.edu/PBCC/home.seam.
Badges of success
The Girl Scouts are a cause in which UGA first lady Mary Adams believes.
Adams has been a Girl Scout since she was a little Brownie (now called Daisy) at age 6. She stayed with scouting—even earning her Curved Bar, the equivalent of a Boy Scout’s Eagle Scout Award.
Now Adams, who spent so many hours volunteering at the library, retirement homes and hospitals as a scout, also has been named honorary chair of UGA’s Campaign for Charities. A fitting time as Girl Scouts is celebrating its 100th anniversary, calling 2012 the “Year of the Girl.”
Adams serves on the board for Girl Scouts of Historic Georgia, one of the state’s two councils. She does behind-the-scenes work in dealing with issues such as insurance, leader training and the science, technology, engineering and mathematics camps for girls.
Adams said that scouting “builds confidence and an entrepreneurial spirit in young women. I think it changes their lives.”
In Girl Scouts, Adams made friends for life—women she’s still in touch with decades later.
It’s one reason she got involved again with scouting after moving back to Georgia. So many of the women in her network were involved with the Girl Scouts and joining the board was a natural progression for her.
“Girl Scouts really foster that idea of giving back,” Adams said. “You were given opportunities and people took an interest in you, and you should do the same for the next generation.”
Adams recalls her troop leader introducing her to female lawyers and doctors, to show the girls career choices.
“That’s what we want to do with girls today,” Adams said. “We want to show them entrepreneurship, to show them that their choices are unlimited.”
Adams believes in scouting because it teaches girls interpersonal skills and public speaking.
It teaches them how to communicate with adults and their peers, how to make eye contact when speaking.
These are skills that have stayed with UGA’s first lady—skills that she uses regularly, when greeting donors or university vice presidents.
Indeed, Girl Scouts , which is one of the charitable organizations supported by this year’s Campaign for Charities, has made a tremendous difference in many girls’ lives. Almost 80 percent of women business owners were Girl Scouts and a vast majority of congresswomen were Girl Scouts, according to Adams and information on the Girl Scout website.
Scouting is a badge these successful women wear proudly, she said.
Fighting for justice
The Athens Justice Project aims to help its clients make good on their second chances.
“We try to provide a holistic approach to dealing with criminal justice,” said Thomas A. Eaton, vice president on the Athens Justice Project’s board of directors and UGA’s J. Alton Hosch Professor of Law. “Somebody who is accused of a crime needs a lawyer, and we provide them with one. But to break out of that chain of recidivism, people need a lot more than just a lawyer.”
The Athens Justice Project tries to help clients move forward in their lives through assistance for drug addiction and mental illnesses, facilitating stable housing and giving counseling for family life. But Eaton said that oftentimes the biggest step to getting an offender on the straight and narrow is to simply help him or her find a stable job.
As part of that, the Athens Justice Project works with local companies to reduce the stigma associated with hiring offenders. It also puts clients through a 15-week work preparation program aimed at teaching them how to land and keep a job.
The Athens Justice Project, which serves Clarke County and surrounding areas, has had ties to UGA’s School of Law since its inception. The late Milner S. Ball, a well-respected law professor there, was one of the founding members of the organization. The program seems to be working given the track record of its clients. More than 80 percent of those who go through the Athens Justice Project program go five years or more without an arrest and conviction.
When making a pitch for donations, Eaton likes to point out that Athens Justice Project has universal appeal.
“We’re repairing lives and families, reducing crime and saving taxpayer money,” he said, pointing that every incarcerated inmate costs taxpayers $60,000 annually.
“Every person we can keep out of jail is one who will not be housed and fed at taxpayer expense. Every person we can help get a job becomes a taxpayer rather than someone who is consuming our taxes,” he said. “This is an area where there is common ground. Everyone can agree that it’s a good thing to get people out of a life of crime.”
Helping those who are HIV positive
Our understanding of AIDS now is remarkably better than it was 25 years ago when Beth Richardson, an electron microscopy lab coordinator for UGA’s plant biology department, first decided to fight the spread of the disease through her involvement with AIDS Athens.
AIDS Athens is a nonprofit organization aimed at preventing the spread of HIV and AIDS in the Athens community and supporting those affected by it.
While progress toward understanding and treating AIDS has been achieved over that time, Richardson, who serves as the chair of the fundraising committee for the organization, said there is still plenty of work to be done.
“People are still testing positive,” she said. “We have seen a resurgence, especially in young people.”
A 2008 study by the Southern AIDS Coalition reported that HIV and AIDS cases were rising in the South, where the highest rate of AIDS-related deaths are occurring.
Richardson notes that there are real human beings behind those numbers that AIDS Athens is trying to assist.
One of the organization’s newest clients, Richardson said, is a 22-year-old man who just recently discovered that he had AIDS after an acute illness landed him in the hospital.
“They didn’t think he was going to make it,” she said.
Once his condition was stabilized and doctors determined the patient had AIDS, he was referred to AIDS Athens for help.
“When people find out they’re HIV positive, it can be devastating,” said Richardson. “We’re here to help them cope and learn about the disease, to get them help and on medication.”
AIDS Athens serves a 10-county area in Northeast Georgia. It’s now in its 25th year.
The group currently supports more than 300 clients with HIV or AIDS and also assists their families.
One of the chief ways it supports clients is through housing, which Richardson said provides clients with stability in a difficult situation.
The organization provides shelter for clients who are homeless and subsidizes housing for low-income families. Housing is an important part of the equation, Richardson said, because it provides stability for clients—many of whom are unable to work.
“A stable environment means they’re more likely to take their medication,” she said.
The group also offers case management to help them plan for long-term stability, organizes support groups to bring people with HIV together and provides food for low-income clients.
Even with a myriad of services, AIDS Athens is able to efficiently distribute its funds to clients. The organization’s independent audit estimates that 97 percent of what is raised goes directly to client services. Richardson said the organization takes pride in this figure since the national standard is 75 percent.
Through free HIV testing events and emphasis on education, AIDS Athens is also conducting a campaign of prevention and better understanding of the disease.
“There is still a lot of stigma for people who are HIV positive,” she said. “And one of the things AIDS Athens is trying to do is advocate for people who are HIV positive and, hopefully, end the stigma.”
Giving runs in the blood
People get involved with local charities for a variety reasons: a commitment to a particular cause, an association with those helped by an organization or familiarity with a group’s leaders.
Steve Harris, director of the university’s Office of Security and Emergency Preparedness, said his commitment to the American Red Cross is something that was passed down to him from his parents, Tom and Peggy Harris.
Steve Harris currently is on the board of directors for the East Georgia chapter of the American Red Cross, which serves a 14-county area that includes Clarke County.
The local chapter uses its donations in a range of services including disaster response, health and safety training, aid to military service members and, of course, the ubiquitous blood drives.
For Harris, his initial ties to the Red Cross began nearly a decade ago when his father asked him if he donated blood.
As Harris recalls, he told his father that he didn’t have the time for it.
“He scolded me for that and gave me one of those fatherly looks even though I was in my 30s,” he said. “He told me, ‘You need to make time.’ ”
Ever since, Harris has given the maximum amount of blood he can donate at every interval allowed.
“It’s the right thing to do,” he said, “and it’s an easy way to save a life.”
But Harris’ commitment became even deeper four years ago after his mother passed away.
In lieu of flowers, Harris said his mother had requested donations be made to the Red Cross. That note came as surprise to Harris.
“I never knew how much the Red Cross meant to my family until that point,” he said. “My family comes from a long line of educators and public safety people. I think it’s just in their blood—no pun intended—to be service-oriented individuals. My father through blood donations and my mother through financial donations, that’s their way of giving back to the community.”
But while he describes his parents as a “catalyst” for his involvement, Harris said he believes in the mission of the Red Cross.
“Everything I’ve done with my career aligns with what the Red Cross does in terms of community service, helping assist the public in times of disasters,” he said.
In fact, the OSEP often works with the Red Cross in preparing for campus emergencies.
Locally, the Red Cross also provides assistance to people whose homes are lost to fire, Harris said, offering short-term housing assistance and subsidies for victims to “get back on their feet.”
The group also facilitates communication between families and soldiers overseas in the event of family emergencies and offers CPR and first-aid courses to the public.