Most often I use this column to educate our community on all the great work that happens at our United Way through our four in-house programs. This week, I am going to educate you on a group of women that help us carry out our mission through their time, talent and treasure. This amazing group of women are referred to as our Women United affinity group.

Our Women United members are some of the most caring and inspirational people that I have ever met! They come from all different walks of life and all different ages, but what they share is the common interest in helping those in need of a hand-up and making Citrus County the very best place to call home.

Our Women United group are presented with unique volunteer opportunities throughout the year. One of those is assisting the Salvation Army and Daystar with registering low-income families and individuals of Citrus County for turkeys and other food given out by the Thanksgiving Feeding Alliance. Several of our Women United members once again jumped at the opportunity to help cover the necessary shifts to ensure that as many of our neighbors in need had a Thanksgiving meal to share with their loved ones.

This year the sign-ups were from Oct. 7 through Nov. 1. Between those dates, 163 Citrus County households were signed up consisting of 512 individuals. Through our collaborative efforts with the Salvation Army and Daystar, our Women United members helped assist many of these families to secure a Thanksgiving meal.

I work closely with our clients daily at United Way, and it is oftentimes a humbling experience to see the challenges many of them face. I love knowing that United Way is often part of the solution to many of these folks getting back on their feet. Our Women United members share the same sentiments when they contribute through these volunteer opportunities. Many of the families signing up enjoy sharing how they are so appreciative of the assistance because without it their family would go without a traditional Thanksgiving meal; something that many of us seem to take for granted.

Another volunteer opportunity for our Women United members comes every January through the annual Point-in-Time Count. The Point-in-Time Count is a count of sheltered and unsheltered people experiencing homelessness on a single day in January. This is a way for us to have a clearer picture of the amount of our community members facing homelessness, and an opportunity to interface with them and share resources that might help.

Prior to the actual day of the Point-in Time Count, our United Way staff packs bags for the homeless individuals that we may come across. The bags usually are filled with a blanket, socks, hygiene items, etc. Each year our staff and several of our Women United members split up into teams and disperse throughout Citrus County to assist our most vulnerable population. It never fails that I hear stories given by these women that this experience is life changing for them and how they can’t wait to participate next year.

So, to all the members of our Women United affinity group, thank you! Thank you for your compassion, desire to help others and helping our community to truly Live United. If you, or someone you know is interested in becoming a member of our Women United, please give us a call at the United Way office at 352-795-5483.

Meghan Pitzer is CEO of United Way of Citrus County.

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