BY Alex Hardesty
My entire life I have been surrounded by tight knit communities. As a young child my community was a therapeutic wilderness camp, where both my parents were employed. Living there was so much fun as there was always something to be explored in the woods, ice cream was an abundance, and most of all I learned how fortunate I was to have a loving, supportive family that could provide me with many opportunities. At camp I learned not everyone was given these opportunities and that had affected their lives. Most kids at camp had been in some sort of trouble before being a part of the program. I never thought of these kids as “bad”, they just had not been given the same opportunities I had. Being at camp was one of the best opportunities most of the kids had to better themselves. This is when I first realized I wanted a job that would positively impact others.
We eventually moved off property and my community became the small, rural town of Henderson, NC. Henderson is full of wonderful people, but not a lot of activity. So when I received my acceptance letter to NC State I was ecstatic to be moving to Raleigh and to join a new (bigger) community.
I have loved living in Raleigh the last four years. It has been a welcoming and warm place to live. I can totally see why it has been ranked as the #4 happiest place in the world and why many people move to this area each year. However, the Triangle is not a welcoming place for everyone as issues such as homelessness, hunger, and poverty still exist in our community.
When graduation came in May and it was time to enter the real world I hoped for the perfect introduction into a professional career, the nonprofit world, and a new group of people I could add to my community. At United Way as a Community Engagement Fellow that hope was made into a reality. As a fellow I go out into the community and engage others to be a part of the United Way of The Greater Triangle to improve our community. I believe together we can improve the social issues in the Triangle. I am inspired by the UW as they work with their collaborative partners to improve the lives of families in the Triangle by not just focusing on children or supporting adults, but supporting the whole family unit. This two generational approach helps to improve the lives of families not just through funding but through support and sustainable techniques.
Working with UW reminds me of a quote by Millard Fuller, “For a community to be whole and healthy, it must be based on people’s love and concern for each other.” Here at UW everyone truly does have a love for the Triangle and a concern to make it a better place for all to live. I am excited for the next few months as a Community Engagement Fellow to grow as a professional, while fulfilling my passion to help others.