Here are some entries from the “Making a difference (even if you don’t always know it)” file, courtesy of Monica Nassif Haddad.
Such as the guy in the next lane the other day who absently glanced over a second before the light changed.
How about the smiling grandmother you handed your shopping cart off to just now?
Don’t forget the parents of the kid who likes to hang with your kid after school.
It’s not that big of a leap, Haddad muses, to think that at some point, at least one of the above (well, excluding the kid) was likely helped by the United Way of Monongalia and Preston Counties.
Maybe by a donation you made.
Say you’re behind on the water or electric bill because of cutbacks with your job.
Or, there’s an unforeseen medical calamity that has wrecked both your health and your household budget.
Help is what the local United Way does, across its two-county region.
A total of 27 human service agencies and 19 outreach programs — all doing just that.
“Help” is the watchword of United Way.
Which is how Haddad is going to be spending a lot of time over the weeks and months, as she asks you to do the same.
Haddad, a longtime United Way volunteer who has also held a seat on its board of directors, is chairing the 2024 campaign for the local organization.
You can add that watchword, too, she said.
“Local,” that is.
“That’s the thing that really impressed me when I started getting involved with United Way,” she said.
“Every dollar you donate stays in Mon and Preston,” she said. “All 100%.”
Of course, that makes it even easier to donate, she said.
“It’s not like part of your money is going off to the home office or some faceless corporation,” she said.
“You know them.”
Citizen of the world — and West Virginia
When she arrived in the Mountain State in 1984 to take her first steps on the WVU campus as a freshman political science major, she admitted she knew very little about the Mountain State.
Even if West Virginia had been in her heart the whole time.
As a little girl, she lived in Germany with her family.
Her father was a dentist with the U.S. Air Force. He met her mother, a native of Germany, in Paris — and yes, their daughter said, that was as glamorous as it sounds.
Haddad was in middle school when the family came back to the U.S. and Alexandria, Va.
WVU was a natural, she said.
In the Nassif family, the sense of place here ran deeper than a coal seam.
The pulse of love for their home among the hills was as persistent as the current of the Monongahela River.
Her paternal grandfather was a little boy when he and his family crossed the Atlantic to these shores from their native Lebanon.
Appalachia and the mid-Atlantic suited the sojourners from the Middle East just fine.
They eventually settled in the Preston County river town of Rowlesburg, where Nassifs still reside and her father has a summer home.
“Other people go for summer homes at the beach and my dad goes for Rowlesburg,” Haddad said.
“How’s that for ‘West Virginia’ thing?” she asked, chuckling.
It was also a West Virginia thing for her, she said.
She stayed, graduated and went on to the WVU College of Law.
Haddad, who began her career as an attorney, is now a mediator in private practice. She was also president of the state bar at the height of the pandemic three years ago.
It takes a village (to raise money)
There’s also a United Way thing, she said, which falls right in with that West Virginia thing.
That simple act, she said, of helping. Of reaching out.
“United Way does so much in Mon and Preston,” she said.
This year’s campaign goal for the United Way of Monongalia and Preston County is $1.3 million.
The fundraising takes its first steps Aug. 25 with the organization’s Community Leaders Breakfast, featuring keynote remarks from Amy Jo Hutchison.
Hutchison, a native West Virginian, founded the Rattle the Windows movement, a grassroots group that advocates for the working poor in Appalachia and elsewhere.
By donating to United Way, you’re doing the same, Haddad said.
For her, “community” isn’t just geography. It’s the joy of place and the well-being that comes from doing right, for and by your neighbors.
“Your generous contributions of time and money allow the United Way of Monongalia and Preston Counties to connect our community,” she said.
“We are social workers, educators, emergency responders, medical providers, legal advocates and others who endeavor each day to help those who are less-fortunate,” the campaign chair continued.
“We make the difference.”