Thinking about his night moves, singer/songwriter/rocker Bob Seger started humming a song from 1962.
What song, he doesn’t say. It could have been “Loco-Motion,” “Twist and Shout,” or “Up on the Rooftop.”
The gist of the Seger’s ballad is a reflection by Seger on past young love by a man starring at middle age. “Ain’t it funny how the night moves when you just don’t seem to have as much to lose. ... With autumn closing in.”
Well, autumn is closing in and there are folks in the area who are humming about and reflecting on that same year.
It was also in 1962 that the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce and several prominent business people saw a need to raise money for struggling agencies – a movement that gave birth to the local United Way. The campaigned raised $44,000 to help nine non-profits.
First, let’s set the stage. John F. Kennedy was president and Richard “I am not a crook” Nixon vowed to quit politics (“you won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore”). The United States established a semi-permanent military presence in Vietnam.
The federal debt was $302.9 million and unemployment was 6.7 percent. Astronaut John Glenn became the first American in orbit, the first industrial robot was introduced and the first use of silicone breast implants is reported (I don’t make this stuff up).
Over the years, that Great Bend United Way effort expanded to include all of Barton County and, three years ago, it grew to include Pawnee County and the name changed to United Way of Central Kansas. The fundraising goal has also increased – it is $235,000 this year.
Whether in the Kennedy era or today, United Way is about people and their stories, just ask Bill Dill, a Great Bend resident who is one of this year’s UW co-chairs. Today, Dill works at the Great Bend Salvation Army Store, but it wasn’t all that long ago that he found himself jobless and nearly broke.
He went to the Salvation Army for help and got himself back on his feet. “It really opened my eyes and my heart to people,” he said.
This introduced him to the United Way and he knew he wanted to be a part of it. Just go to any of the 21 agencies now served by the UWCK and you’ll find similar heart-warming anecdotes – families touched and lives changed.
It is easy to look away when you see a United Way logo just like it’s easy to ignore those hurting or needing help in our communities. But, there are those who can’t pay their bills, are being abused by some family member, needing someone to advocate for them in court, looking for a positive adult role model or living alone and needing companionship.
Often these individuals exist in the dark recesses or on the fringe of our society. Often we see them standing in line at the grocery store. Often they sit with us at civic club meetings. Wherever they are, like it or not, they are a reflection of us and how we respond to the needy among us.
We just have to open our eyes.
Seger’s classic is more of a melancholy reminiscence about how life alters one’s prospective on, well, life. With its recent light-hearted 1960s-based campaign kick-off (“Peace, Love and United Way”), UWCK’s look at the past is less glum.
This year’s celebration is a glance backward as a nod to the movement’s foresightful founders. At the same time, it presents the opportunity to tout past successes and challenge us today to keep the tradition alive.
By the way, in Sunday’s Tribune, there will be a special section featuring biographical information submitted by the agencies currently served by the UWCK. On page three there will also be a form readers can use to make a contribution to the effort.
Now is the time for us to help.
Dale Hogg is the managing editor of the Great Bend Tribune. He can be reached at email@example.com.