The power of community

By: By Julie Capaldi - Contributing columnist

Lately, I have been struck by the capacity of our community to care for each other. With all the crappy news out there, these tender glimpses into humanity are important to keep me going. This article reads just like a Camp iRock “chapter book.” Reading a “chapter book” is THE badge of honor for a kid who struggles with reading!

Once upon a time there was a wonderful community: It was called Pickens County.

Chapter One — The Walk

I am fortunate to have amazing neighbors that allow me to access their private lands for my personal enjoyment. One of my neighbors has hundreds of acres of pristine land for their cattle. They even gave me a key to the gate so I can come and go as I please.

My other neighbor has a magnificent spot with paths that run along a river. Of course, I am respectful. I don’t walk during hunting season or breeding season. I don’t want to come between a bull and his cow Du Jour.

This past Sunday, I took a walk in the woods and when I came to the paved road, I saw a state police cruiser with blue lights flashing. I didn’t “rubber neck” but turned around and completed my walk. I didn’t know if it was a speed trap, an accident or something else.

I headed towards home. Before I reached my house, a car came around the corner “hell bent for election.” I flagged him down and urged him to slow down, lest risking the possibility of a speeding ticket. He thanked me and went on.

Just a few minutes later, a lime green Dodge Ram truck pulled beside me and rolled down the window. The female passenger asked me, “Have you been put out?” It took me a few seconds to realize what she meant. She wanted to know if that man had left me on the side of the road. Was I in trouble? I assured her I was fine and they turned around and headed down the road. That couple, strangers to me, turned around to check on me in case I was in trouble. I am profoundly moved.

Chapter Two — The Stranger

My colleague, Mark Eisengrein, recently attended a Chamber of Commerce “after hours meet and greet” event. He noticed a gentleman sitting alone. Being the consummate gentleman, Mark went over and started a conversation. Please understand that we are the fundraisers, the hand raisers and the game changers and never miss an opportunity to talk about our “mission.”

We are passionate about this work.

Mark learned that man was not born in this country, but had been very successful and loved our community. He deeply wanted to give back but didn’t know how. He expressed an interest in “hunger issues.” Mark asked for his business card and brought it back to me. I immediately reached out and suggested several ways he could support humanitarian issues in Pickens County.

A few days later, I received a generous, undesignated donation through our United Way website, WOW!

The very next day, Senator Rex Rice called me about a local elderly woman who had reached out to him. I discovered that she was a widow, had significant health problems and lived on a fixed income. She admitted that she was hungry. REALLY???

Meals on Wheels immediately started daily meal delivery and I used some of the man’s donation to purchase Ingles gift cards. This is the power of community.

Chapter Three — The Philanthropists

A few weeks ago, I learned that one of our major sources for Camp iRock funding had been reduced from $70,000 to $30,000. I was disappointed but not surprised. In our world, it’s “chicken one day, feathers the next!”

Truth time. $40,000 is a boatload of money to make up. It stressed me out. Was I going to have to cut programs? Heck, NO!

What do you do when faced with a daunting challenge? YOU BEG.

I reached out to very generous business owner and asked him if he would help me. “Of course, I’ll help you. I’ll pledge $10,000 to get the ball rolling.”

No hesitation.

The very same day, I was surprised (shocked) by an unexpected $10,000 donation from a man we don’t even know. That never happens.

Our community is “the bomb.” Every single day, I am blown away by your capacity to care. So what about the remaining $20,000? I will continue to pound the pavement and ask people to give until I raise it … even if it means standing on the street corner with a tin cup.

I want to invite you to include United Way of Pickens County, S.C. in your estate plan. It’s simple to do … complete the Codicil found on the United Way of Pickens County’s website ( and store it with your important documents.

This is a great way to support services that benefit the underserved in Pickens County. It’s easy to do and you won’t miss it! Be sure to seek legal advice when establishing an estate plan.

Or email me at to receive more information on making a planned gift to United Way of Pickens County.

By Julie Capaldi

Contributing columnist

Julie Capaldi is president of United Way of Pickens County. She can be reached at or 864-850-7094, extension 101.

Julie Capaldi is president of United Way of Pickens County. She can be reached at or 864-850-7094, extension 101.