By Robert Barron, Staff Writer
Enid News & Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
United Way of Enid and Northwest Oklahoma is one of the few businesses that plans for having less to do each year, said Executive Director Pamela Ballard.
“We would like to see less homeless people, less hungry people and less suicides. In a perfect world, I would be unemployed,” Ballard told members of Enid Rotary Club on Monday.
United Way exceeded its $700,000 goal by $51,000 this year, and Ballard credited the community for the success. She has been director of United Way of Enid and Northwest Oklahoma for about six weeks.
“The good work that is done is done because of you,” Ballard said.
Discussing United Way’s goals, she said the saying “the best way out of poverty is a job” is only partly true. Many of the people United Way reaches are those who do not know what it is like to get up every day and go to work. They do not know how to plan or set goals for their future. They are not prepared.
That lack of preparedness results from a generational attitude, Ballard said. They have never seen anyone in their family get up in the morning and go to work. In conversations with the children of homeless people in Enid, Ballard said their goals when they grow up are to work in the dollar store. They will get to work by walking or taking the bus. They do not know how to plan to get ahead.
“They’ve never witnessed anyone getting up and going to work every day. They don’t know how,” Ballard said.
She said teaching how to work and how to plan for the future is as much a part of moving people out of poverty as finding a job.
“We must start transforming lives. The United Way sets pillars for the community — goals. Among those are faith, life and family,” Ballard said.
In addition to those values, United Way tries to teach other values as well — education, health and income. Those are values that will help people move out of poverty, Ballard said. United Way programs address early childhood development, increasing the graduation rate and encourage mentoring programs in education.
“We work at Enid Community Clinic and various other agencies to improve health issues in our community. Without the United Way, Enid would be without the people who contribute to support those agencies,” Ballard said.
Through some of its member agencies, United Way also works with young people to help them establish goals and make lifestyle changes. Ballard said that has to be a community effort, and she applauded Enid’s commitment to United Way and to assisting in that effort.
“It’s about everyone working together,” she said. “No amount of money can be put into transforming lives. They don’t know how to do it. They have no example. It takes everyone working together to transform lives.”
Ballard said one of the biggest challenges in Enid is the need for assistance in mental health issues. There is no psychiatrist in Enid, which has a high suicide rate, including a notably high rate among seniors. There are a number of agencies that deal with those issues, Ballard said, but their counselors cannot prescribe medications, which often are needed.
Youth and Family Services of North Central Oklahoma, one of the agencies United Way supports, is the No. 1 counseling service for youths and children, Ballard said.
She said United Way’s local campaign goal is appropriate for the community. It is larger than Lawton’s, which is larger than Enid, and less than Oklahoma City metropolitan communities of similar size. Enid also could be in line for federal funding and possibly an AmeriCorps program.
Agencies United Way supports are: Booker T. Washington Community Center, Cimarron Council Boy Scouts, Cimarron Valley Chapter American Red Cross, Community Development Support Association, Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Central Oklahoma, Denny Price Family YMCA, Enid Community Clinic, Enid Metro Human Service Commission, Garfield County Child Advocacy Council, Girl Scouts of Western Oklahoma, Inc., Hedges Regional Speech and Hearing Center, Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, Retired Senior Volunteer Program of Enid, Salvation Army, YWCA of Enid, and Youth and Family Services of North Central Oklahoma.