According to Wikipedia, “Do They Know It's Christmas?" is a charity song written in 1984 by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure to raise money for the 1983–1985 famine in Ethiopia. It was first recorded by Band Aid, a supergroup assembled by Geldof and Ure consisting of popular British and Irish musical acts. It was recorded in a single day at Sarm West Studios in Notting Hill, London, in November 1984.
Source: Mello Studio
"Do They Know It's Christmas" was released in the United Kingdom on December 3, 1984. It entered the UK Singles Chart at number one and stayed there for five weeks. The song also reached number one in thirteen other countries. In the US, it fell short of the top ten in the Billboard Hot 100 but sold an estimated 2.5 million copies there by January 1985. The verses were sung by Paul Young, Boy George, George Michael, Simon Le Bon, and Bono, while the “Feed the World” chorus featured Geldof, Ure, David Bowie, Phil Collins, Paul McCartney, Status Quo, Bananarama, Paul Weller as well as many others.
For those of you who are not tired of hearing the song during the Christmas season, a YouTube link to the original video is included below. I find that the video, which showcases the breadth of talent that came together to try to make a difference in the lives of those suffering in Ethiopia, is more meaningful than just the song alone.
The song was inspired by a series of reports made by BBC journalist Michael Buerk in 1984, which drew attention to the famine in Ethiopia. The BBC News crew was the first to document the famine, describing it as "a biblical famine in the 20th century".
During the holiday season, I wanted to bring your attention to a community resource that is providing help and hope to people in our own backyard. As many of you already know, I have served on the Board of Directors of United Way Summit Medina for nearly five years. Unfortunately, when most people think of United Way, they think of the traditional pass-through agency. For most of its history, United Way chapters would raise funds through corporate campaigns and individual giving. Those donating would then designate to which organizations they wanted their funds distributed. If that was all we did here locally, I would not be donating my time and efforts to the cause.
Fortunately, starting in 2017, the leadership of the local chapter created four Bold Goals and raises funds to make a difference here in our communities. You can read more about these at the link below (scroll about halfway down the page).
Our board used its December meeting to take a field trip to see firsthand how United Way is making a difference in the lives of others. It will not be a surprise to learn that helping people achieve financial independence would align with my value system. I have long believed that if we could provide greater financial literacy and education to people, it would empower them to create a brighter and more self-sufficient financial future.
We went to the Akron Financial Empowerment Center which helps Summit and Medina County residents build financial stability by giving them the resources to budget and save, pay down debt, and boost their credit scores. This is allowing us to make progress on Bold Goal 3: FINANCIAL EMPOWERMENT, Financially empower 11,000 people in Summit County and 2,500 people in Medina County. Since opening in June 2018, the center has helped more than 4000 families on the path to financial empowerment.
The professional financial counselors can help people navigate financial challenges and help them achieve their financial goals. Counselors can help create budgets, set savings goals, improve credit scores, or reduce debt. Free, one-on-one financial counseling appointments are available in person at the Kenmore location, and our partner sites throughout the community, or virtually by phone or video. This program has no income restrictions.
Additionally, households earning less than $60,000 per year are eligible for FREE tax preparation services through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. Each year VITA provides free income tax preparation services to nearly 2000 residents. In 2023, the program costs to United Way were just over $182,000. However, it returned more than $2.4 million of federal and state tax refunds to local residents, many of whom would not have filed a tax return or known that they were eligible for various tax credit refund programs. This also allowed the clients of United Way to add nearly $500,000 to their personal savings.
Bringing nearly $3 million in benefits to those in need for an investment of less than $200,000 truly represents a great return on investment. More importantly, it is helping families by giving them additional financial resources, coaching, and tools to build financial independence. Long term, this can break the cycle of poverty, and help people build wealth and dignity.
Later in the morning, our group got to visit a United Way Family Resource Center at the Helen Arnold Community Learning Center in Akron. Many great things are going on there as well, which I plan to share in a future blog post.
“Do They Know It's Christmas?" by Band Aid highlighted a desperate situation and tried to provide funds to help those in need. United Way’s Akron Financial Empowerment Center is available to the residents of our community year round. When people are hurting, it is sometimes important to put a Band-Aid on the immediate wound. However, this program can help put people on the path to independence and financial success. This is something we should all be cheering on at Christmas and all year long, as we continue “Moving Life Forward”.
© 2023 Jesse Hurst
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