Skye Valdez took a moment to gather her composure. Even with handwritten notes in front of her, she was nervous.
Her audience, a group of United Way volunteers, shouted encouragement.
Skye, the Victoria County Boys & Girls Club member of the year, then told the story about how the organization helped turn her life around.
"I am a very hard worker, but I need a lot of help. At the Boys & Girls Club, the staff has helped me with my school work and showed me how to handle my problems," she said. "I have learned to control my attitude because it was always negative. I learned to respect my mom and understand where she is coming from.
"When I graduate from high school, I want to be a dentist," she continued. "I would be the first person in my family to go to college. Going to college would mean I broke the cycle. It would mean me, my brother and my sister will have more opportunities in the future. My experience at the Boys & Girls Club has been life changing. I believe in myself more. Life can be tough, but because of the Boys & Girls Club, I believe I can do anything."
For many United Way volunteers and the agencies it serves, it is stories like Skye's that encourage and inspire them.
DAY OF CARING
Tuesday marked the kickoff of the 2011 Victoria County United Way campaign and Skye's speech highlighted the event that included a pep rally with members of the Victoria West High School Band of Warriors and the Victoria East High School Golden Sabers dance team.
The second annual Day of Caring was also part of the day's activities.
More than 100 volunteers - including large contingents from Dow Seadrift and from Target among other corporate groups and individuals - then ascended upon Victoria Christian Assistance Ministry and helped paint, lay carpet and do some minor electrical work.
"We greatly appreciate having everyone who came in and helped," said Kim Ozment-Gold, VCAM executive director. "They personalized this building for us. Now, with the calming colors and all the things they've done here, it's our home now. It's VCAM's home. It gives more of a warm welcome to people who are in crisis that come in here. It is now formally VCAM."
Clifford Grimes, United Way executive director, was thrilled with the participation.
"It's been a wonderful day," Grimes said. "We've had close to 100 volunteers show up today to paint the entire interior of VCAM.
"This is a can-do city," Grimes said. "We're going to do what Victorians have always done and that's care and show it with the generosity with their gifts of time, talent and resources.
Campaign chairman Russell Janecka announced the 2011 goal is $871,000. The 2010 goal was $822,000 and the campaign brought in $854,880.
Janecka, in announcing the goal, said, "Across America, cities like Victoria have faced some of the toughest challenges over this last year, heat being one of them.
"Many families in our communities struggle to meet their basic needs like access to shelter, medical care, buying groceries and paying utilities. Yet, thanks to the United Way, we came together like never before. We lifted our neighbors and in the process became stronger as community."
"In 2011, we will do what Victorians have always done - demonstrate a quiet confidence and a stubborn strength that will not let us fail."
Pacesetter chairman Bruce Woods announced that the 2011 campaign has gotten off to a rousing start by already raising $190,278 or 22 percent of the goal.
Pacesetters are businesses and individuals who jump start the campaign by giving gifts early.
The Victoria County United Way serves Victoria, DeWitt and Lavaca counties.