In 2013, 26.7% of children living in Georgia were recorded to be living in poverty, according to The Telegraph. Bibb County alone has seen an even greater impact — 44.6% of children were found to be living in poverty that same year.
Further studies in 2016 have shown that the concentrated poverty rate in Macon stood at 44.7%, with the city now having the third-highest rate in the nation, according to USA Today.
While this percentage has decreased for middle Georgia to 37% today, this means that more than 37% of families in Central Georgia — including Bibb County, where Mercer is located — struggle to meet basic needs, such as safe homes and enough food.
The United Way of Central Georgia, in partnership with Mercer University, said they hope to change this.
Mercer University and the United Way have developed a campaign called “All for One, and One for All” that is focused on fighting for health, education and economic stability for all.
The 2019 co-chairs of this United Way campaign are April Mills, director of IT marketing communications and change management for Mercer, as well as Patrick Roche, an associate professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the Mercer School of Medicine in Macon since 1996.
“We were selected because of our history of support for the United Way in the past, and because we know a lot of faculty and staff between the two of us,” Roche said.
Roche and Mills split the responsibilities of the program, with Mills set to open the university campus-wide campaign luncheon on Sept. 12 at the Macon campus.
“We do this because of the confidence we have in the United Way’s ability to make a real and lasting difference,” Mills said in a video supporting the campaign.
Beyond the luncheon, Roche and Mills have other responsibilities for the campaign.
“Our role is to select members from all of our colleges and programs in Macon for the steering committee and then to support those persons who will promote the fund drive, emphasizing the great things United Way partners accomplish in Middle Georgia,” Roche said in an email to The Cluster.
Mercer is among the top five contributors to the United Way of Central Georgia campaign; Roche and Mills said they hope to help the United Way of Central Georgia in its campaign to provide food, shelter and education to all citizens of middle Georgia.
“Last year, we contributed over $120,000 to the campaign, and this year, we hope to do that or better. The United Way office is challenged to increase the budget from 5.1 million to 5.2 million dollars. That budget is spread over about 8-9 counties in Middle Georgia and to a number of non-profit partner agencies,” Roche said.
Roche said Mercer students volunteer through the United Way.
“Many of our Mercer students volunteer at one of the partnered charities and learn through these service opportunities. That is a huge part of what Mercer hopes to impart to its graduates. We realize we extend our university when we support the charities that are supported through this campaign!” Roche said.
He said that Mercer and United Way’s partnership aims to show the community that it’s important to fight poverty instead of ignore it.
“We are all in this life, in this home together,” Roche said. “One for all, and all for one.”