What’s the secret to a long life?

I love when a reporter finds the world’s oldest person – or anyone over the age of 100 – and asks, “what’s the secret to a long and healthy life?” The centenarians’ responses – from wise to wisecrack – are usually obvious, always candid and sometimes awesome.  For example:

“Exercise every day – just get up and move if you can.”
“Get a great education. That is something no one can take away from you.”
“Drink the faucet water.”
“Love people.”

And my favorite…
Don’t die too early.”

All great advice, especially today.  For on this date in 1918 – 99 years ago – United Way of Central Indiana was born.

99 years. Very few businesses make it to a 10-year anniversary, according to the data. I’d like to think United Way is on the cusp of its centennial anniversary because we have actually lived the advice of the examples above. Here’s how:

“Exercise every day – just get up and move if you can.”

United Way’s roots are in the word “movement.” It all began in Denver with a woman, a priest, two ministers and a rabbi (but no, they didn’t walk into a bar – I don’t think?). These five do-gooders saw people suffering in their community and wanted to do something about it. They knew they couldn’t do it alone. They needed to unite. They created one organization to gather donations and distribute the funds to as many relief agencies as possible in order to generate the biggest impact for those who needed help. Since that moment, the United Way movement has spread to thousands of communities across the U.S. and the globe. While our community needs might vary from city to city, we exercise one rallying cry at United Way:  fighting for the education, financial stability, health and basic needs of every person in our community.

Get a great education. That is something no one can take away from you.

Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” We can’t emphasize the importance of education enough. Which is why United Way invests so heavily in programs like ReadUP, where volunteers spend an hour a week reading to third graders. It really is this simple:  you must learn to read in order to read to learn.

Drink the faucet water.

I imagine this piece of advice is rooted in trust, practicality, and community pride. That said, I can’t think of three better words to describe United Way’s work. We can be trusted to fund initiatives that will truly make a difference in someone’s life. We only operate in practical, evidence-based solutions. And, local pride?  We drink that faucet water every day.  

Love people.

United Way is a giant collection of people. People who need support, people who pledge support, and people who volunteer to support. Just take a look at our logo – human hands that support and lift a person and a community. Over the next year when you start to see United Way celebrating its 100th birthday, you’ll see more images of hands – hands raising, hands waving, hands high-fiving – throughout our city. We love our people!

And at last, my favorite…“Don’t die too early.”

That won’t happen. We have a milestone birthday to celebrate next year, and we have another 100 years ahead of us to stay in this fight for the education, financial stability, health and basic needs of every person in our community. We are looking for the hand raisers and the game changers to join us as we fight for our kids to get a great education, help our struggling families maintain stable lives, advocate for good public policies that align with our priorities, support our partner agencies which provide critical services to people who desperately need it, and energize a volunteer army – especially from Indy’s active and growing Millennial population – to get their hands dirty and join the cause.

With that said, I have another answer to the question, “What’s the secret to a long life?”

Our answer:  Live United.

Jessica Di Santo is the Director of Communications for United Way of Central Indiana. When she isn’t working, she [sometimes] enjoys driving her two daughters to and from piano lessons, band concerts and Indianapolis Children’s Choir rehearsals and performances. Jessica is addicted to the Food Network channel and magazine and recently completed a week-long Culinary Boot Camp at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY.  Jessica is a proud Journalism major from Ball State University (chirp, chirp); therefore, she considers her daughters’ math homework cruel and unusual punishment.

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