Pay it forward. United Way awards top 2017 Give Back. Win Big! prize

Pay it forward.

You hear the phrase used frequently. The concept of paying it forward is that when someone does a good deed for you, instead of paying them back, you pay it forward by doing a good deed for someone else. Years ago, there was even a movie about paying it forward, but does it really happen? Do people pay it forward?

In my many years of working in the nonprofit sector I’ve had the opportunity to interact with hundreds, if not thousands, of people who have been dealt a lousy hand by life. People struggling with illness, the loss of a child, or who are not able to put food on the table for their family. Their names are long gone, but I can still see their faces and hear their words that touched me deeply. And now there is one more story from a chance meeting. The story of someone struggling mightily for decades, yet despite her illness and hardships, she has paid it forward.

Carol Landis is a greeter at Costco. Always smiling and welcoming, a friendly face in what is usually a harried atmosphere. I’m sure many in Lancaster County know her face, if not her name. Carol’s ordeal began more than 40 years ago, when she was first diagnosed with cancer. She had three young children at the time, a three-year-old and nine-month-old twins. Due to her illness and the ongoing treatments, she couldn’t work. Her local United Way in Tioga County heard about her plight and stepped in. Snowsuits and mittens were provided for her children, and Carol says “there is a lot more snow in Tioga County than here in Lancaster.” As she struggled as a single mom, United Way was there to help get her and her family through. That is why she pays it forward.

For 13 years, she has contributed to Costco’s United Way workplace campaign, because she knows there are people in the community facing the same difficulties she faced, that she’s still facing. Carol is still battling cancer, and yet she pays it forward. But there’s a twist to this pay it forward story. Each year, United Way’s incredibly generous sponsors offer incentive prizes to donors through the “Give Back, Win Big” campaign. This year, nearly 11,000 donors were entered into a random drawing to win one of nine donated prizes, with a top prize of $1,000 a month for a year, which is donated by Armstrong World Industries. 1 in 11,000 odds. Not great to say the least. This year that one is Carol Landis. When Dave Cookson of Armstrong World Industries and our United Way of Lancaster County contingent arrived at Costco and presented Carol with her prize you could sense the true appreciation she felt. And when she began thanking us, with tears streaming down her cheeks, the lump in my throat reinforced why I do what I do, and why we pay it forward in some way, every day. It’s for people like Carol. And it is people like Carol who make a difference by helping others, or reminding us why we are part of this labor of love.

Pay it forward. I promise, you won’t regret it.

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Story Submitted by:
Brad Peterson,
Lead Director, Marketing & Communications
United Way of Lancaster County