Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Former University of Georgia quarterback David Greene addresses around 300 people at the annual Gwinnett United Way Campaign kick-off breakfast at the Gwinnett Place Marriott in Duluth on Tuesday. The United Way's goal is to raise $5.2 million in 2012.
DULUTH -- David Greene remembers the day that he spent a few hours giving back his time at the Gwinnett Children's Shelter. He played flag football and ping pong while sharing his stories with the kids.
The children got a lot out of the experience, according to Greene, but he said he was the one who was changed.
"After I was leaving the facility, I was the one who was blessed 10 times more than those kids were," he said during Tuesday's United Way Campaign Kick Off Breakfast. "The real gift in life is really the ability to give back."
"For us, it's important to have a celebration with the community of kicking off the campaign season to give," said Michelle Prater, development officer at United Way of Greater Atlanta. "One of things we decided was that it was a Gwinnett celebration and focus."
Prater and her cabinet thought long and hard about the 2012 guest speaker, then realized Greene, the former University of Georgia football standout, would be perfect. Greene, who played high school ball at South Gwinnett, lives in Grayson with wife and two children.
"My cabinet decided that he would be great because he's a local hero and still lives here with his family," she said. "We couldn't think of anyone better to speak at the celebration."
Before Greene took the podium, the audience learned about Donna Schwartz, a Gwinnett County Public School bus driver who was once homeless and got back on her feet, thanks to the nonprofit.
Along the way, she has been asked questions about United Way, specifically "Does the money I donate stay in the area?"
"I wanted to let you know that I'm standing here as living proof that it does indeed," Schwartz said. "I don't think I wouldn't have been able to rebuild my life (without the programs)."
United Way's 2012 goal is to raise $5,200,000 dollars for its programs in education, income, health and homelessness. To donate, visit www.unitedwayatlanta.org.
"It's not just your money, it's your time as well," Greene said. "We've got an incredible opportunity to make a difference this year."
The group is also partnering with the Gwinnett Coalition for Health and Human Services, encouraging people to participate in the Gwinnett Great Days of Service, which are scheduled for Oct. 5 and 6.