Many people do not know what the United Way does. To be completely honest, I didn't know what United Way did either. Don’t get me wrong, I knew they asked for and gave money, but really what does that all entail? Here is what I learned and truly believe: United Way works with local experts to identify the biggest needs in the community. Here are the biggest three:
- Early Childhood Development: Are the children ready to learn by the time they get to school? This goes beyond the ability to learn. Are they hungry? Do they have reliable transportation? Do they have a place to sleep and clean clothing? These are all barriers that can hinder a child from learning. Up until a child reaches 3rd-grade, kids are at the prime age to increase their reading proficiency. After 3rd-grade, children begin applying those methods to other subjects like social studies and science.
- Mental Health: Mental health difficulties like anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder can lead to other related issues like substance abuse problems and worsen mental wellness conditions in some people.
- Sustainable Careers: We have a lot of “Help Wanted” signs in our area. Can people get transportation to get to an employer? Do they have the skill set for the opportunity? Can they pass a drug test? Do they have access to quality daycare? These are some of the barriers our community members are facing when they seek employment.
We keep these needs in mind when we meet with local companies or individuals to ask for donations. We ask for help through payroll deduction, company foundations and matches, sponsorships, and individual donations. Nonprofit organizations in our community then apply for a grant with United Way to request funding to support programs that can “move the needle” in the three areas we identified above. To keep things balanced, a panel of community members thoroughly read every application and ask questions when necessary. Together, we make the decision to fund a program that we believe will make a positive change. The agencies then give updates on the progress quarterly throughout the year and we assist to meet the goals.
We have already begun the process of allocating the monies raised during the 2018 campaign to the appropriate agencies. Listening and learning about the programs these agencies are producing for the first time, I am inspired and excited to be able to be a part of the process. As many of you know we have a long road ahead of us but the support and generosity I have experienced in this role lead me to believe together living united we can make a difference.
Mary Ann L. Dilling, CFEE
President & CEO