United Way of Whitewater Valley is gearing up for its annual campaign to help kids and working poor people in Wayne and Union counties.

The organization recently conducted its annual meeting to review the previous year and note upcoming fundraising plans. 

United Way is focused on helping improve economic mobility for thousands of local families described as ALICE (asset limited, income constrained) who work but can’t survive on their salaries.

Two campaigns, with help from matching partners, raised money to directly address individuals’ utility bills and food insecurity. 

Overall, the organization invested $221,500 last year in the community, working with more than 30 organizations to also improve childhood and youth success and access to health.

However, some programs are investments for the long term. For instance, United Way sponsored a new workforce development program with Future Achievers, Hogg Helps and Boys & Girls Clubs of Wayne County to help prepare small groups of teens for their next chapter. 

Tamara Brinkman

BGCWC CEO Alicia Painter called the program a win, and United Way Executive Director Tamara Brinkman called it an example of United Way’s willingness to try new initiatives and keeping a fresh lens on evolving community issues.

United Way continued some of its longtime initiatives, such as More Than Words that focuses on a key character attribute once a month to inspire good citizens and workers. 

And, after a COVID hiatus, Challenge Day returned for 866 local eighth graders with help from 178 adult volunteers and Reid Health. The program aims to increase self-management, social and self-awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision-making, and improve attitudes about self, school and community engagement. Brinkman said 69% of students who attended Challenge Day said afterward they felt empowered to create change in their schools, community and world.

Brinkman said the organization has a bird’s-eye view of the area’s greatest needs and greatest potential, and it’s well-positioned to coordinate and facilitate collaboration across nonprofits to amplify outcomes.

“People think a few dollars won’t make an impact, but it takes very little to make a huge difference,” Brinkman said.

For instance, occasionally skipping a $2 snack, $5 coffee or a $15 meal can provide long-lasting benefits, such as youth learning opportunities in safety, leadership or job skills.

Brinkman said she’s optimistic about 2023, but knows much remains to build a thriving community.

For instance, United Way is planning new quarterly luncheons to enhance nonprofit support. It’s partnering with host Cope Environmental Center to offer a free 11:30 a.m. June 12 workshop called “Unlocking Your Nonprofit’s Potential – Charting a Course for Success.” Staff and volunteers of local organizations can learn from local resident Lauralee Hites, owner of Stratavize Consulting. Registration is required.

Brinkman also provides nonprofits a voice as host of “The Third Sector,” a regular Whitewater Community Television show. 

A new fundraiser, a disc golf tournament, takes place Aug. 19 at Glen Miller Park. It’s open to newcomers and experts. United Way aims to diversify its revenue sources.

This year’s new board members are Angela Cline, Reid Health Foundation director, and Katie Kitchin, new RHS Alumni Association executive director.

Additional board members and organizations willing to offer an employee giving campaign are sought.

Grant recipients

United Way of Whitewater Valley recently awarded $179,000 to 26 partners in Wayne and Union counties that support 30 programs. They are:

Achieva Resources – Adult Guardianship & EXCEL Program; Amigos – Latinx Leadership & Youth Tennis Group; Birth to Five – Parents as Teachers; Boys & Girls Clubs – Project Learn; Bridges for Life – Recover Together; Brighter Path – Scholarship Fund; Circle U – Circle U/CIS Weekend Food Security Partnership; Communities in Schools – Site Coordination; The Junction of College Corner, Inc. – Play in the Park; Cope Environmental Center – Get ACTIVE Outdoors; Dwyer Community Center – Know Your Worth; Every Child Can Read – The Reading Academy; Firefly – Emergency Basic Needs Support for Vulnerable Families; Future Achievers – Life Coaching; Gateway Hunger Relief – Food Pantry; Girls Inc. – Operation SMART; Hope House – Mentors; Ivy Tech – Ivy Cares; JACY House – Body Safety; Junior Achievement – Pathway to Employability ATCO – Career Closet Employments Barrier Reduction Fund; Neighborhood Health Center – Care Coordinator; Oak Park Childcare – Childcare Fund; Refuge of Hope – Next Step Program – Computer Lab; Richmond Farmers Market – Richmond Farmers Market & JUKO Rocks; Townsend Community Center – After School Harambee Program; YMCA – Youth Sports & Liberty After School Care 

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A version of this article appeared in the June 7 2023 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

Millicent Martin Emery is a reporter and editor for the Western Wayne News.