Many of us have heard of the United Way at some point in our lives. For some of us, it's just been a passing knowledge of their existence as one of the "big" charities, like the Red Cross or Salvation Army. For others, we learned about them through workplace campaigns or other direct involvement. But unless you've been "on the inside" as a board member, committee member, or staff person, do you truly know what the United Way is?
When I was first hired in October, I already knew of the United Way of Central Florida. I had been a member of and on the Steering Committee for EMERGE Lakeland for several years, and I knew of United Way and some of what they did because UWCF is one of the parent organizations of EMERGE. But it wasn't until I was on the staff that I truly began to see the scope of the organization and its mission.
Like many of you, I grew up thinking that the United Way was a grant pass-through or umbrella organization for other non-profits. They did the fundraising, other entities received the funding and did the work. While that may have been the case 10 or 20 years ago, it is definitely not now. Raising funds is still a huge part of what United Way does, but the larger focus now is creating lasting change and meaningful impact.
Okay, so what does that mean?
It means that the United Way has chosen to focus on three aspects of life: Education, Income, and Health. These are considered to be the core of a stable, productive, happy life, and finding a lack in any one of those three can affect a person's ability to live up to their full potential. When a person cannot do that, he or she also cannot be a positive force in the community at large, and can, in fact, become a drain on the community. When enough people are facing issues in these areas, the community itself can become unstable. Employment opportunities will flee because the workforce is not educated enough for the job requirements. Small businesses would suffer because the community would not have a stable base of able consumers to support them. Emergency rooms, hospitals, and doctors offices would be full of people who need help with preventable diseases.
Here's where United Way steps in. By finding partners in the community -- non-profit organizations, community leaders, government officials, etc -- who have the expertise or physical resources to do things that our community needs, United Way creates partnerships that address the roots of these issues. While short-term "safety-net" type help may take care of the immediate need of a family or individual, it won't help them get out of the cycle that put them in the situation to begin with. So, United Way works with its partners to create programs to break those cycles: early childhood education to get children ready for Kindergarten and success in school, family budget counseling to help families learn how to manage their money and save for emergencies, and health education to allow patients to be proactive about taking care of their health.
At the United Way, each of these focus areas are championed by a committee of experts who have laid out specific goals for their area. Within those goals, measurable results must be shown in order for a program to continue to receive funding. The process of identifying needed programs and evaluating their results is rigorous, but worth the time and effort for the impact it creates on our community.
The United Way is a force for social change. It's a leader bringing together the people who can create that change. It's a worker toiling away for the common good. The United Way is all of these things, and more, and it's going to make our community an even better place to live.
-- written by Meredith Spresser, Digital Communications/Web Maintenance Specialist, UWCF
Mar 12/18 - Mar 29/18 12:00 PM - 01:00 PM Build United- Register a Team Today!
Apr 03/18 12:00 PM - 01:00 PM Tocqueville Tuesdays - Bonnet Springs Park
Apr 05/18 05:00 PM - 07:00 PM Story Book Adventures Pajama Party with Elephant and Piggie
Apr 19/18 09:00 AM - 11:00 AM Infant Massage at Family Fundamentals
Apr 19/18 12:00 PM - 01:00 PM Board of Directors Meetings