For over 55 years, United Way of Benton & Franklin Counties has been our region’s health and human services leader. Several years ago, United Way asked these critical questions: What are the most effective strategies to support our community’s most pressing needs? What does it take to carry out these strategies? How can United Way and our partners deliver the greatest impact? In other words, how can we chart the course for lasting change that really improves lives?
To answer these questions, Community Solutions was launched in 2007. Since then, we’ve worked with hundreds of community leaders, experts and volunteers to address needs and create lasting solutions in four areas: education, health, safety and self-sufficiency. United Way does the critical but largely invisible work required to reach these goals, but it takes an entire community to make a difference. We are grateful to the many community partners who are committed to this work.
Education starts at birth and continues through all stages of life. This year, our United Way partnered with 14 area middle schools and also provided funding to nine local programs within the area of education. Additionally, United Way leads three community-wide initiatives: Our Babies Can’t Wait, Prepared By 20 and Attendance Matters. These initiatives provide support from birth through high school graduation. Last year, more than 30,000 people benefited from these United Way initiatives and supported programs in early intervention, after-school support, parenting workshops and services for developmentally challenged children.
A local middle school teacher, whose school is participating in the Attendance Matters initiative, shared these positive results: “My students in my fifth hour have improved their attendance drastically. Walking into class late used to be the norm. After the first half of the quarter, only one student had three tardies. Most of my other students had none or just one. Attendance Matters has helped tremendously with the attitude of my students toward school and their punctuality. I believe my students are starting to realize why attendance matters. I love this program and could not imagine working at a school where Attendance Matters does not exist.”
Good health is fundamental to people’s capacity to enjoy their lives, provide for their families and contribute to society. United Way supports healthy beginnings, as well as healthy lifestyles and access to needed health care. There were six United Way-supported programs in the area of health last year, serving more than 13,000 people in areas such as mental health services, health care for the uninsured and support for severely disabled adults.
Keeping individuals and families safe from abuse, neglect, violence and crime is critical. Last year, our United Way supported five local programs in the area of safety where over 31,000 people were served. Services included treatment for foster children, sexual assault victims, children with disabilities, as well as programs for positive youth mentoring.
Financial stability and independent living are goals for self-sufficiency. Last year, nine programs helped more than 81,000 people in our community with challenges such as disaster relief, employment training and meal delivery to home-bound seniors.
Positive impact is a good measure of success, but community members also want to know United Way is accountable and reflects trustworthy financial stewardship. United Way Worldwide completes an annual evaluation of all 1,300 United Way locations across the nation. This overview rates financial accountability, as well as the effect each United Way is having on its local community. United Way of Benton & Franklin Counties earned 97 out of 100 possible points in 2014, putting us in the top 5 percent of all United Way locations for our Community Solutions work and business practices. We also earned the highest four-star rating from Charity Navigator, the nation’s largest and most-utilized independent evaluator of charities. Nonprofits are rated for their performance in financial health and accountability, and transparency.
Community Solutions already has a track record of creating maximum impact to improve lives in our community. United Way will continue to chart the course to create opportunities for success for all.