Knowledge of a community is developed not only by understanding research data, but also by listening to and learning from people who live and work here. This past fall, United Way of Southwest Minnesota asked questions regarding people's opinions concerning priority issues for this area. Questions were asked regarding the importance of these issues in their community and if people had suggestions on things that could make an improvement.
The first set of questions asked the respondents to rate the importance of priority issues in their community. The top three responses were:
Programs that educate and build awareness for issues such as bullying and suicide. 77.6 percent responded that this was "Important to me."
Early education and school readiness (birth to 6). 73.6 percent responded that this was "Important to me."
Programs to help youth develop financial literacy skills. 72.8 percent responded that this was "Important to me."
Responses to this research, along with other data, help guide United Way of Southwest Minnesota's board of directors and volunteers as they work to determine how United Way resources are used to make sure that positive results are achieved. This local accountability to donors is of utmost importance to our organization.
Over and over during listening sessions with the community we hear people tell how important prevention type efforts are for a successful future and we are encouraged to invest resources into these efforts, in other words, "teach a person how to fish..." As with other successful investments, there needs to be a balanced portfolio. When you look at the range of grants that are made by United Way of Southwest Minnesota you will see that there is a mix between preventative efforts and intervention programs.
There is a focus on strategies that will make a difference in people's lives. This is important for the common good and opportunity for all.
Some examples of United Way of Southwest Minnesota support toward the top three priorities highlighted above include support of youth development and mentoring programs; afterschool programs, anti-bullying curriculum for young children; minority advocacy support; parent and child care provider education; early childhood literacy advocacy and support; books for children ages 0-5; mobile learning for preschoolers; financial education for young people and more.
There is still time for readers to get involved with this work and to help make a difference. The annual fund-raising campaign for United Way of Southwest Minnesota will conclude on Jan. 31. Donations can be mailed to United Way of Southwest Minnesota at Post Office Box 41, Marshall, MN 56258 or you can go to our secure on-line donation form at UnitedWaySWMN.org.
All donations will stay in this area and go to work in the coming year to make a difference in people's lives and the communities of Lincoln, Lyon, Murray, Yellow Medicine and western Redwood counties of Minnesota.