On behalf of the United Way team and 24-member board of directors, we extend wishes of a warm and happy Thanksgiving. There is much to be thankful for in this area, even in the current time of uncertainty and challenge.
My job allows me to see donations of time and resources to the United Way of Southwest Minnesota at work on a routine basis throughout our five-county home. Now more than ever your gift is making a difference in real people's lives, right here in Southwest Minnesota. Much is possible because people in this area care enough to join together and support our local United Way.
Here are just a few examples of how an investment in the United Way makes an impact right here at home:
There are more than 2,300 children in this area (ages birth 5 years of age) who gain school readiness skills each time an adult in their life takes 15 20 minutes to read them one of the interesting, age appropriate Imagination Library books that they receive in the mail each month. Since the United Way began our sponsorship of the program, more than 218,000 books have made their way into the hearts and homes of local children. In January, we will expand to include the school districts of Dawson-Boyd and Fulda as well.
To further build on our commitment to early literacy and school readiness, we will soon launch 1,000 Books before Kindergarten in partnership with all area libraries. This initiative emphasizes the importance of building a broader vocabulary by having 1,000 books read to a young person prior to their entering Kindergarten. It encourages reading of both Imagination Library books as well as enjoying all that local libraries have to offer. Children enrolled will receive a tote bag to haul their books to and from the library and track the books read to them. Small incentives will be offered along the way. Those completing the 1,000 Books before Kindergarten challenge will celebrate with a graduation party.
Look for information to come regarding when, where and how parents can enroll their children to participate.
Eight hundred-and-fifty kindergarten children were able to practice their school readiness skills over the summer with 'Wild About Kindergarten' bags that were given to every child who attended kindergarten round-ups in 22 schools in this area last spring.
More than 1,000 students throughout SW MN were able to start school with fresh new school supplies this fall because of a great response to the Stuff the Bus school supply drive. The United Way engaged volunteers to sort, pack and distribute supplies/backpacks to elementary, middle and high schools throughout our region.
Student Emergency grant dollars were dispersed to 20 applying area schools. These funds are to assist the districts neediest students with everything from school trip/activity fees, socks/underwear, snow-pants, eyeglasses, school supplies, etc.
Hundreds of volunteers were mobilized for United Way led initiatives or matched by our office to benefit other community partners. Often workplace groups and service organizations seek our help to match a team to an opportunity.
Each year, dozens of non-profit organizations throughout southwest Minnesota apply for and receive grant dollars through the United Way. Last year, those requests were 35 percent more than dollars available. The need is great. These organizations focus on the building blocks of a healthy community and align to Education, Income (financial stability), Health, United for Safety & Well-Being and United Against Hunger. For a complete listing of those partners, visit our website at www.UnitedWaySWMN.org. Click on the map on our homepage to see how dollars are invested in your home community across Lincoln, Lyon, Murray, Yellow Medicine and western Redwood counties.
When you invest in the United Way of Southwest Minnesota, you invest in your own backyard. We are currently at 41.8 percent of our campaign goal of $555,555.55. If you haven't invested with the United Way of SW MN yet this year, we ask you to please consider it. Thank you for giving, advocating and volunteering to help our communities grow stronger together.