LETTER FROM THE WLC CHAIR
Investing in our Community’s Future
There is nothing quite like it – the feeling of satisfaction when we’ve donated our time and skills, our financial resources, or perhaps all three. Organizations like the Corporation for National and Community Service cite studies that show potential social and physical benefits. It is a great feeling to be connected to our community in a personal way.
Members of United Way of the Midlands’ Women’s Leadership Council want to share these benefits with others who appreciate the power of being informed and engaged in our community’s future.
We are now 550 members strong and growing. Among our newest inductees are representatives from some of United Way’s most dedicated corporate partners in the Omaha-Council Bluffs metro area. These 28 women are strengthening our work with their professional expertise, and we are proud to welcome them into the WLC’s robust education and community engagement efforts.
Membership provides opportunities to serve on WLC and United Way committees. Our group hosts three educational lunch-and-learn events annually, each exploring a community-specific human service challenge that the WLC and United Way are addressing. Our members have the opportunity to tour strong nonprofit and civic organizations that are engaged in addressing the basic needs, classroom and workforce readiness of our neighbors who live in poverty.
There are a number of volunteer opportunities open to WLC members throughout the year, including United Way’s community wide “Day of Caring” each October, “Holiday Helpers” in November-December and Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend of Service in January.
Our group is dedicated to making the most of our members’ strengths, and to use our collective power to help reduce poverty for our neighbors. We invite you to join us in the work to make our community even stronger.
“DAY OF CARING” INCREASES COMMUNITY STRENGTH
A record 900-plus people from across the Omaha-Council Bluffs metropolitan area left the office or the plant floor behind on October 9th and volunteered for area nonprofits on United Way of the Midlands’ annual “Day of Caring”.
Individual volunteers and teams of coworkers grabbed paint brushes, rakes and any number of other tools to complete indoor and outdoor projects for several dozen charities and civic organizations. Teams also organized food donations and even went door-to-door in local neighborhoods, promoting fire safety and arranging for smoke detector installations. There were cleanup and organizing projects underway, and volunteers also helped assemble important packets of information or personal items for the clients who use local health and human service programs.
Members of United Way’s own Young Professionals Council cleaned out and organized storage areas at the Omaha Home for Boys and even baked cookies for the students and staff to enjoy. “Our neighbors have shown, once again, that they’re ready and willing to reach out and make life better for others” said Shawna Forsberg, President and CEO of United Way. “With such a heart-warming number of volunteers and wide variety of projects, our community grew even stronger on Day of Caring.”
“TRAIN TO GAIN” UPDATE
With generously-committed funds from the Women’s Leadership Council, the “Train to Gain for Student Success” initiative is now moving forward.
Work has begun on this exciting partnership between United Way, the Women’s Leadership Council and Collective for Youth, a 501(c)3 organization that leads and supports a network of Omaha out-of-school-time (OST) programs. Approximately 3,000 children will be impacted by focusing resources on the professional development of OST staff members.
There are a total of 12 youth-serving agencies participating in “Train to Gain” with 20 individual program sites. The first-year goals include gathering critical baseline data to ensure accurate measurement of the initiative’s success over a three-year time period. The data will include:
- Staff demographics
- Change in skill development
- Staff turnover
- Program information
- Baseline student information including demographics, youth outcomes, attendance and activity/intervention activities
The initial objectives include:
- Conducting an assessment on how best to support a citywide
- Quality Improvement System
- Developing a plan to support the community partners, through expanded and intentional professional development for their managers and staff
- Creating a “peer learning group” for out-of-school time professionals
Of course, there is much work to be done. But there are many thanks due to the WLC donors who pledged financial support to the “Train to Gain for Student Success” initiative. Please watch for additional information on the rollout of the project through the coming year.
POSITIVE LOCAL IMPACT ON SCHOOL READINESS*
- 71,067 youth and adults received nutritious meals
- 13,633 children had a safe out-of-school time environment
- 4,426 student interventions improved academic performance and reduced absenteeism
* Sample of 2014-2015 UWM Community Care Fund year-end reporting
VETERANS SERVICES IN LUNCH & LEARN SPOTLIGHT
A sold-out crowd, including members of UWM’s Women’s Leadership Council and guests, came together on Veterans Day, November 11, to learn more about the nonprofit and public services available to the men and women who have given so much to protect and defend our country.
Bellevue University President Dr. Mary Hawkins moderated the event, which covered a range of programs available to vets and their families. Panelists included Porscha Howard, self-sufficiency program manager at Women’s Center for Advancement; Jessica Jones, program director for Together; and two representatives of Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska, Inc.: Kim Jones, therapist and Sharon Robino-West, program manager.
Lutheran Family Services receives United Way funding for its “At Ease” program, which provides support for military members who struggle to cope during their re-entry into everyday life back at home. Women’s Center for Advancement has a program to help ease the transition for women in the armed services who are returning to civilian life. Together provides eligible veteran families with outreach, case management, and assistance in obtaining VA and other benefits, through a variety of services. The next WLC lunch and learn is scheduled for April 6.
CELEBRATING COMMUNITY AT ANNUAL MEETING
Themes of community challenge, collaboration and active citizenship marked United Way of the Midlands’ annual meeting on October 23rd.
400 people gathered as UWM presented its “Citizens of the Year” award to Gary and Kathy Gates. The Gates were recognized for their longtime commitment to civic efforts and nonprofit organizations around the Omaha-Council Bluffs metro area.
UWM President and CEO Shawna Forsberg offered attendees a look at increased service in a variety of program areas in the coming year, including UWM funding that would:
- Provide a safe environment and counseling for more than 13,500 domestic violence victims (Basic Needs)
- Ensure tutoring and truancy prevention services for as many as 27,700 children (Classroom Ready)
- Give access to training, skill development and job placement programs for more than 5,000 youth and adults (Workforce Ready)
The keynote address was delivered by Karen Pittman, sociologist and co-founder of The Forum for Youth Investment. Pittman noted that even the young people who graduate with adequate subject matter skills often lack the interpersonal skills needed on the job, which are important in today’s service economy. She advocated for even greater local collaboration to address these kinds of community challenges:
- Acknowledging common goals
- Recognizing the strengths of each partner organization and existing service
- Aligning goals and strategies for improvement
- Transcending program-level results to create change at the community level
Pittman said these kinds of localized and collaborative solutions are critical if communities hope to make progress on complex and persistent problems, like poverty. HDR was the corporate sponsor of UWM’s annual meeting. Next year’s annual meeting will take place on October 21, 2016.
2015 UWM FUNDRAISING CAMPAIGN
Hundreds of companies and thousands of individuals are pledging their financial support to United Way of the Midlands this fall.
The annual fundraising campaign launched in late summer, under the leadership of 2015 Chairs Dana and Danielle Bradford. Through many personal visits and phone calls, the Bradfords and 30 members of their Campaign Cabinet, including Tocqueville Chairs Terry and Jackie Kroeger, have shared critical information about United Way’s focus on poverty, and the donor funding invested in programs that address people’s Basic Needs and support their Classroom and Workforce Ready skills.
While many workplace drives continue to take place in the fall, United Way is providing year-round support to corporate partners that conduct their fundraising campaigns outside of the traditional timeframe.