The Winds of Change Are Upon Us!

April 11th, 2011 by Erin McMahon

Dear Readers,

You may have noticed that our posts have slowed down a little bit lately. That’s because we’re growing and changing!

LIVE UNITED Y’All is undergoing a metamorphosis from a broad Metro United Way blog talking about all kinds of community work to a lean, mean Education blogging machine! As of now, we are taking a hiatus from blogging while we regroup, strategize and plan, and hope to come back to you in the late summer.

Why Education? Kelly Hutchinson wrote a post late last month that does a great job of introducing how we’re feeling about our Education work here at Metro United Way.

Here’s a short explanation from our information guide this past year.

Why Education? Because graduating from high school and college leads to better jobs. And better jobs lead to incomes that help people afford better healthcare and to support themselves through retirement.

I want to unpack that first part a little. There’s a lot there!

“… graduating from high school and college…” If we want to see our community’s young people graduate from high school on time and move on to college (and we do!), then we have to start by preparing them for success in school and life as early as we can and support them all the way! So this snippet really encompasses five important educational stage (or tipping points, as we often call them in the halls of Metro United Way).

  • early childhood learning
  • early grade reading (by 4th grade)
  • middle school transitions
  • high school
  • college (or career)

There will be a lot more information about our work in these areas, what our role is (and isn’t!), what our goals are, and how we’re going to accomplish those goals. In fact, that’s exactly the kind of stuff you will be able to find and talk about when we come back!

So – have a great summer, and we’ll look forward to talking to you soon!

Best,

Erin McMahon
e-Communications and Creative Manager

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Education, General , , ,

Cloudy with a Chance of Optimism

March 29th, 2011 by Kelly Hutchinson

By Kelly Hutchinson, Donor Relationship Manager

You know the old saying…March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. I can still picture this phrase on colorful bulletin boards lining the elementary school hallway. You saw this saying when you were a kid too didn’t you?   I think this is why “weather” is fueling my thought process this time of year. Nothing draws your attention to a barometer, thermometer and a 7 day Outlook more than a change of seasons.

There is a strong nor’easter blowing down the hallways at Metro United Way and it all has to do with the “big picture”.  What’s the Big Picture you ask?  Well I will tell you…it is EDUCATION.

If you have spent anytime here at Live United Y’all then you know we are all wrapped up, we are all tied up, we are all tangled up in education-and we are all wrapped up, tied up and tangled up in education -because it is precisely the key to pre-empting the storms of life and thereby improving the opportunities for health and income stability for everyone in our community.

Yes, it will be the same blue skies, a warm and sunny forecast for me, for you, for that guy working in the cubicle down the way, and for the kid up the street -when you look at how getting an education affects the big picture. Oh sure, there will be storms in life for all of us. You can count on that. But, you will be ready, resourceful and have some shelter from the storms of life.

Education is linked to better physical and mental health, longer lives, fewer crimes, less incarceration, more voting, greater tolerance, and brighter prospects for our next generation. More education is good for individuals who stay in school to earn a high school degree or who enter and graduate college, but it is also good for all of us, paying big dividends in the form of increased civic engagement, neighborhood safety, and a healthy, vibrant democracy.

Now it’s your turn. Try your hand at predicting the weather where you live first to see what you learn.  Now you can check out what expert forecasters have to say here. What do you think? Is it Cloudy with a chance of Optimism? Are brighter days ahead?  Or are we going to be in for one wild ride when the next gust of pressure blows in?

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Advocacy, Education, General , , ,

Moo-la Helps in More Ways than One!

March 22nd, 2011 by John Nevitt

Nearly everyone would like to have a little more change in their pockets going jingle, jangle, ling.  It’s fun to think about planning a vacation, eating at a nice restaurant, or going to a concert when you’ve got some extra money.  However, for many individuals and families, meeting their basic needs is a daily struggle, and having some extra income is vital for taking care of the necessities – food, housing, safety, and health.  When stresses about life’s necessities mount, education takes a back seat.  However, we all know that the more education you have, the more money you make.  So what about those who are struggling to make ends meet, how can we help them with their education when other needs must be addressed first? 

Metro United Way understands the importance of addressing basic needs, so we are involved in efforts that boost income to make it easier for those of us under financial stress to focus on education.  We view this approach as providing the insulation of the education pipeline – making sure necessities are addressed so we can effectively remove barriers to educational attainment.

One of the efforts we support is making sure that local residents get all the tax credits for which they are eligible.  Since 2001, Metro United Way has actively promoted and supported efforts to provide free tax preparation and filing services, with a goal of making sure families who qualify with incomes up to $49,000 are taking advantage of the earned income tax credit (EITC).  The EITC can place as much as $5,666 back into the hands of hard working families.  With our partners –  the Louisville Asset Building Coalition, the Southern Indiana Asset Building Coalition and HJW Career and Financial Literacy Institute, we are making sure that individuals and families can get their taxes done free and receive eligible credits like the EITC.  Since we began working in this area, our partners have collectively served over 54,000 individuals and families, returning $59 million in federal and state tax refunds, of which over $25 million has been in the form of the EITC.  We have also saved filers an estimated $10 million in tax preparation and filing fees.   Learn more by clicking on the links above.

In addition, Metro United Way is working with Louisville Metro Government to promote a campaign known as “Through Any Door”, which provides benefit screenings for programs such as SNAP (food stamps), K-Chip (health insurance for kids), WIC (supplemental food for families with young children), Free and Reduced Price School Lunches, and other benefits.  The goal is to increase the uptake of these benefit programs for eligible families by streamlining the application process by working through a variety of trusted community partners.  Since launching in the Spring of 2009, this effort has assisted over 1,600 individuals, with annualized benefits in the millions of dollars.  We anticipate that this effort, along with others that are forming, will connect these benefits, also known as work supports, to more families than ever before so that basic needs can be met, and that families have more time and resources to support the educational attainment of their children. 

Bottom line:  Efforts like these help provide more money for food, housing, safety, and healthcare, and for educational attainment.  Jingle, jangle, ling!

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Volunteers: Ordinary People with Extraordinary Hearts!

March 21st, 2011 by Patty (Youngs) Belden

By: Patty Belden

Did you know that April is Volunteer Appreciation Month?  Do you work with volunteers or know someone who participates as a volunteer?  If so, listen up!  Now is the time to develop your recognition plan (that is, if you haven’t already).  Take a minute to think about the impact that volunteers have in our community, our world.  Having trouble, let me help you…

According to studies conducted by the Corporation for National and Community Service…between 2007 and 2009, Kentucky residents put in 101 million service hours.  Translated into dollars…this equals $2.1 billion of service contributed!  Over the same time period, Indiana residents put in 206.1 million service hours to equal $4.3 billion of contributed service.  Way to go Hoosiers! 

I don’t know about you, but I am pretty darn impressed with these numbers.  Volunteers share their time and talents with our community everyday.  And many times these acts of kindness go un-noticed or unappreciated.  Please make a point to thank a volunteer during the month of April.  If you are a volunteer…THANK YOU!!! 

Looking for ways to thank your volunteers?  Check out this helpful website: http://www.energizeinc.com/ideas.html

Feeling inspired to become a volunteer?  Let us help!  Visit www.metrounitedway.org/volunteer.

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Simon’s Story

March 7th, 2011 by Angie Ditsler

By: Angie Ditsler

This story is Part III of a four-part series that spotlights some of the successes of the Gheens Bridges to Tomorrow Initiative and the Horn Opportunities Fund.  The following story demonstrates the power of perserverence and commitment to one’s family.  Thanks to the generosity of the Mildred V. Horn Foundation and other funders like the Gheens Foundation, PNC Bank, Chase Bank and the Humana Foundation, people like Simon have overcome obstacles, established personal goals, and chartered their own paths to success.

Simon M. is a single father who immigrated to the United States from Congo ten years ago with his eight children. Several months ago, as he was aggressively pursuing a job here in Louisville,  he was diagnosed with breast cancer. Since that time, Simon has undergone a mastectomy to remove the cancer. Unfortunately, as a result, Simon also the lost significant time and income, and found himself unable to pay his water and electric bills or fix his car. To complicate matters, Simon has a daughter with special needs who requires frequent visits to the doctor. Without a functioning car to transport his daughter to and from the doctor, her health became a growing concern for Simon and his family.

Thankfully, Simon received Horn funds which allowed him to pay his water and electric bills and get the car repairs he needed so he could resume his daughter’s doctor’s visits. Without those immediate worries looming over Simon’s head,  he is now concentrating on his own  health recovery, and has resumed his job search. In addition, Simon has found the time to start  attending citizenship and family education classes on a regular basis, and is focusing on more long-term goals to benefit himself and his family.

Special thanks to our partners in the Gheens Bridges to Tomorrow Initiative for making Simon’s story- and countless others just like his – possible: the Mildred V. Horn Foundation, Gheens Foundation, PNC Bank, Chase Bank and the Humana Foundation.

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I bleed RED, what about YOU?

February 24th, 2011 by Kelly Hutchinson

by Kelly Hutchinson, Donor Relationship Manager

Ok, I am not going to share a diatribe about the allegiance I feel for the University of Louisville Cardinals…we can save that for another post. I am talking literally about my blood. The blog-goddess aka Erin at Metro United Way suggested this month we share posts that reflect a commentary on diversity. Hence, I have given “diversity” a lot of thought. It’s posed a bit of challenge for me and I think I have come to figure out why. You see my inclination when I meet people is to readily start seeking ways we are similar and I strive to overlook or ignore differences. Whether it is race, religion, culture, politics, work styles…in my day to day life, like you, I encounter “diverse” people (aren’t we all?) everyday but actually seem to usually notice more quickly ways that we are alike rather than different.

This approach is pretty good for me usually but is not beneficial when it comes to blood. You see we do really ALL bleed red blood but, our diversity is in fact represented in our unique blood. In the blood-giving world diversity is truly very, very important and something that is not to be ignored. It is life-saving in fact.

Because we live in a diverse world there is also a need for that “diverse” red blood.  Certain blood types are unique to specific racial and ethnic groups. Therefore it is essential that a blood donor’s diversity match the patient diversity. For example, U-negative and Duffy-negative blood types are unique to the African American community. When blood is closely matched patients are at a lower risk for complications. For this reason, it is extremely important to increase the number of available blood donors in our community from all ethnic groups, minority and diverse populations.

If you would like to help make a difference, check in and see  for yourself if you bleed red blood too, then mark your calendar and spread the word. The American Red Cross bloodmobile will be hosted at PBI Bank on March 1st from 11:30 am to 4:40 pm, at 2500 Eastpoint Parkway. This is one easy life-saving way to support a Metro United Way partnership where everyone wins and it will feel good to be a part of helping save lives – and add to a diverse supply of blood being available in our community. Bring a friend.  PBI Bank employees in our community LIVE UNITED by sharing the opportunity to give, advocate and volunteer and they are excited to support the community by hosting this upcoming blood drive.

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Advocacy, Events, Giving, Health , , ,

Real Pride Welcomes Diversity

February 22nd, 2011 by Judy Schroeder

by Judy Schroeder

If there were only one lesson that I have taken away from my teachers in the civil rights movement, it is the great charity and faith that believes real pride will welcome diversity.  Not “chauvinism,” which is that need to place yourself and one world view on top of all others. Legitimate pride builds real dignity and the confidence to keep working for justice and fairness.

It may seem odd, but I think the more I appreciate the sacrifices, coincidences and privileges of my own background, the more I’m able to listen to and learn something from the point of view of people who seem very different.

It’s a lesson I was actually taught by my first role models in the civil rights movement. African-American men and women, who raise their children with a strong sense of pride in who they are, inoculate those young people against fear and prejudice and small-mindedness.

Real pride welcomes diversity in thought and cultural expression because it prepares us to engage!  Seems like a conversation more of us should get into in these times when so much fear and blame is allowed to divide us.

Here’s a couple of thoughts from Metro United Way’s handbook:

di-ver-si-ty: (d-vurs-t,d-) n. pl. di-ver-si-ties: the quality of being different or unique at the individual or group level. This includes work style, parental status, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, skin color, language, age, mental and physical abilities – and more. Even when people appear the same on the outside, they are different.

In-clu-sion: (n-klzhn) n.: a strategy to leverage diversity. Diversity always exists in social systems. Inclusion, on the other hand, must be created. In order to leverage diversity an environment must be created where people feel supported, listened to, and able to do their personal best.

How do you welcome diversity?

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Advocacy, General , ,

Random Acts of Kindness Week

February 17th, 2011 by guest

By: Mary Ann Steutermann
Director of Education Initiatives

This week – the week of Feb. 14 – marks more than just the traditional romantic holiday we all know so well? That’s right. Valentine’s Day isn’t the only day worthy of note this time of year; it’s also “Random Acts of Kindness Week.”

Just as you may have dined out with your honey or brought a box of chocolates to your main squeeze on Monday, I think it also makes perfect sense to mark “Random Acts of Kindness Week” with, well, a random act of kindness. We celebrate the magic of cupid’s arrow with red hearts and flowers, so perhaps we should express our gratitude about all we have been blessed with by sharing with others in need.

We often think that to have an impact, we need to engage in gargantuan projects, give huge sums of money, or undertake heroic efforts. But all we really need to do is just some random act of kindness whenever we can. That’s the beauty of “Living United.” When each of us contributes something small – $5.00, an hour of volunteer work, a quick email to a congressperson – then all of us together become a powerful force for good.

Planning to do something nice?  Already taken the plunge and made someone’s day a little brighter? Let us know!  We’d love to hear all about it.

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Vanilla or Chocolate?

February 16th, 2011 by John Nevitt

Just about everyone I know loves ice cream.  There are an abundance of flavors to choose from, and each one has unique and wonderful qualities.  Sometimes I like plain vanilla, especially on top of a slice of warm Dutch Apple pie.  Other times, I prefer chocolate, or dulce de leche, or toffee, or Spumoni, or strawberry, or even black raspberry.  Come to think of it, there aren’t too many flavors of ice cream that I don’t like.

When I was a kid, the only flavor ice cream I ever wanted was vanilla, and not just as a topping on my pie.  You see, I had tried vanilla when I was really young, liked it, and figured I would never be disappointed as long as I had vanilla.

I think the first time I tried a different flavor was when a neighbor was making homemade ice cream and offered me some peach flavored ice cream.   I was pleasantly surprised how great this fruit-flavored cream tasted, and from that point forward, I wanted to try new flavors all the time!

If variety is the spice of life, ice cream proves how rich our palette can be once we are open to new experiences.

I guess the same can be said about people.  As we reflect on diversity and inclusion, I never cease to be surprised by people who look differently than me.  Often, I have some judgment that they must be unlike me.  In most cases I am right – and thankfully so!  How utterly boring would life be if everyone were the same – had the same viewpoints, interests, skills, manners of expression, etc.   I think our ability to learn would be severely hampered without diversity, since different perspectives offer us new opportunities for growth.

The last couple of years I have had the distinct pleasure of delivering Christmas gifts to immigrant families in our community with my two children.  What a rewarding experience it has been!  I have been impressed by the families I have met from Burma and Cuba , experiencing a bit of their cultures, and realizing how blessed I am to be part of a community that is growing its multicultural identity.

In my limited associations, some of what I have noticed is incredibly strong family connections, a relentless pursuit of growth, a strong work ethic, and a sense of gratitude to our country, while maintaining a sense of cultural pride.  Through these experiences, I find myself appreciating my life even more, taking more pride in our great melting pot, and getting off my duff to capitalize on those things that I formerly took for granted – like giving my voice to things I feel are important.

I am convinced that any time I get discouraged about what is possible for our community, all I need to do is talk with someone from a different culture, and I gain a new perspective that continues to pay dividends.

What opportunities do you see for learning from our growing multi-cultural community?

By the way, the next time I enter the ice cream parlor, I going for Superman!

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Mentoring Makes the Difference

February 3rd, 2011 by Kelly Thompson Garvey

by Kelly Garvey, Director of Engagement Initiatives

On Tuesday, January 25th, United Way Worldwide joined First Lady Michelle Obama and some of the biggest names in education to talk about what we can all do to cut by half the number of young people who drop out of high school.

The First Lady proposed The Corporate Mentoring Challenge. It’s a call for U.S. companies to launch new mentoring programs, expand existing employee mentoring programs, and provide resources to support local mentoring programs that help youth gain leadership skills, achieve their educational goals, and increase their confidence. A few of our local Louisville corporate partners already plan to answer the call — Deloitte, and AT&T among them — and Metro United Way will be working hard in the months ahead to help channel this national effort to spread the Live United spirit into our local schools and communities.

Metro United Way already helps to support strong mentoring programs locally, like Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Kentuckiana, To see how you can get involved with great programs like BBBS click HERE.

Take The Education Challenge!

 

Before you go please consider taking the Education Challenge below and email us for more information about how to get involved at kelly.garvey@metrounitedway.org or call 292-6153.

The Challenge (Raise you right hand and say…)

I believe that education is a building block for a good quality of life, that we all win when a child succeeds in school, and that our country’s success tomorrow depends on how well we educate our children today.

I believe that every child deserves great schools and great teachers, but they alone are not enough. We believe it also takes strong families, a stable home life and good health.

I believe that high school dropouts are years in the making and that early intervention is the key to success. Our vision is that every child will enter school ready to learn, read proficiently by 4th grade, make a successful transition to middle school, and graduate from high school on time.

I believe in the power of parents, teachers, students, companies, elected officials and members of the community, working together for the common good.

I believe in making choices based on what the research says.

I believe the time to stand up and LIVE UNITED for Education is now—for our kids, our community, and our country.

 

 

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