Wednesday, October 28, 2015

UW Tacoma Students Do Their Part

Demanding school assignments and work shifts can make a student’s life jam-packed. But on Saturday, October 10th, UW Tacoma students made the time to serve their community collectively.

The University of Washington Tacoma is dedicated to serving diverse students and prides itself on being an urban serving institution. With that, the University seeks to collaborate, and connect with local organizations within education and student affairs with every chance it gets.  

Nearly 75 students came out to participate in UW Tacoma’s very own Day of Caring. Their day began at 8AM in the new University YMCA Student Center, and students strolled in with coffee desperate faces. Representatives came to speak about their local organizations and why their work is vital to our Pierce County community. Much of the day consisted of reflecting on why volunteering and community mobilization is important and how students can do their part.

From there, the volunteers went in groups to their assigned organizations. Tasks were varied by each site; some students put together family food packs, planted trees, sorted and organized pantries, and some even painted the facility.

Students worked through tough projects, the pouring rain and treacherous drives. But when all is said in done, they loved learning about local organizations and doing good for our community. 

A handful of passionate volunteers ended the day seeking to regularly volunteer and to get connected with more agencies. Che H., a sophomore at UW Tacoma said “this work isn’t pretty-but I love serving my city”. 

Participating Organizations
Families Unlimited Network
Tacoma Rescue Mission (Women’s & Family Shelter)
Puget Creek Restoration Society

Monday, September 21, 2015

Nearly 1,200 Volunteers Answer the Dare to Care, Participate in United Way’s Day of Caring

by Nicole Milbradt, Sr Marketing Manager

Numerous companies are spending the day showing they care about their community as part of United Way of Pierce County’s Day of Caring, including the entire staff and student body at Tacoma’s School of the Arts. Additionally, people throughout Pierce County are dared to show they care by doing something – anything – that shows how they LIVE UNITED.

In total, nearly 1,200 volunteers are spending the day assisting nonprofit organizations all over Pierce County through Day of Caring. This year’s annual volunteer event features 50 projects and 32 teams. Projects include harvesting fresh fruits and vegetables for local food banks, hosting a carnival for adults with disabilities, weeding rain gardens, preparing and serving food to those in need and designing a mural for a local garden.

The estimated value of the hours that will be donated on September 18th is nearly $161,000 dollars.

Participating Organizations

Albers & Company
APA Engineered Wood Assoc.
BNY Mellon
Brown & Brown of Washington
Carlisle Transportation
City of Lakewood
Cole Graphics Solutions
Columbia Bank
Community Youth Services
Evergreen Personal Injury Counsel
Global Metal Works & Erectors/McSweeney  Steel
Harborstone Credit Union (photo at right)
Heritage Bank
Korum Motors
McGranahan Architects
Multicare Health System
Mutual of Enumclaw Insurance Co.
NuStar Energy
Regence Blue Shield
Rally Point 6
Tacoma School of the Arts
The Modified Dolls
Tacoma Public Utilities
TrueBlue, Inc.
Umpqua Bank
Unico Properties
US Bank
University of Washington Tacoma
Wells Fargo Bank

However, if people can’t join a Day of Caring project, they can still participate in the Dare to Care. Mow an elderly neighbor's lawn, volunteer at a local agency, hold a food drive, write a letter to your congressman, donate to charity, advocate for an issue you care about, sign up to help out in your child's classroom, practice random acts of kindness... just show you care about the community! Participants are encouraged to post a photo or video on our Facebook page at People are also encouraged to include the hashtag #DareToCare and then dare their family and friends to do the same.

Show us you care about your community. We dare you!

Monday, September 14, 2015

#DareToCare… What’s It All About?

by Nicole Milbradt, Sr Marketing Manager
  1. Dare To Care is a movement to help people see how easy it is to make a difference in someone’s life.
  2. By sharing it on social media, we have the chance to inspire others to look for ways they can impact our community.
  3. Encouraging people to do the Dare during the month of September combines all those little things to make a big difference.
  4. Including a trendy hashtag makes you look cool and brands all the different efforts going on to support the movement.
  5. Challenging your friends, family and co-workers to take the Dare means more good things will happen!
  6. And it gives you a chance to pay them back for that ice bucket thing!
  7. You get to share in the joy of giving back.
  8. People who really need your help, get it!
  9. Looking for ways to help people might just become a habit.
  10. It shows how powerful we can be when we come together!

So get out there, do some good and challenge others to get on board!! #DareToCare

Thursday, July 16, 2015

SNAP in Pierce County

by Clara Kerrone, Marketing Intern
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, is our country’s biggest and most important food assistance program. Essentially, it is food assistance provided by the USDA for low- or no-income Americans. Those who qualify receive an EBT card that allows for an average of $4 per person per day in assistance. In 2014, more than 46 million Americans fed themselves with the help of SNAP; over 70 percent of these users were households that included children.
The card is designed to be supplemental in purchasing food- not the entire budget. But for many families, it ends up being the bulk of their funding anyways. And paying for food is not their only obstacle in getting food on the table. Many families live in areas called food deserts, which are areas without immediate access to fruits, vegetables, and other healthy whole foods. Further, many of these families also do not have access to a car and therefore end up having to walk to the store or take the bus. As a result, they can only purchase what they can carry back home with them.
Many families who qualify to receive SNAP are working minimum wage jobs, and often times they are working more than just one job in order to make enough money to provide for their family. An issue with SNAP is that it is based off of a food plan that intends for all meals to be home made from scratch daily. This would be a wonderful reality, to be able to home cook every meal, but there is just one problem with it: most of the families who are working more than one job do not have that amount of time for meal preparation. The time it takes to fully prepare a home cooked and well-balanced meal is just too much when juggling two jobs and a family as well. So there we have yet another obstacle with SNAP for these families.
Luckily, in Pierce County, we have many programs to help families who are facing these issues. FISH Food Banks is an awesome local food bank that is able to turn every $1 donated into $7 worth of food! More than 97% of funds raised go directly to putting food on the tables of people in need. Emergency Food Network is able to give every person that walks into their food bank enough food for 9 meals. Pierce Transit is also an awesome bus system that we have which covers a great deal of our county with tons of bus stops. Our community is working at great lengths to remove these obstacles from families benefiting from the SNAP program.
There are a number of ways you can give back to help these families that are struggling to put food on the table. Donating to your local food bank is a great way to help, as is volunteering at these places. For your own personal learning opportunity, you could even try the SNAP challenge. Compute the amount of assistance your family would receive for one week ($4 per person per day), hide away all the food that you own, and live a week with this lifestyle. Use the bus system to get to and from the grocery store and work. We could all benefit from living life in someone else’s shoes for a week, and gaining a greater appreciation for the world around us.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Back 2 School

by Clara Kerrone, Marketing Intern

As a twenty-one year old working a minimum wage job almost full time, I can barely make my pay checks stretch toward where I need them to go. Luckily I am somewhat financially supported by my parents, and I am thankful for that every day. So when I learned that families living in poverty in Pierce County are making an average of $1,327 per month, it really hit home for me. That is a paycheck comparable to what I am making; I can’t imagine having to support a child with that as well. And that would be without my mom paying my phone bill still! I looked into it more and learned that it is estimated that $968 of that money is spent on housing, leaving only $359 for the rest of the month to be spent on food, transportation, childcare, and other necessities. Tough choices are being made daily for these families- pay for groceries or get gas? Doctor’s appointment when your child is sick, or a new pair of shoes once the old ones are outgrown?

The fall can be an especially stressful time of the year for these families- the start of the school year brings tons of new required purchases for families with children of any age. School supplies and new clothes, backpacks, a winter coat, shoes, and more all need to be restocked. Some of these may not be yearly purchases, but most are. 

I wanted to find out approximately how much it would cost to send a child to school, living off the average low income budget, so I did a little research. I went on the website of a local elementary school and looked up the kindergarten school supply list. I followed it exactly, and if a specific brand wasn’t asked for I chose the cheapest available option. The total cost- $66.60. Then, I decided to buy my “child” an outfit. I went to Old Navy (because deals!) and picked out a complete outfit- shirt, jeans, shoes, jacket, socks and underwear. Once again, I chose the least expensive items that I could. The outfit totaled $93.64. And that was just one outfit! Ideally, I would want my child to have more than garment to wear. But with my budget, I had already spent $160.24, almost half of my monthly spending budget. That left me $198.76 for the month. My monthly wifi bill (I don’t have cable, to save money) costs $62.00 and my utilities bill is around $90.00. So the final amount of money I have leftover to put food on the table for my “family” and get gas in the tank is $46.76. Basically, impossible.

Having the real numbers right there in front of me, backed by my own real life work schedule and personal experience, made my heart hurt. I remember the first day of school being so exciting because of reuniting with friends, and being able to wear my favorite new outfit with pride. There are so many kids that don’t have that feeling on the first day- they could instead even feel like an outsider because of their clothes and lack of school supplies. This should never be the case.

Luckily, there are a lot of programs available to help these families out with back to school shopping. United Way of Pierce County’s Back 2 School program is one of them. We help more kids start the year with the quality supplies they need to succeed by allowing community members to help out in several ways. You can Build a Backpack to provide a quality backpack and supplies for a child of any grade level. You can hold a Supply Drive at your organization or make a donation of supplies. Or, you can simply make a Cash Donation and we’ll do the shopping for you. That way, when September comes around, household’s all around our county will be able to have one less burden to worry about- and maybe even celebrate the first day of school with a delicious dinner eaten together around the table as a family.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Beating the Summer Slide

by Clara Kerrone (Marketing Intern)

Summer is such an exciting time for everyone, but especially kids. School’s out, the sun is shining, and there are endless days ahead of them for fun times with family and friends! Some of my favorite summer memories include countless sleepovers with friends and camping trips with my family. Another favorite was doing the summer reading challenge at the library- my mom would take us to the library near my house every few weeks to check out new books, and we would get stamps from the librarian to track how many books we had read, which led to awesome prizes when we hit certain goals.

The one hidden downside of summer break, however, is a sneaky learning barrier called the “summer slide.” The summer slide is basically the concept that when kids take a break from learning over the summer, they can lose a minimum of 2 months’ worth of knowledge they had worked so hard to gain during the school year. Children from low-income families can lose even more during this time, because of a lack of access to learning resources such as having books to read at home, or being able to participate in engaging summer camps. This lack of access to after-school and summer programs leads to students falling behind by as much as two grade levels by the time they're done with elementary school. And even worse, if a child isn’t at reading level by the end of the third grade, studies show that they are six times more likely to drop out of school.

As discouraging as those numbers can be, it is important to remember that we can prevent that learning loss! This is a huge goal of United Way this summer. There are so many ways to keep kids on track. The Tacoma Public Library’s Summer Reading Club offers both free access to books and a fun incentive for kids to keep reading all summer long. The YMCA offers tons of free summer camps that are both fun, and academically engaging so kids can learn without even realizing that they are, or feeling like they're in school.

United Way of Pierce County is kicking off our summer learning initiative with Day of Action on June 19th, and we are confident that this event will get the wheels turning in the right direction for the whole summer. We have joined in with the Free Little Library’s program, a national movement where members of the community build small library’s (think dollhouse sized!) to be placed around the city and continuously stocked with free books. The idea is that members of the community can then take a book from the little library and replace it with one of their own, so the selection is always changing. Recently I was going on a walk down McCarver street and noticed one- and it had tons of books in it! The friend I was with told me that it had been there for a while and that she always sees people using it. It made me even more excited for Day of Action, and to see these Little Library's popping up all over our community.

We believe that successful kids start with strong families, and a supportive community. That’s why helping fund these free programs for kids is an important part of what we do, and something we will stand behind for years to come. Little Library's and summer reading are a perfect way to work towards our goal of breaking the cycle of poverty by 2024.

So this summer, when you’re figuring out child care and fun activities to fill your kid’s time, don’t forget how important it is to keep them involved in programs that do more than just let them spend some time in the sun. Then someday, they will look back on their summer's and remember those programs of being some of their favorite memories too, just like the book challenge at the library was for me!