Monday, August 15, 2016

29 going on 30: My journey, my life, living the United Way

My first lesson with money 

by Pete Grignon, Chief Financial Officer, CPA

“Son, we are going to the bank today to deposit the money you earned. We will watch it grow together.”  ~ Edward Napoleon “Nap” Grignon 1960.  

At four years old, I had no idea what that meant.  Back in those days, you received a small passbook from the bank that recorded your deposits and interest earned. The first time I saw that additional interest recorded in that little blue multi page book, I got what my dad meant and was hooked on saving.  I didn’t realize later in life I would be working with United Way of Pierce County with one of our focus areas on coaching people how to earn money, keep it and grow it.

Over the next few months, I'm going to share with you the things I've learned in almost 30 years as the CFO at United Way of Pierce County and the things I learned growing up. Lessons that have played a bigger role in my life then I even thought possible. And lessons that, I hope, will help others as they work toward their own financial self-sufficiency.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Little Red Wagon Reading Mobile

by Cristiana Ventura, Marketing & Resource Development Intern

On March 31st, United Way of Pierce County in partnership with South Sound Together closed the application link for the Live United Neighborhood Grants program. The application remained open for 4 weeks- and dozens of submissions rolled in!

The grant committee is currently in the application review process- but by simply skimming some of the applications, I am truly excited to see what positive impact some of these groups will make on their neighborhoods.

In honor of this exciting process, I thought I would highlight another one of our previous Neighborhood Grant project recipients:

Group: 8th & I Neighbors
Project: Little Red Wagon Reading Mobile

Many of the children in the area read below grade level. They participate in the Read2Me program during the school year, but the program does not continue in the summer. Many of the children do not have access to a library nor do they have appropriate reading material at home. 

Live United Neighborhood Grant funds were used to create Little Red Reading Wagon providing books for the children to read in the summer to maintain and enhance the skills they’ve developed during the school year. The Reading Wagon was stationed at Neighbors Park throughout the summer each Monday and Thursday afternoon. Volunteers helped kids borrow and return books.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Successful Kids: Alex

Alex was 8-years-old when he first became a member of the Henry T. Schatz Boys & Girls Club. Alex’s teacher had recommended the Club to his mother to help him with homework and improving his math skills.

Alex was struggling to keep up with his classmates in learning long addition and subtraction. However, he was able to participate in math games that allowed him to practice his skills without realizing he was learning. The Club quickly became a place that Alex could have fun with new friends, eat a free snack and hot dinner, and also participate in academic programs every day after school.

We asked Alex what his favorite part of going to the Boys & Girls Club is, he excitedly replied, “Mango Math!” 

Since joining the Club, Alex is now performing at grade level in math and has also enhanced his reading and writing skills.

Alex’s success story is one of many. Through the Project Learn program, like Alex, youth are given the opportunity to enhance their educational experience and are inspired to reach their full potential as productive, caring, and responsible citizens.

Project Learn is just one of the many programs receiving funding from United Way of Pierce County. By focusing on programs that help young children and their families, we can remove the barriers preventing them from breaking the cycle of poverty.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Helping You Keep What You Earn Through Tax Assistance

As many of you may know, we are motivated to help families become financially stable. And considering the season we are in, one of the best ways to do this is through tax assistance. We can create a thriving community full of strong families by helping them keep more of what they earn through VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) efforts.

But we aren't in this alone! In fact, there are many different partner agencies across Pierce County involved in this tax assistance program.
  • South Sound 2-1-1 is also partnering with Pierce County Asset Building Coalition to provide tax help. Our call specialists refer callers to the network of free tax prep sites, which includes VITA sites AND AARP sites.
In addition, all of the library locations in Pierce County host VITA sites. Pierce County Libraries are even featuring information at their computer stations about - which is a free online tax prep site built on H&R Block’s product for those who feel comfortable doing their own taxes. Volunteers will prepare client taxes free of charge, determine if they qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and find other credits to boost their bottom line.

For households making less than $54,000, they can get tax assistance and file for free at one of more than 20 sites throughout Pierce County from late January through April.
To find a site near you, dial 2-1-1 or check here.

These programs not only ensure families are keeping the money they deserve- but VITA ensures a long-term payoff by teaching people a vital part of financial stability.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Strong Families: Tony

Tony is a local Pierce County resident. He had everything – a nice house, a car, a job. Then he lost his job and everything "went wrong." He totaled his car, he went through a divorce, and he became homeless. He turned to Catholic Community Services Tacoma Avenue Shelter, an emergency overnight shelter for adult men and women. At first, Tony secretly cried at night in the shelter, wondering what would become of him.

Soon, Tony developed a routine of visiting Nativity House every morning to help out. He began to feel that eventually things were going to get better. Volunteering at Nativity House gave Tony a sense of purpose. He began to meet and share stories with other people at Nativity House and Tacoma Avenue Shelter and realized there were other people with life circumstances more unfortunate than his.

Tony took advantage of all the services provided by Catholic Community Services Homeless Adult Services program – hot meals, safe shelter, case managers, referrals to employment services and mainstream benefits – and finally got back on his feet. Now, he says, he is “living the dream life.” He has a good job and an apartment, and credits Catholic Community Services with making all the difference in putting his life back together.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Better Your Community With A Neighborhood Grant

by Cristiana Ventura, Resource Development & Marketing Intern

United Way of Pierce County’s Neighborhood Grants Program, powered by South Sound Together, provides financial and technical support to resident or community-led groups for projects that help children and families in their neighborhood. Last year's success proved the program to be vital for Pierce County- and we are happy to announce grant applications are available now for the 2016 year. 

Springbrook Connect is one of our extremely successful grant winners from last year. They applied for a Neighborhood Grant and got approved for their Community Garden project.

The residents of Springbrook Park applied for United Way funding in their neighborhood because they had no common area to build a sense of community together. They noted in their application that high poverty, transiency, and crime defined the vicinity. With their grant, they decided to create a community garden so that the residents of the area could all have a shared project. 

Alyce, one of the adult leaders, plays a critical role in providing a local emergency network for the community. Alyce shared that garden activities have been bridge builders within their tiny neighborhood cut off from Lakewood by I-5. She has seen parents of children, racially divided at first, start to come together under a common bond of work and play. Alyce also connects community members who cannot come to the garden. She was contacted by an older lady who had saved a ball of string to help the kids build a structure for newly planted peas.  Children who were once afraid to go to the park now play in it happily every day- their feeling of danger now a thing of the past. 

"Not only did the money help with our groups needs for tools,  fencing starts , etc. It allowed us to show the city of Lakewood that we are serious about helping to change our community for the better. Our success ... allowed Mary Dodsworth( Parks Director for Lakewood) to justify investing money into Springbrook Park. The city has decided to enlarge the park and our garden. 

I am happy to say the garden space they proposed will include a permanent storage shed, a 6 ft security fence , and 32 new raised beds for planting. I truly believe if it was not for the United Way's help last year we would not have been able to have the city pay attention to our efforts. Thank you." - Springbrook Connect resident

This community has come together in a new and meaningful way - - moreover, there is ownership in the project from a wide assortment of stakeholders. This is one small step to breaking the cycle of inter-generational poverty. If we all continue to champion the cause of caring, like so many in the Springbrook community, and outside the Springbrook community, like United Way, then there is much hope.

This year, the Neighborhood Grants Program will be accepting applications from any Pierce County community-led groups in the Hilltop, Springbrook, Franklin Pierce, Bethel, or Eastside (Salishan) neighborhoods. Proposed amounts may range from $500 to $1,500.

 Want to better your neighborhood? Know of someone who would- but needs the funds to do so? Apply now! Application closes March 31st.