Monday, November 16, 2009
I’d like to share about my experience as a Loaned Executive (LE). Being an Auto Claim representative for State Farm I have been given the opportunity to temporarily leave my position to work directly for the United Way of Pierce County for 16 weeks. My time at the United Way is half way over, it has been an adventure that I will always remember and I wish everyone could experience. It has been humbling to say the least.
The LE position is highly thought of and coveted within State Farm. Not only does one get great exposure and experience but also the fulfillment of helping others. I must point out that State Farm has been very gracious while I’m on loan. They have made sure that my work responsibilities are covered so that I can dedicate all my energies to the United Way without having to worry about managing work at State Farm too. Not all LEs have been as lucky.
Many ask what exactly does an LE do? Well, my main goal is to raise donations for the United Way of Pierce County. There are 116 funded programs that depend on funds from the United Way to keep providing services the community. These can be shelters for women of domestic violence, dental care for children whose parents can’t afford it, or food banks, just to name a few. I also educate people on what the United Way is and why it is so very important.
I have been given a book of various companies and organizations. I meet with a coordinator at each company, plan out their United Way campaign, set up guest speakers, make sure they have pledge form, give presentations, collect money raised, and do everything else possible to make each campaign a success. I spend a good deal of my day meeting with people, delivering materials, and helping with events to show support. The work can be challenging as there just does not seem to be enough time in each day to accomplish everything. But like with most jobs, I prioritize the best I know how.
Having visited many companies, one reoccurring concern I see consistently is that everyone is worried for their jobs. Factory worker’s hours are being cut, raises are not being given, and people are scared about the economy. (On a side note, in the midst of all their financial worries, that is where I come in to ask them to donate money.) People’s Holiday parties are being cut from a catered luncheon to cookies and coffee, for many, times are getting tough.
I have been very lucky at State Farm as I have never needed to worry about being laid off or if I would be able to support my family. Working at State Farm, it is easy to become immune to many concerns. In my time at the United Way, I have met people who need basic services as well as those who are afraid they will need those services in the near future. I stated before that I have been humbled by my experience. It can be easy to complain, but seeing what I have, I realize just how lucky I am.
My intent is not to preach, but I do feel obligated to share what I have learned. If you have a job, whether you like it or not, be thankful. And if you can help, be it with donating money, gently used items, or your time, please do.
In closing, I wanted to tell about one company I work with that knew it would be tough for employees to give cash donations. So we came up with the idea of doing “Birthday Rescue Packages.” If a family is going to a food bank, it probably means things are tight. This company decided to have each workers donate one Birthday item; cake mix, plates, balloons, party napkins, etc. Then they put together and wrapped up care packages to take to the food bank so if a family had a child who has a Birthday, they could just take the pre-made box of goodies and the child could still have a party. It is looking like there will be 100% participation from all the factory workers! Even when some do not have a lot, they still find ways to give.
Monday, November 2, 2009
Twelve Loaned Executives (LEs), 16 weeks on "the campaign trail" and 290 accounts. There is a ton of work to be done. At first, it sounded daunting but immediately after I started my job as a loaned executive my outlook changed.
As a loaned executive, or in my case "sponsored executive"—my position is sponsored by the Boeing Company—I am assigned approximately 30 company accounts in Pierce County. My role is to visit each one and ask every employee to consider giving their time and money. Now, I don't consider sales to be my strongest attribute and yet, somehow, I found myself in a sales position. However, when I saw the type of facilities the United Way supports and the people who are served, my perspective shifted.
While touring the Good Samaritan Hospital's Children’s Therapy Unit, I had a moment where I began to see beyond the forthcoming to-do lists, appointments and presentations. It was here I saw firsthand the dedication, optimism and compassion of the staff. They provide therapy options created specifically for kids, who are born with physical disabilities that limit their day-to-day life. If a child cannot ride a big-wheel because of a physical disability, a staff-person will alter the big-wheel so the child can ride it. After seeing the piles of customized equipment that has built for the kids, I had "the moment" I spoke of above. I cannot take my ability to do good work for granted.
We are in week 7 and my time at United Way is going by too fast. I am truly having fun with my fellow LEs. They are all fascinating people and I love getting to know them. More on that in another post... Until then, I look forward to more experiences and meeting more people and sharing more stories.
Along with my delightful LEs, I visited:
Washington's Women in Employment & Education
Lindquist Dental Clinic
Tacoma Community College's Childcare Center
Additionally, we each participated in United Way's Day of Caring where local businesses collaborate in volunteer group projects at local non-profits. I went to the Boys & Girls Club, Gonyea Branch.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
September 18, 2009 was an absolutely perfect autumn day in Pierce County - a day whose crisp, chilly morning transformed into an explosion of gorgeous warm sunshine by 10 a.m.
They took us on a tour of the beautiful facility and talked to us about the need for basic food assistance. We talked about how families who never pictured not being able to buy their own food are now standing in line, asking for help.
Pierce County Hunger Facts
More than 140,000 children, seniors and adults seek help finding food in Pierce County. Of these individuals:
• 52% are children and seniors (38% children under 19, 14% individuals over 55)
• 98% fall below the national poverty line
• Almost half are families with at least one adult working
During 2008 there were a total of 844,551 visits to Food banks and 833,230 visits to Hot Meal Sites in Pierce County. (Source: Pierce County Community Indicators Website)
Monday, October 5, 2009
Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber & Day of Caring Volunteer
September 18, 2009 was a glorious day to be outdoors at the Tacoma Nature Center at Snake Lake. The Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber’s Team volunteered to do something outdoors like gardening, but I don’t think any of us expected what eventually transpired.
Terry from the Nature Center was our facilitator and informed us that we would indeed be “trail-blazers”: we would be going to the most northern part of the area and begin a new hiking trail. So, armed with the necessary tools (and a little red wagon to convey them), our trusty band of six (plus Sarah from UWPC) took about a 20-minute hike up the northern rim to a clearing. The next thing we know, Terry pulls out wire clippers and opens a hole in a chain-link fence, leading to a fairly densely overgrown area. Undaunted, with clippers and branch cutters in gloved hands, the Chamber’s intrepid crew managed to clear a path of about 100 feet in less than two hours. After hiking back to the Lodge for lunch, pulling weeds in the shrub nursery afterward seemed literally like “a walk in the park”!
So why did we volunteer? Because the United Way does a lot of good and it’s important for those or us who “have” to “pay it forward”, that is, show that we know we are blessed and to share what we have. In this case, it was time, energy and enthusiasm.
We want others to know that we “got” as good as we “gave”; the level of appreciation from Terry and Sarah was incredibly warm and genuine. We felt we could have done more but they made us feel like world-beaters. Also it was a joy for the members of the Chamber Team to get out and work together and enjoy the camaraderie.
Photo Courtesy of the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber. Photographer: Christina Kitchens
Friday, October 2, 2009
Day of Caring Host
A little bit of this and a lot of that goes into serving 1,200 meals-a-day at the Hospitality Kitchen on Yakima Street. Five days a week, breakfast and lunch are served to anyone who shows up. It doesn’t matter who you are, as long as you respect the rules, you can eat, have a cup of coffee and rest in a safe environment.
Besides the regular volunteers who help prepare and serve meals, do dishes and unload donations, about twenty folks from Rainier Pacific Bank, DaVita and Fred Meyer came ready to do whatever was needed during United Way of Pierce County’s Day of Caring, Friday, September 18th. We were divided into work teams and off we went to paint the outside of the Catholic Community Center building, do landscaping, prep and serve lunch and organize the storage room.
Myself and three gentlemen from Rainier Pacific spent the day organizing the storage room unloading pallets, moving canned goods, unpacking thousands of coffee packets – I now know what inhaling coffee grounds can do to a person – and scrambled up and down ladders. I used muscles I hadn’t used in a long time. We were fast, efficient and funny. Bill, our supervisor, was happy to give us more to do whenever we asked, “What’s next, Bill?” At the end of the day, the Fabulous Four went back to their usual jobs counting their blessings.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
If you had a day off from work, how would you spend it? Stocking shelves at a food bank? Washing windows at a daycare? Carving a new trail at a local park? I'm sure few of us would answer this way. But for 1,000 volunteers who had a day away from the office Friday, September 18th, a Day of Caring was the answer.
Nearly 1,000 volunteers took time away from their busy schedules to give back to the community. Many banded with co-workers to clean up parks, pull weeds, paint a shelter, rip up carpet and organize storage. Others worked with patients to create artwork for a new clinic or helped conduct an art fair for seniors. The work was varied and at the end of the day, many had worked harder away from the office than they would have if they'd stayed at their desks.
But no matter what they did on September 18th, they made a difference. For those agencies focused on feeding the hungry and sheltering those without homes, landscaping their property is low on the list of priorities. There are agencies who want to provide more for their clients, but don't have the money to pay for labor for small repairs. Many nonprofits are working hard to serve our most vulnerable neighbors and don't have the time to put on a new coat of paint. Thankfully, Day of Caring volunteers did have the time and were able to help our community warriors continue to focus on their mission.
One team summed it up best, "We were sweaty and dirty and tired, but it was a great day."
Thanks again to all who participated in this year's Day of Caring.
Check out more photos from the event on our Flickr page.
WE WANT TO KNOW...Did you volunteer for Day of Caring? Tell us about your experience.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Have you ever wanted to volunteer, but not had the time to make a long-term commitment? Do you want to get more involved but aren’t sure where to start? Do you want to learn more about the challenges facing our community and the agencies working to make a difference? Interested in meeting new people who care about Pierce County and making an impact?
On September 11, 2009, the Volunteer Center at United Way of Pierce County launched ACT NOW, a volunteer initiative that connects individuals and groups with meaningful, short-term volunteer opportunities. ACT NOW coordinates “done in a day” projects at a variety of organizations that can be accomplished by a team of volunteers within a few hours. We choose projects that make an impact on the volunteer and on the community.
ACT NOW is a great way to meet people and network, as well as providing leadership opportunities. Each project requires a volunteer leader called a Project Captain. Project Captains act as a liaison between the volunteers, United Way of Pierce County and the host agency. They make sure the event is running smoothly and the project gets accomplished.
We are also trying to make ACT NOW as easy as possible for the digital age. All volunteers have to do is go to our website and click on the link for our opportunities calendar. Once you find a project you want to participate in, just click on the event, and follow the links to register online. Everyone will be contacted before the project to confirm details and participation.
We are all extremely excited about ACT NOW. We hope that our volunteers will have a positive experience giving their time while they make a difference in our community. We have projects coming up throughout the month of October. For example, we’ll be helping out at the Edgewood Food Bank on Saturday, October 10th. Check out our website at www.uwpc.org/actnow.html and click on the calendar link to find a project that works for you. We hope to see you soon!
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
What would you do if you wanted to change the world? Our young people have no shortage of ambition when it comes to changing the conditions around them. Thanks to the Youth Engaged in Service (Y.E.S.) program, they also have the tools to make a difference.
Y.E.S. is designed to encourage greater civic engagement and to cultivate a culture of service among youth. It targets 8th and 9th graders, but is open to any high school student interested in participating, in order to give these students the tools and knowledge to make a positive impact during their high school years. It is an innovative service learning program that provides students with the skills and confidence necessary to become active citizens able to make a difference in their school and community.
In the summer of 2009, 33 students from 16 different school participated in day-long sessions and subsequent volunteer projects as part of Youth Engaged in Service (Y.E.S). During this year's sessions, there were two different issue areas students could choose, homelessness and environmental issues. On the days where homelessness was the focus, Deborah Cozzetti from Youth Resources come in to speak with the youth and teach them first hand about the issue as it relates to teens in Pierce County. Some students were so moved to get involved that they independently set up time to speak with Deborah on engaging in community service with Youth Resources.
On the days where environmental issues were the focus, United Way partnered with Cascade Land Conservancy (CLC) who taught students about the mission of CLC and covered some environmental statistics and ideas not typically covered in school.
After their focused sessions, students had the opportunity to get involved and spend some time volunteering.
Attached is a brief video shot on the last 2009 session day where students learned about homelessness. The kids in this video had never met before YES and had spent their morning learning about leadership, United Way of Pierce County and homelessness. Their task was to create a brief informational presentation for the group and were given only 15 minutes to create their skit.
Monday, August 31, 2009
Money doesn't buy happiness. But it sure seems like it makes life easier.
If you know what to do with it.
Many of us don't. And for some families, not knowing simple money management techniques can be devastating.
In early August, United Way of Pierce County brought together community leaders who have been working on economic self-sufficiency to discuss the development of a system to help local families become more financially stable. Money$mart is a concept that focuses on five elements of self-sufficiency. Using a budget, savings, career development, affordable housing and responsible decision making are just some of the things this system would teach local families.
For a family living on a fixed income, learning how to develop a budget could be the key to paying all the bills AND having enough left over for groceries. Money$mart is about helping families in a different way. Rather than providing them with the things they are lacking, Money$mart teaches them how to provide those things for themselves by making better choices.
Monday, August 24, 2009
Sometimes we tell ourselves we can’t leave a legacy because that’s only for seriously wealth folks.
In fact, most legacy gifts to charity come from people with modest means. They do this by creating a scholarship in memory of a family member. Or they fund the purchase of a piece of equipment that helps nurses serve patients better at a hospital. They create a donor-advised fund through a community foundation or stock broker.
For anyone thinking of making a modest endowment, United Way of Pierce County may be the most practical way to do that. We already have an endowment fund of more than $700,000, created by gifts from individuals like you. Gifts to that fund may be restricted to meet specific needs (like child care, youth services, early learning, health care) or left unrestricted. In that case, our board will decide when and where to invest the gift in local programs.
Your endowment gift can also be named for a loved one, and you can add to it as you wish during the remainder of your life or through estate gifts. In other words, you can watch your gift grow, ask for a tour of Pierce County programs where it has been invested. Family members are welcome to join you in those visits.
The tours include question and answer moments which provide insights about how your gift is helping. This creates the legacy that matters most of all, in the hearts of your offspring.
Then you can rest assured that your kindness will be faithfully focused on things you care about most.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
On August 15, 2006, United Way of Pierce County’s HelpLine became part of the statewide 2-1-1 system, providing information and referrals for health and human service providers. In just three years, 2-1-1 has gone from a valuable community resource to a lifeline for those in need.
Since the local launch of 2-1-1 three years ago, call volumes have increased on average 36% each year from 34,000 calls in 2006 to a projection of more than 75,000 calls in 2009. United Way of Pierce County’s 2-1-1 call center is the most cost-effective center in the statewide system. Our unique staffing structure combines full-time paid staff with work-study students from local colleges and universities, interns and volunteers. This structure has allowed us to ramp up quickly and easily to meet increasing demands for 2-1-1 services, such as the addition of Thurston and Lewis Counties to our service area in July 2008.
Now South Sound 2-1-1, the call center also partners with local community coalitions and emergency management to help meet emerging community needs. The call center is funded in part by the State of Washington and through a grant from the Federal Transportation Administration (FTA) to provide special needs transportation services.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Evan is a 14 year old going into the 9th grade. I remember the first few days of high school and it was exciting and frightening all at the same time. I wanted Evan to have new clothes to look nice and fit in to make the transition easier.
Not having children I was oblivious to the costs associated in getting a young man reading for his first day of high school. Going into high school, Evan needed more than just the basic school supplies. He also needed a ruler, protractor, compass, scientific calculator, graph paper and more…..
I virtually shopped at various stores and compared prices. Most of the items I bought were on sale. I can’t even imagine what you have to pay when they aren’t on sale.
I bought all of the supplies that Evan needed and spent over $79.00. My next task was to purchase a first day outfit for Evan to wear to school. I bought a nice pair of jeans, a shirt, a package of socks, underwear, a nice pair of tennis shoes and a coat. The total came to $72.00 for just one outfit!
In total, I spent about $152.00 for Evan to get ready for school. I was stunned! Sure, this gets school supplies but they can’t last all year. And it only buys one basic outfit for the child to start school. Without children, I still struggle to make it from paycheck to paycheck. I can’t even fathom having one and most times, multiple children to get ready for school. In Evan’s case, he lives with a single parent, two siblings, a disabled grandmother and additional extended family in a 3-bedroom home.
I really appreciate United Way’s Back to School program much more than I did knowing the benefit and joy it provides to the children and also the burden that it lessens on the parents of the children.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
My assignment seemed simple enough – school supplies and one outfit for a high school boy in the Tacoma School District. With list in hand, I headed to the Tacoma Target. I thought that I would try to purchase everything I needed in a single location. Target is on the bus line, and for a family without a car or with limited means to purchase gas, I wanted to see what the cost would be if you didn’t have the option to shop around for the best deals on each item.
Headed into the store, I guessed that my total would be around $100. There weren’t that many items on the list, and I couldn’t imagine that the school supplies themselves would cost all that much. Target is a pretty reasonably priced store and they always seem to have sales, so I figured I could get out of there without spending more than $100. As I shopped, I realized that this was much more complicated than I originally bargained for. I shopped for the best deals I could find that were still quality products and wouldn’t fall apart in a week. It was really difficult to make the choices between the least expensive option and one that looked like it would last. I found myself having to decide between quality and cost and weighing which was more important for many of the items. I most often went with the cheaper option, which was difficult, as I knew the products wouldn’t hold up. However, I tried to put myself in the shoes of someone with extremely limited resources, and I suppose that a cheap backpack is better than no backpack at all. I checked where I stood on money, and I had spent $64.60 already on supplies alone!
When the time came to shop for clothes, it didn’t get any easier. It is so important for high schoolers to feel like they fit in, and so finding clothes that still had a “cool factor” within a limited price range was tricky. Again, quality came into play. Some t-shirts only cost $10, but will they last as long as the ones that cost $15? These are difficult choices that face so many families.
My grand total came to $160.23. I included shoes, shirt, jeans, socks, boxers and a belt as well as a backpack and all the supplies on the list. I could easily have spent twice this amount, even at Target, and I didn’t even include a jacket! I never imagined that shopping for school supplies could come with so many complications and choices.
Friday, August 7, 2009
It’s been a long time since I went shopping for school supplies. Some things never change like #2 pencils, wide ruled paper, Elmer’s glue … clothes styles have changed, yet the 80’s look seems to be back in vogue. Prices are reasonable, if you can sweet talk your student in line with your budget. I shopped for two virtual students and here’s what I found.
Elizabeth is a third grader at Firgrove Elementary, home of the Hawks! Her school list was relatively short and some items were easy to find and cost just pennies to buy. Elizabeth’s school supplies came to $48.74, without tax. I was surprised at the cost. I thought I was being frugal. I can still remember the first time one of my sons came home with Kleenex on his school list. The next year, you supplied scissors, pencils, pens, etc. and the teacher gathered all of the supplies and doled then out as needed. I learned not to spend too much to individualize their supplies.
I had fun shopping for an first day outfit for Elizabeth! I bought a pair of jeans, leggings, socks, shoes, underwear and a cute top for $45.00, without tax. I looked for a warm coat for her, but, they’re not available yet. I picked up a heavy, hooded jacket for $24.99, bringing my grand total to: $69.99, without tax. For Elizabeth to walk into her third grade class this fall, I would have paid $118.73 – with tax, about $130.00.
Chris will step into the halls of Stahl Junior High, home of the Storm, this fall. It’s critical to look cool in Junior High. Your peers judge how you look that first day – so, finding the right backpack and right jeans were my first move. The right size backpack, able to hold almost all of your books, requires spending a little more. Often, you don’t have time to stop at your locker, so you cram all of your books and stuff into your backpack and lug it around all day. P.E. uniforms, scientific calculator, graph paper … the dollars add up quickly. If you play an instrument, then there’s the monthly rental and possibly private lessons. I figured Chris would need a thumb drive to take his work from a study lab to the library where he could print out his finished work. Even if Chris did not have a computer at home, he could store most of his homework on his thumb drive. I found a 4 giga-byte, USB 2.0 drive for $12.99 at Office Max. That’s a great price! Chris' school supplies came to $137.98, without tax.
Jeans, socks, a cool shirt and tee, athletic shoes, heavy, fleece, hooded jacket came to $85.97, minus tax. Chris' first day at Stahl Junior High would cost $223.95 – with tax, about $245.00. I found out that the first day Chris will have to pay $20 for his ASB/Yearbook package and if he plays in any sport, there’s another $30 athletic transportation fee that his family will have to pay for each sport. That doesn’t include the cost of school pictures or the Annual/ID card. If Chris wants to play a sport, he needs to have a sports physical.
Let’s see, for Elizabeth – $130.00. For Chris - $265 PLUS. Wow!!! In all of this, I haven’t forgotten that Elizabeth needs an emergency kit. Both Albertson’s and Safeway sell emergency kits for about $8.00 during September and October. Her total goes up to $138.00.
I’m exhausted … my virtual shopping eyes are tired and I’ve spent $403.00.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
This weekend I got to shop for a 5th grade girl. When I saw her supply list, I was quite surprised. I knew the list would be long and I expected the basics...pencils, notebooks, glue, but what surprised me most was the quanities she needed. Two dozen pencils. Four notebooks. Two glue sticks AND a bottle of glue. I remember buying some supplies as a child, but those were more to show my individuality rather than by necessity. It was obvious to me by the quanities I needed to supply that the days of schools being able to provide need supplies was gone. By the time I got through the list and added an inexpensive backpack, I was surprised to learn I had spent $56.53. It is decieving when crayons are a quarter and you can get so many items under a dollar each. But when you need several of each item, it really adds up. In addition, every elementary school child also needs an emergency kit. These kits contain trash bags, soup, snacks, water, etc. - all the things a child might need in the event of an emergency that strands them at school. Some stores do sell these kits as do many PTAs at the schools. The store I was shopping at, however, did not. When I weighed the option of buying these individual items myself, I chose to by it from the school at a cost of $7.00 bringing our supply total to $63.35.
Knowing that families on a tight budget wouldn't have the luxury of shopping around, I headed to the clothing section of the same retail store where I bought the school supplies. On this list was a complete first-day outfit...a top, jeans, shoes, socks, unmentionables and I threw in a jacket. The first day of school is the great equalizer. Everyone wears their favorite new outfit and brings in fresh supplies. On this one day, everyone is the same. I was concious of this as I shopped but also kept in mind the circumstances of limited resources. I shopped the sale items, buying things that were trendy and cute but not pricey. I thought I was going to come out pretty cheap but was surprised to learn that despite my efforts, I still spent $81.39.
My grand total was $144.74. For a family watching every penny, that can be quite a burden. That could be a couple of weeks groceries. Or the difference between keeping the electricity on and being unable to pay the bill. As a mom, it was hard to think about the choices I'd have to face just to send my child to school with the basics. I hate to think what a family would have to do without in order to send one child back to school.
Monday, August 3, 2009
If you have been to a retail store in the last two weeks, you have undoubtly seen the back-to-school displays. Among the pencils and glue sticks are lists from each of the schools detailing what each child needs to bring with them on the first day of school. And the lists aren't short.
Can you imagine being one of the many families who suffered a layoff during the last year or being a single parent? You are already struggling to make ends meet and keep up with the bills. Now you have the burden of school supplies to add to the list.
United Way of Pierce County's Back-to-School program helps struggling families provide for the first day of school by connecting them with sponsors or providing supplies from supply drives. We are going to show you what those families face each fall by shopping for some actual kids in the program. Stay tuned to see what we learned.
Friday, July 24, 2009
For some folks struggling to scrape money together each month to pay for their high-blood pressure medicine or insulin, having blurred vision just doesn’t seem like an emergency.
Blurred vision can mean anything from a detached retina to a cataract slowly clouding the window each of us peers out from every day
A detached retina needs medical attention, now. Cataracts sneak up on you. One day you strain to see clearly and notice that your vision has changed. People without health insurance go to the Emergency Room. Having no health insurance and going to the ER won’t get your cataract removed.
Uninsured people in Pierce County can, however, get their cataracts removed through the Cascade Eye & Skin Centers, P.C. Complimentary Cataract Surgery Program.
United Way of Pierce County recognized the extraordinary health care access opportunity for uninsured people in Pierce County to experience the life-changing event Cascade Eye & Skin Centers, P.C. offered. Sitting down at a table last fall with the Tacoma-Pierce County Health department and Community Health Care, a plan came into being.
Someone needing cataract surgery can call Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department’s Healthcare Access program or CHC directly. If an uninsured client is referred to Community Health Care, it takes about two to three weeks to get an appointment with a primary care doctor. All CHC’s doctors know they can refer their patients to Cascade for a complimentary surgery. If a patient qualifies, the referral is sent to Cascade within two days for surgery. An appointment is made and the surgery and follow-up care is scheduled.
Just this week, the first of these surgeries was completed. We hope it will be the first of many.
Thanks to donations from service providers and pharmaceutical companies - and the generosity of Cascade Eye & Skin Center - blurred vision goes away. With no expense to the patient. Another person in Pierce County can keep their job, remain independent and see their loved ones smile.
READ MORE about this program from Kathleen Merryman at The News Tribune
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
More than 160,000 people over the age of 55 live in Pierce County. What a tremendous source of human resources! Their experience, talents and skills are an incredible asset to our community. With the incoming Baby Boom generation, this group promises to grow exponentially in the upcoming years.
At United Way of Pierce County, we believe in the power of people to make positive change. That is why we are proud to sponsor RSVP of Pierce County. RSVP engages adults age 55 and over in quality volunteer experiences that enrich the lives of both the volunteers and those they serve. RSVP volunteers are people just like you with the experience, energy and passion to make a difference in Pierce County.
In 2008, 874 RSVP members volunteered at non-profit and service agencies throughout the county. They serve in many different capacities and environments. Some advocate for abused and neglected youth through the Pierce County Juvenile Court system. Others prepare and serve hot meals for low-income seniors or tutor elementary school children. Still others support local arts organizations or act as volunteer docents at local museums. The possibilities are only limited by the imagination and interests of our volunteers. Last year alone, these dedicated RSVP members contributed a staggering 173,874 hours of service to this community.
Through RSVP, we seek to connect people with an opportunity to give back that matches their interests, talents and schedules. Whether you’re looking to use your life experience in a new way or learn something completely new altogether, RSVP is here to help you make that connection. However you choose to help, you’ll be making a real difference in our community.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
People in their 20s and 30s are very social. They enjoy going out and meeting new people. What if they could do good in their community by simply attending happy hour or going to a Rainiers game. They can, through Project:U.
Project:U is a group of people in their 20s and 30s looking to support and serve the Pierce County community through events that benefit United Way and volunteer projects at local nonprofits that need help. They are using monthly happy hour socials to connect with new people, build their networks, see old friends and learn about the community. They added a barbecue to a volunteer project of sorting donated food items for a fun way to support the Letter Carriers’ Food Drive. And they conducted an education fair at the Point Defiance Zoo for local kids, teaching them about the things they love, like cooking and art.
Young adults are tuned in to the issues and are often young professionals with the ability to make a real difference through donations of time and money. And what better way to do it than with a group of friends at your local hot spot. From supporting local causes and events to donating time and money, the members of Project:U have figured out that there are a variety of ways you can lend a helping hand to those who need one.
Are you in your 20s or 30s and looking for ways to get more involved in your community and more connected with your peers? Join Project:U. It is a great way to socialize, network and show your support for Pierce County. Find out more about Project:U at www.projectu.org or by finding them on Facebook.
Connect. Act. Be heard. Project:U.
7/23/09 -- Project:U Night at the Tacoma Rainiers
Come cheer on the Rainiers as they go up against the Sacramento River Cats and support the community too! Tickets are $10 with $4 going back to the United Way of Pierce County Community Fund. Bring your friends and family and meet some new people. To reserve your tickets, email Kirsten Willis at email@example.com.
8/12/09 -- Monthly Social Event at the Top of Tacoma 5:30 p.m.Project:U is teaming up with the Top of Tacoma this month to bring you some delicious food and drink specials – plus a portion of the proceeds will benefit United Way of Pierce County Community Fund.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
My mom and I had the opportunity to work in a small town called Betania, about an hour from our home city of Montero for two days. The first day a young boy named Lili ran up to me, grabbed my hand, and wrapped me in an amazing hug. His head came up to my stomach and as he let go and I looked down to talk to him, I noticed that his little dirty head had left an imprint on the front of my shirt. Lili became a constant companion and remained by my side for the rest of my time in Betania, leaving smudges of dirt all over the bottom of my shirt.
Those two days changed my perspective on the dirt. Instead of something to be embarrassed of, it was something to be treasured. It was a tangible reminder of all the memories from the trip. There was the ring of dirt around the bottom of my shirt to show the countless number of hugs I received from the children. A spot on the back where one of the teachers from Betania gave me an appreciative pat on the back to say thank you for teaching the children of the village, as well as their parents, for a day. The light coat of brown that covered the entire shirt came from sitting on the ground joking with the children in Spanish as dust storms covered us. A few spots of paint to remember the day the kids painted carved wooden cars. And the dirty sleeves are a result of the many taps I received on my shoulders as kids proudly showed their artwork. Each speck of dirt held more meaning then I could have ever imagined and once I realized this, whenever I would look down at my shirt I would start to smile.
Although my shirt was absolutely disgusting by the end of the trip and I received some well-deserved teasing from the group for still wearing it, it became a symbol of the experience. It is covered in memories that I will never forget. During the time in Bolivia, I imagined how nice it would feel to slip into a pair of jeans and a clean t-shirt. But now back in my clean clothes, I miss that dirt and where it came from. I cannot wait until I have the opportunity to return and dirty another shirt.
Kenna is a recent graduate of Curtis High School, a Willie Stewart Scholarship winner, a 4-time Varsity Letter in Community Service recipient and just one example of how youth are LIVING UNITED.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Youth are one of the most powerful demographics in our society. They are major consumers. They dictate current trends. And last year, they were one of the most demonstrative voices in the Presidential election. Youth are making a huge impact on everything they touch. That is just one reason their involvement in the community is so important.
But with their service also comes reward. In 2001, United Way of Pierce County launched the Varsity Letter in Community Service in conjunction with Youth United. To date, 766 students have received a varsity letter, just like those given to athletes and musicians, for their volunteerism. This unique program requires a minimum of 145 hours split between school-related and non school-related activities. What’s most remarkable about the recipients is that many of them blow that 145-hour minimum away.
Local youth are making a significant difference in our community through Youth United. Young people are taking the opportunity to discover and develop skills, to apply their academic knowledge through service learning activities and to receive recognition for their volunteer efforts. Youth United is just one way for young people to help others, have fun and learn something new.
Thursday, July 2, 2009
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
- Tell your family and friends about United Way of Pierce County and what we do.
- Make a point to learn about and discuss local issues with family and friends – then get involved.
- If you're passionate about Education, Income or Health, write a letter to the editor or post a comment on a local blog.
- Wear a LIVE UNITED t-shirt.
- Call, email or visit your elected officials.
- Encourage a person in need to call 2-1-1.
- Register and vote in the next election.
- Request a speaker for your workplace or social club and learn more about how United Way helps build lasting opportunities for a good life for all who live in our community.
- Volunteer for a committee or advocacy team.
- Volunteer for an agency that serves your community.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
When asked to GIVE to the community, most people assume charities want their money. Financial support is one of the most powerful ways we can help our community but it is not the only way you can GIVE through United Way.
Did you know…
- United Way operates the Gifts in Kind Distribution Center where people can donate gently used items to be “recycled” to those in need. Each year, the Gifts In Kind program redistributes $1 million worth of goods to the community, everything from men’s suits and children’s clothing to appliances and office furniture.
- You can help kids go back to school with the needed supplies that can burden many low-income families. When times are tough, purchasing school supplies and new clothes can force families to make tough choices between paying bills or buying groceries. By sponsoring a child through the Back-to-School program offered through the Volunteer Center, you can provide these kids with what they need.
- The holidays can be a very difficult time of year for struggling families. You can sponsor a family or host a toy drive or giving tree to help every family have happy holidays through Season of Caring.
- You can give your time by volunteering. Whether you’re a teen looking for something to keep you busy this summer, a retiree who has a special skill to share or a group looking to build relationships and help those in need, volunteer opportunities exist for any age or skill level.
- You can participate in social events like those hosted by Project:U where a portion of the proceeds go back to the community.
- You can give your time to serve on the board of a nonprofit or volunteer committees like those that make key decisions at United Way of Pierce County.
- You can write your local leaders about a cause you are passionate about or help further an initiative by spending time advocating.
- You can include a charity in your estate planning.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Monday, June 15, 2009
Friday, June 12, 2009
Volunteering is a vital part of the health of our community. When people we reach out a hand to one, we influence the condition of all. Whether it’s reading to children or delivering meals to homebound seniors, there are hundreds of volunteer options available every day.
Others arrived to help English as a second language students perfect their speech at Tacoma Community House and left educated about new cultures and reminded that all of our ancestors made the same trip to the United States in search of a better life. They made new friends and gained new appreciation for the freedoms we often take for granted.
Every day, ordinary people are accomplishing extraordinary things by volunteering. They build houses. They beautify parks. They complete repairs that would otherwise not get done. And sometimes, they take away a little more than they gave. Take a chance to experience something unexpected. Volunteer.
WE WANT TO KNOW…Tell us about a volunteer experience you had where you came away with something unexpected.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
For years, it was part of United Way of Pierce County’s job to know what the needs of the community were. It is essential to making sure we, the community, are making the most impact. In 2007, United Way began compiling the information and data necessary to not only gauge the needs, but focus our work and monitor our progress.
- First quarter 2009 foreclosure filings were up nearly 60% compared to first quarter 2008.
- Fair Market Rent - the estimate of what a family, moving today, can expect to pay for a modest rental home - increases have outpaced the Median Household Income growth by almost 5%.
- Pierce County’s unemployment rate outpaced the state by almost a full percent in March of 2009 – 7,320 people became unemployed in first quarter 2009, compared to 690 in the same period for 2008.
WE WANT TO KNOW…Visit the Community Indicators web site at www.indicators.uwpc.org and tell us what data surprised you.
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
We believe education, income and health are the foundation for a good life. Good health is critical for everyone, especially families with children. United Way has always supported this area by funding a safety net of essential human services. Now we want to also address some of the systemic issues and achieve long-lasting changes that prevent problems from happening in the first place.
Here in Pierce County we’re focused on improving access to health care, in particular increasing enrollment in state and federally-funded healthcare programs for those who may not have other coverage. One of the keys to improving people’s health is access to quality medical services.
Our goal is to improve people’s health by improving access to critical health care services and by increasing the health of children and adults through education and prevention.
One in eight people in Pierce County does not have health insurance. Seventy percent of children who are uninsured are eligible for coverage but their families don’t know how to get access.
Here are a few ways United Way is addressing the problem:
- United Way partnered with the Client Outreach program to help uninsured apply for and receive the benefits they are eligible for. These efforts have resulted in thousands accessing coverage and millions in health care costs being recovered.
- United Way also partnered with dentists in the community to launch the Access to Baby and Child Dentistry (ABCD) program, which provides low-income families access to dental care. Since its inception, the program has served 18,000 children.
- Free cataract services worth several hundred thousand dollars to be provided by private and public entities to individuals unable to afford such care.
- United Way of Pierce County launched the annual Tacoma City Kids Marathon, in conjunction with the Tacoma City Marathon, to encourage kids to engage in healthy activities and community service.
- In addition, United Way helped convene the people needed to improve health care access in rural communities that would be most affected by a natural disaster, like the eruption of Mt. Rainier.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
We believe education, income and health are the foundation for a good life. An adequate income is important for economic stability. United Way has always supported this area by funding a safety net of essential human services. Now we want to also address some of the systemic issues and achieve long-lasting changes that prevent problems from happening in the first place.
Our goal is to promote economic stability and independence by increasing the number of affordable housing units and increasing economic self-sufficiency for individuals and families.
Here in Pierce County we believe families that are financially stable are more self-sufficient and independent. One of our priorities is to increase the number of affordable housing units, which is an important component of family stability.
On any given night there are more than 1,500 homeless people living on our streets. Many are families. The average income for renters in Pierce County is estimated to be $11.70 per hour, well below the hourly wage necessary to afford a two-bedroom apartment.
Here are a few ways United Way is addressing the problem:
- In 2007, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation awarded $1 million to United Way of Pierce County to tackle the housing availability issue. Out of that gift, the Housing Trust Fund Demonstration project was created. The project partners with the City of Tacoma and the Tacoma Community Redevelopment Authority (TCRA) to provide matching funds that leverage additional dollars to provide more affordable housing for Pierce County families. As of April 2009, the project has supported eight projects totaling 329 affordable housing units. In addition, a number of existing homes are being rehabilitated for sale to low and moderate income families.
- In March of 2009, United Way partnered with cities, counties and private foundations from throughout our area to form a 10-year partnership to reduce the number of homeless children and their family members by 5,000 county-wide.
- United Way of Pierce County also provided financial support for Project Homeless Connect 2008, which connected over 900 individuals to critical health and social services at a one-day event at the Tacoma Dome.
- In 2009, United Way will develop partnerships with organizations in the county to launch a financial stability program that will help families learn the basics of economic self-sufficiency such as living on a budget, saving money and career planning.
Friday, May 22, 2009
We believe education, income and health are the foundation for a good life. A quality education is essential to getting and keeping a job. United Way has always supported this area by funding a safety net of essential human services. Now we want to also address some of the systemic issues and achieve long-lasting changes that prevent problems from happening in the first place.
Here in Pierce County we’re focused on early learning initiatives to ensure all kids entering kindergarten get off to a good start. We also need to provide more safe places and enriching after-school activities for kids.
Our goal is to help children and youth achieve their potential through education. For us, this means increasing the number of children who are ready to succeed upon entering kindergarten and improving access to safe after-school programs that provide high-quality, enriching activities.
Ask any kindergarten teacher and you will hear that development prior to entering school is essential to a child’s success in the classroom. Research says that the same holds true for success later in life. Early learning is critical. In Pierce County, more than half of our children start school without the necessary social and emotional skills needed to thrive.
Here are a few ways United Way is addressing the problem:
- United Way of Pierce County and a team of local partners collaborated to tackle the issue and the Pierce County Early Learning Consortium was born. In 2007, the Consortium developed a business plan with a primary focus of helping parents be the first, best and most important teacher for their.
- Out of the Consortium, First 5 FUNdamentals was created and strives to improve school readiness throughout Pierce County, particularly among children in low-income families.
- United Way is also partnering with local businesses and organizations to secure funding for the early learning effort. Eighteen organizations have made financial commitments totaling well over $1 million, many of which are multi-year commitments to this vital task.
- In 2009, United Way of Pierce County also helped secure a $1.05 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to expand Pierce County’s home visiting program - Promoting First Relationships, part of the county’s First 5 FUNdamentals plan. By meeting parents and children in their own homes, Promoting First Relationships aims to reinforce the parent-child bond, a key indicator for school readiness and school success. The investment will make it possible for 400 more families to participate in the home visiting program, a key intervention that has been shown to promote early learning and help parents be the most influential teachers in their children’s lives.
- In addition, United Way has provided funding to projects like the Annette B. Weyerhaeuser Early Learning Center at Tacoma Community College and the Play to Learn program ran by Children’s Museum of Tacoma in conjunction with the Pierce County Library System and is working to train families and care providers to help kids get ready for school.
Saturday, May 16, 2009
In this struggling economy, many have found themselves facing the loss of a job and financial trouble. Pierce County has many services available from help with employment and utility assistance to health services and food. But where do you turn when you need this kind of help? Let us lend a hand.
The easiest place to contact is United Way 2-1-1. By dialing 2-1-1, just like 9-1-1, residents can get help from trained information and referral specialists. Callers talk to one person and get referrals for multiple needs. Need shelter? They can help. Need utility assistance? They can help. Want to know where the nearest food bank is? You guessed it, they can help.
You can also go to the web. By visiting http://www.uwpc.org/WheretoTurn.html you can find tools to help you save money, evaluate your finances and take steps to cut your living expenses. You can also access local assistance programs and worker retraining information.
WE WANT TO KNOW…What information would you find most useful in this recession?
Friday, May 8, 2009
You may have seen it on a poster or the back of a bus or on the t-shirt of that guy walking down the street. LIVE UNITED. What does it mean to LIVE UNITED? Does it mean to live in harmony? Is it about uniting for a cause? Is it an invitation or a state of mind? The answer is yes. It’s all of that.
It is about considering the condition of others and doing something to help everyone have the opportunity for a good life. Each of us wants to create a better life for our neighbors. Each of us wants to see our community thriving. It takes everyone in the community, working together to create a brighter future.
Each and every person – regardless of what role they play – is significant in making Pierce County a better place to live. And together, we can accomplish more than any single group can on its own. Each of us plays a part. We are all united in this effort to change lives.
LIVE UNITED is an invitation for everyone to be part of the change.
Many of us are already LIVING UNITED. Whether you donate through your workplace campaign, lend your voice to the issues you care about the most or contribute your time through your church…in your child’s classroom…in the community.
You GIVE. You ADVOCATE. You VOLUNTEER.
You LIVE UNITED.
Making a difference in our community is less about helping one person at a time and more about changing systems to help all of us. It’s the idea that we are all connected and interdependent. It’s the idea that we all win when a child is ready to learn and succeeds in school …when families are financially stable…and when people are healthy.
Together, united, we can inspire hope and create opportunities for a better tomorrow.
That’s what it means to LIVE UNITED.
WE WANT TO KNOW…How do you define LIVE UNITED?
Friday, May 1, 2009
United Way of Pierce County has been part of the local community for nearly 90 years. During that time, the work United Way has done to make measurable improvements in the lives of the people that live here has evolved. You might think you know United Way but did you know United Way of Pierce County…
1. Raises money for the community through workplace campaigns
2. Funds more than 100 local programs at 60 organizations
3. Convenes local partners to work toward resolving the toughest issues - Education, Income and Health – in Pierce County
4. Connects callers to resources such as housing, utility assistance and food banks through the United Way 211 Call Center
5. Collects new and gently used goods and redistributes them to those in need through the Gifts In Kind program
6. Engages youth in leadership and community service through Youth United
7. Unites 20- and 30-Somethings to Develop, Support and Serve the Pierce County Community through Project: U
8. Links individuals and groups who wish to volunteer with opportunities to serve through the Volunteer Center
9. Mobilizes volunteers 55 and over who are looking for recurring volunteer roles through the RSVP program
10. Honors high school students for their commitment to the community with the Varsity Letter in Community Service
11. Helps administer two community service Scholarships
12. Trains community champions and works with local government to advocate for issues like early learning and housing availability
13. Engages local companies and partners with their employees through the Loaned Executives program
14. Executes federal (Combined Federal Campaign) and state (Combined Fund Drive) campaigns
15. Pairs sponsors with kids who need a little help getting supplies for the start of school through the Back to School is Cool program
16. Secures Grants for special projects and long-term strategies
17. Coordinates the Tacoma City Kids Marathon, encouraging better health in our kids
18. Manages the Community Indicators web site which monitors the conditions affecting Pierce County
19. Organizes the Days of Caring – one-day volunteer events that send more than 1200 volunteers out into the community
20. Provides Holiday meals and gifts to families in need through Season of Caring
Find out more about United Way of Pierce County and how you can get involved. Visit www.uwpc.org