Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Our Work - Income

by Nicole Milbradt, Sr. Marketing Associate & Events Manager

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.
WE WANT TO KNOW…What things do you think families need to be financially stable?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Our Work - Education

by Nicole Milbradt, Sr. Marketing Associate & Events Manager

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.

WE WANT TO KNOW…What skills and characteristics do you think children need to start school ready to learn?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Where to Turn in Tough Times

by Nicole Milbradt, Sr. Marketing Associate & Events Manager

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

What Does It Mean to LIVE UNITED?

by Nicole Milbradt, Sr. Marketing Associate & Events Manager

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.



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

20 Things You May NOT Know About United Way of Pierce County

by Nicole Milbradt, Sr. Marketing Associate & Events Manager

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