Friday, July 24, 2009

Complimentary Cataract Surgery Restores More Than Sight

by Linda Cameron, Sr. Marketing Associate

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

Adult Volunteers Lend Life Experience

by Nicole Milbradt, Sr. Marketing Associate & Events Manager

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

Project:U - Social Good

by Nicole Milbradt, Sr. Marketing Associate & Events Manager

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 or by finding them on Facebook.

Connect. Act. Be heard. Project:U.

Upcoming Events

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
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

How Do You LIVE UNITED? Kenna Little

One dirty shirt. It was the source of much amusement and an inspiration for many jokes over the course of my two weeks in Bolivia this past October with the non-profit Etta Projects. A few days into the trip, I realized that many of my once white t-shirts had turned a light shade of brown in certain spots. Everyone else in the group seemed so clean in comparison while my clothes were getting darker by the day. At first, I was embarrassed by my uncanny ability to attract dirt until I realized where it came from.

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

The Power of Youth

by Nicole Milbradt, Sr. Marketing Associate & Events Manager

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.
Youth United is a youth engagement program run by United Way of Pierce County. Founded in 1994, the program has connected thousands of teens to their community. Youth volunteer days have put junior high and high school students on the front lines serving food, clearing trails and reading to younger children. Every summer, many teens come together to learn how to get things done around the issues they are passionate about. They are learning how to advocate for the things they want to change and making strides to do something about what’s important to them. They are leaders through Youth United’s Leadership Council, reaching out to three local communities (Tacoma, Puyallup and Bethel) and leading by their example.
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.