Monday, August 31, 2009

INCOME - Helping Our Families Become Money$mart

by Nicole Milbradt, Sr. Marketing Associate & Events Manager

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

Leaving a Legacy Tells Your Family What Matters Most

by Mike Robinson, Sr. Vice President of Major Gifts

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

Happy Birthday 2-1-1!

by Nicole Milbradt, Sr. Marketing Associate & Events Manager

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

How Much Does It Cost? Back to School Part 4 of 4

by Mary

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

How Much Does It Cost? Back to School Part 3 of 4

by Molly

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

How Much Does It Cost? Back to School Part 2 of 4

by Linda

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

How Much Does It Cost? Back to School part 1 of 4

by Nicole

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

How Much Does It Cost? Back to School 2009

by Nicole Milbradt, Sr. Marketing Associate & Events Manager

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.