Wednesday, November 7, 2012

United Way's Younger Focus

by Timm Dowling, Loaned Executive

At United Way, we understand that investing in our youth is investing in our future. Introducing a culture of service to younger generations facilitates the growth of community fellowship.
United Way administers two programs that are specifically focused on younger community members.

Youth United offers high school students a chance to build valuable experience working with the community through leadership and volunteer hours. One of the most popular programs offered by Youth United is the Varsity Letter in Community Service. Students who complete 145 hours of community service during the year earn a varsity letter for their high school just like those given to athletes. This program has seen tremendous success as more and more colleges require some volunteerism in their applicants. Even if kids are volunteering because they are told to, they receive a rewarding experience, which can translate into life habits and passions. 
Erica McDaniel, a 2012 loaned executive, is an excellent example of Youth United’s Varsity Letter in Community Service program. Fresh off high school graduation last June, Erica has community service experience which not only helps the public but also gives her valuable experience to attract colleges and employers.
Project: U is another United Way program that focuses on young professionals in their 20s and 30s.  The annual Get Involved Gala event raises money for the Community Solutions Fund and is an example of the social events put on by the Project: U team. This year’s event is being held at the Tacoma Art Museum, Saturday, November 10th from 8 pm to 11 pm. It’s all about breeding community and creating opportunity for the sharing of ideas and networking of motivated individuals.

Involving the youth is an important emphasis in creating an upward trend in community involvement. United Way’s focus on young people is really a reflection of the dedication to long-term, sustainable changes for the future. United Way doesn’t just put band aids on problems, we find the source of issues and create solutions that fundamentally alter systems for the better.

Friday, October 12, 2012


by Timm Dowling, Loaned Executive

United Way of Pierce County was kind of an abstraction to me when I first heard of it. I knew it was a nonprofit that served the community. That is a simple definition for an organization that is better described like a spider web network for nonprofit agencies in the county. About 808,000 people live in Pierce County. Not all of these people have access to the resources needed for a happy, healthy life. There are hundreds of nonprofits in Pierce County. Not all of these agencies have the means to reach those in need, nor the donors who want to give. United Way is the great connector. Of the 117 programs we currently fund, I’d like to highlight one of my accounts, TACID; the Tacoma Area Coalition of Individuals with Disabilities.
TACID’s mission is “promoting the independence of individuals with disabilities”. “Disability” can refer to physical, cognitive, mental or emotional disadvantages. Their loose definition of disability ensures and promotes the open, friendly atmosphere necessary on the road to happiness and independence.
TACID plays a unique role in the community as a consumer-driven organization.  As an organization formed by people with disabilities for people with disabilities, their model of peer support is unmatched in the community. Peer support is an opportunity for people living with disabilities to help each other - sometimes it can be more effective to solve problems when you can talk with someone who can relate to specific experiences.

TACID's Work and Education Center opened in June of 2011.  The Work and Education Center assists people with disabilities in setting and achieving their goals for employment, volunteerism and education. The building is conveniently located at 6315 South 19th Street, neighboring Tacoma Community College. Anyone can register for TACID programs and classes. You can find everything from a Brain Injury Support Group to the Acupuncture Therapy program.
Not only does TACID provide direct support in the form of classes, but the caring, accepting culture within the building is what really contributes to the healing and creation of happy, independent community members.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Hello readers! I’m Timm Dowling, a loaned executive for the 2012 campaign season, sponsored by Columbia Bank. I’ll be sharing some of my perspectives on issues in the community for the next couple months.
To give you a little bit of my background, I graduated from Washington State University (Go Cougs!) in May with a degree in Communication. After graduation, I felt a certain pressure to find a well-paid corporate job. However, I knew I couldn’t fulfill a profession unless I found motivation outside the pay check. While I was researching online, my mother pointed out United Way of Pierce County’s Loaned Executive ad in the newspaper. I felt it was a perfect fit. About a month later, I was in Tacoma learning all about the accomplishments and objectives of United Way of Pierce County.
One of our mantras is “LIVE UNITED”. A concise, inspirational phrase, but what does it really mean? We’ve all seen stories in the news. We’ve all read about tragedies around the world. We’ve heard about the house down the street that burnt down. So what are we supposed to do about it? How do these events affect me? I saw a video on the internet last April that sparked these questions.

When the Kony 2012 video went viral, and millions were moved to spread the message about Joseph Kony and his child soldiers in Africa, I couldn’t help but wonder if it would make a difference. What can I do to really help those children, to help the unfortunate, the poor and the sick? I concluded that I may never go to Africa and rescue those children, but I could make an effort to rescue those in my local community. And maybe there isn’t anything so drastic in my neighborhood, but I believe if I am involved, observant and available, then I am affecting the world positively. If I smile at my neighbor, I am co-creating a world where humans help each other instead of hurt each other.

When I saw all the sustainable improvements United Way was providing, I was encouraged to a point of awe. Here is an entire organization committed to the very same goal that I am. And it’s working!

How can I make a difference? How can I change the world? Here’s some good news, it’s already happening. To LIVE UNITED is to understand that we are not alone. We have each other. Whether we realize it or not, our lives are connected. The smallest action can reverberate into the grandest change.

The United Way is a way of life.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Free Clinics

by Jill Hilton, Marketing Intern

Health Care has become a popular topic of conversation at local dinner parties, work, and even at the local bar.  It seems as if everyone has an opinion about our health care system and how it should operate. According to CNN 49.9 Million Americans were uninsured in 2010, we can only assume that this number has gone up. Health Care is an important asset; the problem is that many do not have access to health care or are unsure of the free options available or if there are even options available. Health Care is important to the young and the old, without proper treatment an individual could suffer long term effects. Low income families have a hard time deciding what is more important, food or their health. In order to live food is necessary and without good health a person can’t survive. Janet Runbeck of RotaCare said “people need to eat food but they think health care can wait”. This is the battle that they face daily.
In Washington State there are a couple different options available for low income families. The options vary from low to no cost. There are many free clinics all over Washington State, these clinics help with basic needs such as bandaging up wounds or helping with the common cold. In the city of Tacoma there are 3 different clinics: Neighborhood Clinic, RotaCare, and Trinity Free Clinics.  The Trinity and Neighborhood clinics both focus on basic health needs. RotaCare in Tacoma focuses on chronic diseases such as: hyper tension, cholesterol, and diabetes.  This program helps patients manage and get education about their chronic disease.

RotaCare is a fairly new program that opened its doors to the public in September of 2009.  The program is set up to help low incomes families with chronic diseases, the family or individual can be a part of the program for one year. While in the program volunteer doctors and nurses help to give patients the knowledge and supplies they need to help with their disease. This program is a great tool to our community.  

Knowledge is power and by learning about our free clinics it helps me to know what local resources but also see that there is still so much need in our community.


Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Tacoma City Service Budget Cut

by Jill Hilton, Marketing Intern

The graph above is from a handout disturbed by the City of Tacoma
In May, the City of Tacoma projected a budget cut of 60 million dollars for the 2013-2014 budget. This budget cut has the potential to directly affect many different Tacoma Human Service agencies and programs. The 2011-2012 General Fund Budget is broken down into seven different sections: Police, Library, Human Rights and Human Services, Fire Fighters, Community and Economic Development, Public Works and Street Support, and Other Services (administration). Each of these sections makes up a percentage of the total budget. Some of the programs and agencies receive a higher percentage because they demand more support, such as Police and Fire.
The city is looking for ways to cut back the budget and have turned to the people to help.  The city has released a survey for residents of the Tacoma area as well as people who work in the area. This survey has the residents name the priorities of the services from 1 to 10. In addition to the surveys the city also held “Community Input Budget Meetings”, at these meetings residents were encouraged to speak about the different concerns and what service they were most passionate about.
Human Services are part of the budget cut that is coming down the pipe. I had the opportunity to speak with Miriam Barnett, CEO of the YWCA of Pierce County. Miriam explained that this budget cut would affect many in relation to human service. For Miriam at the YWCA, she is fighting to help keep her partners safe, each penny helps to keep the programs running at the YWCA. She also informed me that Tacoma has the highest rate for domestic violence in the state. If funding is cut for these amenities many women and children might have to be turned away from the services. The City relies on human services to help with domestic issues and counseling for these families, without these services Police or Fire would have to step up to the plate and take on these extra challenges. The Human Services section is roughly 3% of the total budget, versus police and fire at 61%. A 15% reduction of human services budget is about $1,762,240 and that represents a 0.7% reduction in fire and police combined.  Miriam explained the city service as a human, police/fire department is the body and the library/arts/parks/human services are the heart and soul of the city.  She said “The body is an empty shell without the heart and soul”.  Our cities heart and soul is at stake. Children are already suffering from budget cuts of the arts in the school system, why cut it down outside of school as well?  
Miriam spoke at two of the community meetings and let her opinion be known. Unfortunately the community meetings are over but there is still the survey that can be completed online. Help get the word out about Human services as well as the arts and libraries. This is all a part of our campaign to LIVE UNITED, each opinion helps!
Here is the link to get involved.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Teens getting involved to LIVE UNITED

by Jill Hilton, Marketing Intern

Youth United is a program of United Way of Pierce County.  This program is offered to High School students in the Pierce County area. The primary goal of Youth United is connect teens with volunteering opportunities. Youth can get information about upcoming events, guidelines about the lettering program, information on the leadership council and other activities Youth United sponsors on the Youth United Website. Students get involved from all over the local area from Puyallup to Graham to the greater Tacoma area.

Tara Adams and Sonia Xu are both seniors at Puyallup High School. Both girls are fantastic; they are best friends and the greatest support system on their volunteering conquest. These two young girls are inspirational, not only are they dedicated students but are also involved deeply in giving back to our community.  Between being Class President, Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) President, volunteering at Good Sam’s and Youth United, these girls have a ton on their plate. I was interested in why they became so involved?  How they heard about the program with Youth United?

The girls said it is a good way to use their time. The experience is humbling, working with people who need their help makes them grateful for the things they have and where they come from.  During their freshman year of high school someone from United Way of Pierce County came into their after school club and told them about opportunities to volunteer with Youth United. The girls decided to get involved and have enjoyed it ever since. The girls have had fun getting involved and have encouraged their friends to join in with them to LIVE UNITED.  

One of the opportunities available to students in the Pierce County area is the Varsity Lettering program in community service. Students receive a Varsity Letter which is the same as that of a sports letter for their school. The students must complete a minimum of 145 hours in community service to qualify. Students have a set of rules that are followed in order to obtain the letter. Tara and Sonia have received a Letter each year they have participated. It is a great way to get involved and LIVE UNITED.

For more information on the Varsity Letter and events or activities that Youth United are involved in visit:  Also LIKE us on Facebook!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Food Stamp Challenge

by Jill Hilton, Marketing Intern

The issues with food stamps have been debated for years: cut the benefits of food stamps, add requirements to obtaining food stamps, and limit what can be purchased by the recipients. Food Stamps are coupons or stamps that are distributed by the government for impoverish or low income families. For most of the families this is their way of life, they count on the money provided through the stamps to eat from week to week. The Wall Street Journal states since Hurricane Irene the rate of food stamps have increased to one in every seven Americans benefiting from food stamps. This number is part of a 5.5 % increase for 2011.

Everyone has an opinion of how food stamps should or should not be regulated. Currently the Senate is debating 1000 page‘farm bill’, the bill will cut up to $2 billion in loopholes that some states use to help award funds that would not otherwise be funded according to The Tacoma News Tribune. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is currently costing the government 78 billion dollars according to The Atlantic. This number may seem high but this resource helps to keep children feed.

In our local area of Pierce County, the maximum dollar amount being given to a single person on food stamps is $7 dollars a day. On average a family of four receive $500 dollars a month, if you do the math that is around $125 a week and then $17 dollars a day. That is three meals a day for four people, it seems like it might be do able until you are the one forced to decide if you get your child fruit snacks instead of actual fruit because it is cheaper. Children are being feed but the healthy optionsavailable are limited. The government shouldn’t be cutting the program but making changes to help provide these families with healthier options. Giving food discounts for fruits and vegetables.
A great way to put you into the shoes of another would be to take “The Food Stamp” challenge. Go to the grocery store; price out a list of basic needs for the week or just the day. Remember you only have $17 dollars for a family of four for three meals a day. I thought this challenge was do-able until I added up all the groceries, for three day's worth of breakfast and lunch and a single dinner meal, it was $48 dollars. That leaves $3 dollars for two more meals to figure out. This is one of the reasons people are not “Living the dream” on food stamps. It is easy to over spend and end up living on ramen noodles. I would like to see if anyone can actually make $17 dollars work for a family of four. Fill free to write a comment and tell us how you did it.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Lessons from the Frontlines: Local Funding in Human Services

by Rick Allen, President & CEO
Posted January 23, 2012, The Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity (

We have hundreds of effective early learning programs around the nation, yet many kids start school unprepared to learn and succeed. Millions of dollars are spent on programs to end homelessness, but the scourge remains. Affordable housing groups toil across the country, yet many families struggle to put a roof over their heads.

The problem is that while individual human service programs may succeed in helping those they serve directly, as a society we are often unable to achieve collective success.

That doesn’t mean progress is impossible, and part of the solution belongs to funders. It’s time for local funders to move beyond program-level thinking to a true system-wide approach focused on communities.

As someone who has spent two decades as a local funder, it’s clear to me how far the funding community has come—and how far it still has to go.

If you work in human services, let me begin by posing these questions, using early learning as an example: what is the overall community plan in your city or county to advance the early learning effort? For those who now fund early learning efforts, how does the program you fund fit into the overall community plan? Is the work of those you fund known and supported by the larger network of early learning providers in your community?

If you are a funder, my bet is you can’t answer the above questions. If you are a provider, you probably haven’t engaged in those conversations with your service area compatriots, whether that service area is early learning, affordable housing, domestic violence prevention, improved graduation rates, or some other area of human services.

Yes, you all know each other and talk together. That doesn’t mean you’ve collectively agreed to the same priorities in a community plan to advance your particular area of service.

We are all working independently or in small collaborative efforts, often around a grant. We are funded in program silos, with little ability and few resources to leverage a broader community plan that identifies key needs in a larger service area system, or key strengths upon which to build.

We have lots of random acts of useful kindness, but few community plans to advance a collective effort in a particular service area on a larger scale.

There are undoubtedly numerous dynamics in play, some beyond anyone’s control.

Yet some of the vital areas for improvement rest squarely on the shoulders of those who fund human service efforts, including governments, foundations, United Ways, and even individuals. Until some things change at the funder level, little else will.

What could funders begin to do differently? A few ideas I’ve seen work in my area include:
  • If you’ve been funding programs, give serious thought to better understanding the larger network of providers related to those programs, and what the strengths and weaknesses are in that network of services.
  • When asked to fund a program component in a particular service area, ask, “How does your program fit into the overall community plan in this area of service?”
  • Consider funding a series of meetings bringing together all of the players in a focused area of service, such as early learning; help to fund the development of an overall community plan to advance the collective effort. That plan might include identifying strengths and weaknesses, a common set of advocacy priorities, potential natural funding partners, and system evaluation.
  • Be willing to fund priorities identified in a collective plan that you do not currently fund, or better yet, be willing to fund all of the actual plan.
  • Allow your current grantees to spend some of your money to work collectively with others in their network of providers; provide more funding flexibility.
These are just a few ideas, and I’m sure there are others.

For those who say that funders will never change, just look at the last 30 years. The requirement to measure and report outcomes in human services is now widespread, yet this was not nearly as prevalent in the 1970s and 1980s and even into the 1990s.

We have moved from “How many are you serving?” to “What difference did your service make to these individuals in their lives?”—largely because funders decided to change from an “allocation” mentality to a “return on investment” mentality. The expected return includes a concrete assessment of how lives have been genuinely improved.

In this time of obvious austerity, and in what many suggest is a near-crisis in human services, it seems an opportune time to take the next step in getting smarter about our human service investments. It’s time to move from thinking exclusively about programs and to begin working to establish and strengthen true human service systems in our communities.