Friday, January 29, 2016

Celebrate Opportunity for Working Washington Families

Today we’re celebrating. We’re celebrating a proven tool that helps thousands of workers in Washington keep more of what they earn to pay for things like reliable transportation to get to work, child care, housing and food.  We’re celebrating that Congress took action at the end of 2015 to save this resource.  We’re tipping our hat to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and what it means to working families in Pierce County.

Research finds that the EITC encourages work, supports family financial stability and leads to long-term gains in child health and academic success.  

Beyond the data, we see the power of the credit firsthand because United Way of Pierce County, our community partners, and hundreds of volunteers each year take action to connect hundreds of people to the EITC. 

We’re thankful that Congress took action at the end of last year to save this vital resource for millions of working Americans.

And as tax season kicks off, we want to make sure that our community connects to the credits through VITA and, a site where individuals or families earning $62,000 or less in 2015 can file their state and local taxes for free online. 

So celebrate with us today.  Thank Congress, check out, and spread the good word online (#EITCAwarenessDay). Cheers! 

Monday, January 18, 2016

Doctor says Read

At United Way of Piece County, we want to ensure that all our children are physically, socially, emotionally and cognitively ready to participate and learn in school. And learning begins at birth. For pediatricians like Dr. Maryann Woodruff, making sure parents know this and are reading to their child from day one is as much a priority as their physical development.
“There is a need to help families understand the real importance of early literacy,” explains Dr. Woodruff, a pediatrician at Pediatrics Northwest and the co-lead responsible for bringing the Reach Out and Read program to Pierce County.

Through Reach Out and Read, a program receiving funding from United Way of Pierce County, children are given a book at each well-child visit to the doctor’s office. Additionally, the parents are given tools and techniques to incorporate learning into the child’s play.

“The more children are read to...the better they are going to learn and the more ready they are going to be.” Dr. Woodruff continues, “I want the community to know how important reading aloud is. For me, the books are just as important as my stethoscope.”

Today Reach Out and Read Washington is in 30 counties, over 145 medical practices, endorsed by over 1000 medical providers and served 86,000 children and families during 157,000 well-child checkups in 2013.  It sounds pretty impressive (and it is) but there are so many more children who could benefit from this program. 

Reach Out and Read only serves 20 percent of eligible children in Washington State. In other words, four out of five children are not served.  Dr. Woodruff’s vision is for this program to reach all the kids in our state. To get there, it will take additional funding and community support. Reach Out and Read and Pierce County are lucky to have Dr. Woodruff on their team because her passion and enthusiasm for this program is infectious.

Through Reach Out and Read, parents are taught to be their child’s first teacher and equipped with the tools to put them on a path to success. Reach Out and Read is just one of the many programs receiving funding from United Way of Pierce County.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Strong Families: Marisol

Marisol had just moved to Washington from New Jersey and needed help. Not only was she suffering with domestic violence herself, her daughter had growing mental disabilities that needed attention.

Being new to the area and completely alone, she had no idea where to turn to for support. One day while riding the city bus, a women reached out her.

“It’s like she could tell that I was sad and needed help,” Marisol recalled. “She told me that if I needed anything at all I should call 2-1-1 and they could find what I was looking for.”

Although Marisol felt ashamed to ask for help at first, she gave them a call. 2-1-1 changed everything for her. They set her up with organizations that could help her daughter, and got Marisol connected with support groups for those who had gone through domestic violence.

“I can’t believe I was ashamed to make the call. I am so grateful for all of their help; they got me back on my feet and helped me grow to the person I am today.” 

Stories like Marisol's happen every day in Pierce County. Making a call to South Sound 2-1-1 is easy and extremely helpful. Do you know someone who is in need of assistance but is overwhelmed and doesn't know where to start? Help them get back on their feet simply by referring them to the number "2-1-1" 

Click here for more information about South Sound 2-1-1, its database, and resources.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Hunger Initiative: The Slow Cooker Project

By: Cristiana Ventura, Resource Development and Marketing Intern

One of the several ways the Hunger-Free Pierce County Collaborative actively takes initiative to end hunger in our region is through The Slow Cooker Project. 

In total, United Way of Pierce County has invested $9,500 for 525 slow cookers. We distributed over 500 of them to several different food programs around the county. The project is special in that it teaches how to prepare nutritious meals from scratch and provides families with all of the resources they need to do so. 

One of the programs is the Peninsula Community Foundation's Food Backpacks 4 Kids program. The program is giving out crock-pots to families in need around the Key Peninsula where limited access to healthy food exists. 

To get this program on its feet, United Way of Pierce County provided the FB4K program with $5,500 to purchase 275 slow cookers. 

This year, FB4K’s goal is to distribute 75 of the slow cookers to families in need and provide ingredients to make 1 recipe (serving about 8 meals total) per month. This is about 600 hot meals per month, and almost 5,000 hot meals over the course of the school year. 

Next year, FB4K’s goal is to distribute the rest of the 200 slow cookers and provide ingredients to make 4 recipes (serving 8 meals each) per month.

As time goes on, these crock-pots will provide their owners with the ability to cook healthy food for their families with dignity for as long as they last, contributing to each family’s increased independence and ability to provide for themselves. In two years, these distributed crock-pots will provide over 150,000 meals to 1,575 residents in Pierce County.

After receiving a slow cooker for their family, one grateful recipient explained--they plan on cooking their Christmas meal in their new slow cooker! 

Here are some tasty and affordable recipes for you and your family too!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Successful Kids: Faith's Story

Faith was struggling in school. She had a hard time reading and was falling behind. All she needed was a little help. Her teacher recommended her for extra tutoring and referred her to the Communities in Schools of Lakewood after school program at Tillicum Elementary. 

Thanks to funding provided by United Way of Pierce County, Communities in Schools of Lakewood was able to extend their program to serve students during the summer. 

“They need that extra support that we’re able to provide at the school.”  -Leah, Communities In Schools of Lakewood. 
Watch Faith's Story

While Faith was participating in the program, she also got books through the summer meal site nearby, thanks to a partnership with St.Leo’s Food Connection. Through summer meal partnerships like these, 

United Way distributed more than 2,000 books this summer. Many children don’t have books of their own at home and can lose up to two months of what they’ve learned over the summer. But that wouldn’t be the case for Faith. She worked hard with the teachers at the summer program and continued to get caught up. 

Now Faith will start the school year at grade level and is ready to succeed. Communities in Schools of Lakewood is just one of the many programs receiving funding from United Way of Pierce County. By focusing on programs that help young children and their families, we can remove the barriers preventing them from breaking the cycle of poverty.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Hunger Initiative: accessible healthy food with vouchers

By: Cristiana Ventura, Resource Development and Marketing Intern

Hunger-Free Pierce County Collaborative update: investing $20,000 worth of Farmer's Market vouchers in Tacoma.

The Tacoma Farmer's Market remains a favorite summer pastime for some, a vital resource for many, and a potential burden for others. Healthy and accessible food is hard to come by for those struggling to make ends meet. And food at the food banks isn't always abundant with fresh and nutritious produce.

Another successful initiative of the Collaborative includes a large investment in Tacoma Farmer's Market vouchers.Though Tacoma Farmer’s Market has been accepting EBT since 1999, “farm to table” fresh produce is still financially out of reach for many low-income families.

During the fall of 2014, Tacoma Farmer’s Market launched the Double your Dollars Matching Program, which began providing a one-to-one match of up to $10 for EBT shoppers (formerly Food Stamps), per market, per week for fresh fruits and vegetables that low-income shoppers could use to have more purchasing power. The 2014 program also piloted a WIC and Senior Nutrition Voucher matching fund that provided $10 in extra spending per market for those who qualified. 

UWPC's support helped at least 423 different shoppers double the value of over 2,070 shopping trips. 

This year, TFM wanted to continue and expand services to low-income shoppers enrolled in the WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program. Families and individuals qualifying for these programs can attend any of the Tacoma Farmers Market Locations and receive $10 worth of vouchers per individual, per market, per day. 

"Thank you for the “double bucks” program. We love this Farmer’s Market at Salishan. We carpool from North Tacoma to shop here and to see our friends. This summer I purchased almost all of my fruits and vegetables at the Farmer’s Market. It reminds me of my country where we could buy fruits and vegetables only at Farmer’s Markets. Thank you very much!" –Lidiya Khinotskaya (Originally from Russia)

Not only does this provide low-income families with more purchasing power, but it also encourages people to come together and break down barriers while supporting local agriculture. Many shoppers enrolled in the program have communicated to us that they would not have ever come to the market had they not learned about the vouchers. 

“Before, I didn’t eat too many vegetables and fruits, and now I have lost 10 pounds since they offered the program. I am eating better now, and the vouchers help me buy more because I am very low-income. It’s a blessing.” –Gloria Morales

Thursday, January 7, 2016

TrueBlue as a Premier Partner

TrueBlue is one of our outstanding Premier Partners. Their campaign finished at $197,000 compared to $166,000 the 2013 year.

The TrueBlue Campaign Committee, led by Nick LaShomb, was well organized and determined for a successful campaign.  

They set a high goal, to increase by 10% over last year – then they beat it!  

TrueBlue matched every employee donation, dollar for dollar, and had a very impressive 81% participation rate.  A truly stellar campaign!   
But last year, wasn’t their only successful year, they have raised over $558,788 in the last 5 years, which is why they too are on our Top 25 in Company Giving list.

On their campaign they have, 17 Leadership Donors. (Leadership donors donate $1,000+)They also have year-round engagement which includes: Day of Caring, Annual Book Drive and Jeans Day Donations.

To award their successful campaign and hard work, they were a 2014 Co-Winner of UWPC Campaign of the Year Award for Large Company. 
"A huge thank you to the United Way committee for inspiring all of us to give back to our community where we are the most vulnerable, our children.
Helping children in early reading programs, ensuring no child goes hungry each day and watching out for their families is the very best thing for us to give back to.
I am honored to work side by side with each of you on this email as we align TrueBlue's values to the needs in our community.
Thank you a thousand times over!" -Steve Cooper, TrueBlue, CEO

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Premier Partners support Pierce County

By: Cristiana Ventura, Resource Development and Marketing Intern

United Way of Pierce County collaborates with hundreds of businesses to make Pierce County a better place to live. Those who make extraordinary and wide-ranging contributions to our community are recognized as our Premier Partners. Their quality workplace campaigns, community service, in-kind support and sponsorship help create opportunities for a good life for all. 

Special thanks to our Cornerstone Partner Employees Community Fund of Boeing Puget Sound. As our largest funder, their efforts in the community embody the spirit of LIVE UNITED and they consistently exceed expectations.

United Way of Pierce County Premier Partner campaigns include:

Albers & Company
Cole Graphic Solutions
Korum Automotive
Niagara Bottling Company
Pierce County Government
Russell Investments
Tacoma Public Schools
U.S. Bank
Workforce Central
Columbia Bank
Employees Community Fund of Boeing Puget Sound
McGranahan Architects
Puyallup School District
Sound Credit Union
Tacoma Public Utilities
U.S. Oil & Refining Company
Heritage Bank
MultiCare Health System
NuStar Energy
The Rescue Mission
State Farm Insurance Company
Tacoma Rainiers
United Parcel Service
CHI Franciscan Health System
Coordinated Care
Mutual of Enumclaw
Parametrix, Inc.
Sumner School District
Wells Fargo Bank
City of Tacoma
Costco Wholesale
Jesse Engineering Company
The News Tribune
PCS Structural Solutions
The Russell Family Foundation
Tacoma Pierce County Health Department
TrueBlue, Inc.

Learn more about Premier Partners and Workplace Campaigns