Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Growing Local Leaders through an Innovative Staffing Solution

Each year, local businesses and organizations lend or sponsor talented people to work part-time for at least 12 weeks at United Way of Pierce County. These individuals are known as Campaign Executives and they serve as spokespersons and fundraisers, conveying the work, message and vision of United Way.

It’s a model unique to United Way that has been in place for decades. This program is made possible thanks to the generous support of local corporate partners, which enables us to provide the Campaign Executives hands-on intensive training in fundraising, the issues affecting our community and public speaking. Through the Campaign Executive program in each workplace they visit, United Way of Pierce County gains high visibility of our work and our mission.

Special thanks to our generous 2017 corporate partners CHI Franciscan, Columbia Bank, DaVita, Puget Sound Energy and TrueBlue, Inc. that either loaned an employee to this effort or sponsored a position.

This year, we recognize five outstanding individuals that participated in the Campaign Executive program. We are grateful to Marjorie Jackson, Bob Connelly, Lyle Sides, Alonzo Baylor and Tyler Kolbo for their tireless efforts over the past several months.
2017 Campaign Executives, Tyler Kolbo, Marjorie Jackson, Bob Connelly, Lyle Sides and Alonzo Baylor
Campaign executives work in tandem with the resource development team to raise community awareness and increase the public’s commitment to our cause, changing conditions in Pierce County. They strengthen their professional skills, build valuable relationships, enhance their visibility and help raise millions for our work fighting poverty in the community. With the help of our Campaign Executives, we grow and cultivate relationships with businesses and donors throughout Pierce County

Marjorie Jackson
Campaign Executives often teach us, bringing their individual unique skills and life experiences to a fast paced fall campaign push.

Marjorie Jackson, a former high school principal and education program leader, brought her considerable community knowledge and her accomplished public speaking skills. Returning for a second year to United Way, Marjorie also spearheaded the Day of Caring volunteer event in September and our Premier Partner event. Her considerable organizational skills were put to good use.

For an encore career Bob Connelly, a retired educator and past United Way of Pierce County Resource Development Officer, came back for a second time as a Campaign Executive. Bob capitalized on his deep community relationships to open doors and advance every campaign and lead he worked on. 
Bob Connelly
He also shared his talents as a photographer for numerous United Way events including the Tocqueville Society reception and From Poverty to Possibilities summit in November.  For years Bob has been a supporter of United Way and he is a principal member of the United Way House band, the Possible Solutions.

Loaned to us from Davita, Lyle Sides is one of those people who really defies people’s expectations. Growing up in a military family and in Germany she has a fascinating life story.  Lyle will tell you that as a young person, people may be somewhat dismissive of her and her opinions. After working with her, everyone she touched will agree that if you dismiss her, you are making a big mistake.

Alonzo Baylor is one of those people who really can command a room. Hailing from the east coast, Alonzo came to us with a clear goal of becoming more involved and connected with his community and the nonprofit industry in Tacoma.  Alonzo has an incredibly big generous heart and his speaking style and compelling manner helped build stronger relationships across the campaigns he worked.  

Tyler Kolbo worked for years in the automotive industry ultimately as a service manage for auto dealerships in Tacoma. Tyler did some great work for us researching and connecting us to new business leads. His persistence and strategic outlook will help us make inroads into business sectors that we have struggled with in the past. A dedicated father of three rambunctious boys aged 9-14, Tyler is happiest riding a bike with his boys down a trail or playing in the snow.
Tyler Kolbo

“Each of these individuals were integral to our success as we tirelessly lead the fight to remove barriers to break the cycle of poverty and create lasting change in our community for children and families,” said Stephen Deal, Vice President, Resource Development, United Way of Pierce County. “The ability to add to our staff in such a unique way is a win-win for everyone, but especially for the individuals, children and families that struggle with poverty in Pierce County. Together we are able to make a lasting difference."

To learn more about the Campaign Executive program, contact Stephen Deal at 253.597.8105, (206) 605-4140 (cell) or StephenD@UWPC.org.

Monday, December 18, 2017

2-1-1 Helps Callers find Job Training and Employment Help

Guest Blogger: Corey Mosesly, Director, Family Stability Initiatives, United Way of Pierce County

Every day hundreds of people from across the South Sound region turn to 2-1-1 for information and support--whether financial, domestic, health or disaster. 2-1-1 is a free, confidential referral and information service that connects people from local communities to a specialist who will help find critical health and human services. But, 2-1-1 also connects individuals to programs and services that will help them gain greater financial stability to help reach longer term goals. 

Today, one call to United Way's South Sound 2-1-1, connects people to a resource specialist who can help find career training programs or employment services that best fits caller’s needs.

Over the past decade, service jobs requiring a high school education or less, pay below $20 per hour and unfortunately far exceed the availability of higher-wage jobs. In fact, more than half of all jobs in the Pacific Northwest pay less than $20 per hour, which makes it nearly impossible for most families to gain financial stability.

However, there are many opportunities that require occupational certifications, apprenticeship, or a degree, that are in reach, which will lead to higher paying jobs and opportunities to transition to a new field. While Pierce County employers are looking to hire skilled employees to fill new positions, there are challenges for both employers and workers:

1.     Engaging workers who are currently employed and encouraging them to grow skills;
2.     Navigating training programs and opportunities while working to get the education and credentials to move into better careers;
3.     Knowing where to start to increase financial stability--that’s where United Way of Pierce County comes in.

Last Year, United Way, in partnership with the Workforce Development Council, created an “Earn-ability Task Force” to develop strategies to increase earned income and financial stability for local families. A key finding revealed that short-term training programs that lead to family-wage jobs in high-demand sectors, were harder to find and many classes were often under-enrolled.

Leveraging our South Sound 2-1-1 Resource Center, we developed an online database of short-term training programs to help resource specialists, social service providers, employment coaches and clients navigate training opportunities that will lead to employment or higher earnings. We focused on training opportunities in local hiring sectors including healthcare, construction, information technology and advanced manufacturing. Services for employment-readiness and soft-skills classes were also among the resources included.

Now 2-1-1 callers can easily search for these training programs and talk with a live resource specialist who can also link them to housing, transportation, food and health during one call, or they have the option to address one need at a time. Each person sets his or her own pace. Take Sylvia who found herself out of work, hoping to find new employment but realizing she needed a little extra training, particularly office administrative training.

Sylvia talked to a 2-1-1 Specialist about her goals to increase stability in her life since she had been living paycheck to paycheck, constantly worrying about money. Sylvia contacted employment and job training resources, including on of the nearby Center for Strong Families. When 2-1-1 contacted Sylvia a few weeks later to see how her job search was going, Sylvia proudly reported that she had been offered a job at a law firm and would be earning around $17 an hour start. 

Sylvia shared, “I wish I would have known to call 2-1-1 sooner... I have wasted a lot of years because I didn’t know about this service. Now I tell everyone about 2-1-1 so that can get the help right away instead of waiting.”

There are thousands of people like Sylvia who want to work, but need the skills to earn more to become more self-sufficient --and reach bigger goals for themselves and their families. Today, we are able to more easily track the availability of workforce development programs and identify gaps in services. Over time, we will also track changes in the call volume for employment services and trends in client navigation.

If you or someone you know needs help, one call to 2-1-1 will link them to a resource specialist who can help find local resources that can change their lives. Visit the online database directly by http://www.win211.org/employment.

Employment Occupation Projections & Wages
If you are looking for careers that pay a family-wage, below are a few opportunities to consider that earn higher than entry median wages.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Commitment to Our Community

In November when we held our largest community conversation to date called From Poverty to Possibilities, my team and I were thrilled by the resounding support of the community who turned out to join us in our fight to tackle poverty.
We had a fantastic group of panelists, a dynamic moderator, a riveting keynote speaker and a heartbreakingly honest account of the real struggles faced by a woman named Anita, who is on her way to living the life she has dreamed of but never thought she would achieve.
There were some hard conversations. The war on poverty is decades old and fighting it is arduous work, but communities across the country are making progress. The causes of poverty are complex and varied. A poor economy, lack of affordable housing, low paying jobs, drug use, lack of education, medical expenses...there isn't one root cause and there isn't a silver bullet that will solve it.
The discussions were exciting and the ideas flowed around key topics that included systems change, human-centered design, cross-sector partnerships and resources. Now the really hard work begins: to create an agenda around ACTION. I have never been more filled with a sense of purpose and the promise that there is hope on the horizon.   
We really are at our best when we bring leaders from across the community working together to create lasting change. I hope that in some way this forum served as a catalyst to create deep and lasting changes, eliminating the barriers that one in three of our households face each day. I think that's what I love best about being part of the United Way movement. 
By working to promote and provide opportunities for even greater community engagement, we are fostering collaborations of businesses, non-profits and community leaders.  We're mobilizing the full breadth of our community's assets: people, knowledge, relationships, technology and money to fully realize our goal to lift 15,000 families out of poverty by 2028.
Being part of a community is a powerful thing and can have a tremendous impact on our lives. Through collaboration, understanding and a willingness to help, I believe our community will flourish. Thankfully, I have a dedicated staff and board of directors who share my belief. And last month, more than 200 people who attended the summit showed that they are committed as well.
By collaborating with experts, raising resources and focusing on key initiatives, we will end poverty, one family at a time. At United Way we are tackling the issue on three fronts:
  1.  Building Strong Families that can become financially stable
  2.  Ensuring that more Successful Kids can thrive in school and life
  3.  Facilitating Stable Individuals who can access basic needs
Every day I get up with a sense of purpose and a commitment to our community. For nearly 30 years, I have carried this George Bernard Shaw quote close to me and now I want to share it with you:

..."I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live..."
Each season has its purpose. In winter, we store energy and preserve our harvest by remembering what we've learned and appreciating what we have. I am deeply grateful to continue to learn and grow and for all that you do for United Way of Pierce County throughout the year.
In service and friendship,
Dona Ponepinto, President & CEO
United Way of Pierce County

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

An Act of Goodness

A few weeks ago, we heard a story from Karen, one of the volunteers at Food for Backpacks out on the Key Peninsula. Simple act of goodness mean so much and we wanted to share this short but sweet note we got from Karen.

“I hesitated when you asked me to take the big square samples of bed toppers and guess what happened? I picked up a young man walking in the rain while delivering Gifts in Kind “goodies,” and carefully asked some questions. 

I ended up taking him to a place where we store emergency food.  We filled a box of food and then I took him to his camping space--likely squatting on some unknown person’s property in the woods.  As we were unloading his provisions, I asked if he needed a towel and the response was an enthusiastic yes, he would love to have a towel. 

Since he was living in a tent, I asked him if he was warm enough, and he reluctantly replied that he was not.  I handed him a beautiful comforter set and his eyes were as big as saucers and his response was, “really?” 

As I drove down the road, I remembered those 3 square bed topper samples you asked me to take.  I turned around and went back to the woods and handed them to him and, excitedly, he said, “My missus is going to love these”…followed by, “You are so kind.”

As I finished my drop offs to people in need, I thought, that this is what Gifts In Kind is all about-- making people happy and comfortable, regardless of their situation.  Today was a happy day.  The van was empty, yet I was filled with the sense of good things happening in our community.  Thank you for making all of this happen.  We are making a difference.”

United Way’s Gifts in Kind is a year-round program, but as the holidays approach, we know that too many children will miss out of what many kids consider the best time of year. While we cannot pick up holiday gifts, we are accepting donations of toys, books, games of gifts cards from November 28-December 14 o Tuesdays through Thursday from 8am to 3pm.

‘Do Gooders’ of all ages are welcome to bring comfort and happiness to others in the form of gifts in kind. To learn more, contact Phyllis at 253-597-7485 or via phyllisr@uwpc.org

Friday, November 17, 2017

Reflections of From Poverty to Possibilities, Community

Guest Blogger: Lindsay Morgan Tracy, Vice President, Community Impact & Engagement 

During the From Poverty to Possibilities summit, I loved it when Anita, a Pierce County citizen who has gotten out of poverty, challenged us - - those who make up the system of nonprofits, government, service providers -- to look at service gaps. 

While Anita is now happily employed and has reached many of her dreams, she reminded the audience that the struggle continues as she loses eligibility for key benefits. This experience is known as the “benefits cliffs” describes what happens when public benefits programs phase down or out quickly, leading to an abrupt reduction or loss of benefits for families as household earnings increase, but have not increased enough for self-sufficiency to be reached.

We all talk about this cliff but who really is coalescing around this in our cities or county? This cliff incentivizes people to stay in the system. Many who are making the bare minimum wage are on government supports (which OUR tax dollars go to). 

On that vein of minimum wage –Mia Birdsong, our keynote speaker stated, “Our living wage is not a livable wage.” I know that calculating a living wage is not easy, nor is it apples to apples across our county or state. 

Yet in the 2017 Self-Sufficiency Standard stated that a single adult with a preschooler and a school-aged child in Pierce County needs to earn roughly $56,192 a year in order to meet their basic needs. This equates to $26.61 an hour.
This number does not take into consideration any debt or college loan that the adult brings into this family. This calculation also makes the assumption that they are saving $158/month. In fact, 39% of Americans have $0 saved in 2017. And let’s end this data-laden paragraph on a high note - - now 43% of Americans have $1000 or more set aside for an emergency which is up from 31% last year. Kudos!

As we all need to take ownership in the system that was handed to us…we also have the power to augment/dismantle the system and shift it for the good of the people.
Like me, you’ve all been in meetings where at least one person says, “That’s been tried.” But the question I have is “Where are the learnings” so we can keep trying and do it differently. Are the same people in the room or are there different skills sets and competencies?

We cannot start without answering specific questions. This aligns with the question that many tables asked at our event, “What is the definition of poverty? We cannot change it until we agree on this.” We can agree that things need to change and I know that the collective voice of the people in the room could move mountains. I know that the food banks or food justice organizations all came together to work differently with one another and that progress is being made in our county due to their difficult work.

In essence, who can hold all the collectives groups and people together and break down silos toward the good of our shared efforts? Do we need this? I’d love your thoughts as I feel we can make more than incremental change in our county - - I don’t feel it, I know it.

For more information or questions contact Lindsay at LindsayT@UWPC.org

Graphic:  Visual representation of the benefits cliff, Columbia University  

Friday, November 3, 2017

Message of Hope

Guest Blogger, Dona Ponepinto, President & CEO, United Way of Pierce County

After 30 years in the United Way movement, I still wake up every day with a strong sense of purpose. Yes, the issues we are tackling seem insurmountable and the nearly daily dose of bad news is filled with pain and suffering. Fortunately, we live in a world where kindness and support dominates. I am continually filled with hope by the inspiring things humans do on a daily basis. An inspiring article in Forbes once that summed it up to a T.

These human gifts include but are not limited to these seemingly simple acts: Help, Empathize, Teach, Love, Persevere, Learn and Believe. 

Help comes in many forms from helping babysit a neighbor’s children so she can get to her job, opening doors for people with their arms full, giving up your seat so someone who is frail can rest comfortably on their commute.

Empathizing with someone means going beyond recognizing someone’s situation, it’s being able to imagine it yourself and therefore putting away judgement or criticism. 

Teach others a skill or even being a good example for others is a wonderful way to provide service. Reading to a child, showing a coworker a useful trick in a program—there are hundreds of ways to share knowledge-- knowing there is nothing in it for you. 

Love and building a culture of caring happens at home and in business. When people feel like they can engage openly and connect with compassion the difference can be felt.

Persevere and you can achieve nearly everything. I see hundreds of examples of perseverance every year-- from the single mom who was going nowhere who is now in college, working hard and eager to contribute to her community financially and through services to the family sleeping in a one-room apartment that are making plans to buy their first home.

Learn from your children, coaches and even mistakes. Be bold and open and curious about the world and don’t be afraid to think differently. It will open your mind, your heart and you will thrive.

Believe in change, goodness and a world of hope. If I didn’t believe in possibilities I would not have spent decades taking on tough challenges. I am so grateful to work with inspiring people and to see real and measurable change happen in our community. There will always be bad news but if we practice these activities, they become part of our daily lives.

And that is the best gift you can give during the season to yourself and to others.