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Category: Impact

Child Advocacy Day 2024

United for Childcare at Child Advocacy Day

United for Childcare at Child Advocacy Day

On March 6th, United Way of Southeast Missouri joined forces with other nonprofit organizations in the area, including Thrive Birth to 5, Everyday Dads, and the Missouri Mentoring Partnership, to participate in Child Advocacy Day in Jefferson City.  

Child Advocacy Day brought together legislators, parents, childcare providers, and nonprofits across Missouri to discuss ways to solve the childcare crisis in our communities. Approximately 7 out of 10 children in Southeast Missouri (~7,349*) do not have access to licensed childcare, with waiting lists of one to two years. We had the opportunity to meet with local representatives John Voss, Barry Hovis, Rick Francis, and Senator Holly Rehder’s Chief of Staff to discuss the childcare issues affecting Southeast Missouri and how the community is coming together to solve this problem.  

United Way of Southeast Missouri is committed to promoting self-sufficiency and removing obstacles to economic mobility. Research gathered from employers, employees, social service agencies, and the community has led us to focus on two main initiatives: childcare and transportation. Both are fundamental needs for working parents. Reliable transportation and safe, affordable childcare are critical to maintaining steady employment and supporting our economy.

Uniting as a Community to Solve Our Childcare Crisis 

At the end of 2023 we launched United We Work, a free transportation program to get new and entry-level employees to and from work. In 2024, we will utilize our AmeriCorps Planning Grant to collaborate with childcare providers, families, local government, area nonprofits, local businesses, and community leaders. Our goal is to collect data, evaluate economic mobility obstacles, explore effective solutions in similar communities, and create a 2025 AmeriCorps program. This initiative will bring more childcare providers to Southeast Missouri and give existing providers additional support and resources. 

The community’s involvement, voice, and buy-in are essential in solving the complex childcare challenges in our area. To initiate the conversation, we have created a Childcare Coalition comprising community leaders and organizations passionate about changing the childcare landscape in Southeast Missouri.  

The Coalition’s first focus is to research potential program designs and gather crucial data to measure program impact. If you are interested in joining our Childcare Coalition, please contact Matthew Ellison, AmeriCorps Program Director. 

We also invite you to join the Facebook group United for Childcare – Southeast Missouri. This group is a platform for individuals who share a common interest in childcare to connect and collaborate. United, we can pool our resources, ideas, and efforts to bring about real change to the childcare landscape in Southeast Missouri.

April 5 Bollinger County tornado damage

Deadline Given to Bollinger County Tornado Victims

The Long-Term Recovery Committee for the tornado that devastated communities in Bollinger County on April 5 has set a date of August 15, 2023, for all individuals who were impacted by the tornado to submit a claim or register their intent to submit a claim. This includes people who seek reimbursement for repairs or assistance with insurance deductibles they have already paid. Those seeking financial assistance must contact Catholic Charities at 573-335-0905. Individuals who have already contacted Catholic Charities and been given a case number do not need to call again.

Following a natural disaster, a Long-term Recovery Committee(LTRC) is usually formed that includes faith and community leaders, social service organizations, emergency personnel, and organizations that can provide funding to help those impacted. The LTRC for Bollinger County includes representatives from many organizations. Some that are on the committee include: Bollinger County Health Center, Glen Allen Village Board, Catholic Charities, First Call For Help, United Way of Southeast Missouri, East Missouri Action Agency, Missouri State Emergency Management Agency, Crader Distributing, Bill Peters Hardware, Bank of Missouri, Peoples Community Bank, Lutesville Ford, Bollinger County Sheriff’s Department, Bollinger County Emergency Management, Patton Lion’s Club, and area churches.

The committee corresponds via email as needed and meets monthly to review cases as presented by Catholic Charities, which is providing case management for victims of the tornado. The LTRC wants to give financial assistance to the families and individuals who need it. However, only four families have submitted requests that include required documentation for assistance. The LTRC has earmarked funds to reimburse insurance deductibles while setting aside funds to assist those who had no insurance.

The committee has given priority to funding projects related to health and safety first, such as roofs and air conditioners. Families with any repair claim related to the tornado must submit at least two estimates to Catholic Charities for the LTRC to review. Juanita Welker, Administrator of the Bollinger County Health Center, chairs the LTRC and explains, “The committee is eager to help the tornado victims, but we need to hear from them. We are being conservative with funds, knowing we have nine families whose homes were completely destroyed. We are helping with immediate needs, keeping in mind this is a Long-term Recovery Committee and needs will continue well into the future.”

Only the LTRC can distribute funds. Payments will go directly from the recovery fund to contractors and repair companies. Although recovery funds have been established at The Bank of Missouri and United Way of Southeast Missouri, these organizations cannot give out money. They simply are collecting and holding it for the LTRC to distribute. #BOCOstrong

From the DirectorImpactInspirationUncategorizedVolunteerism

Where have all the volunteers gone?

Blissfully, for some people, COVID-19 was no more than a long, albeit frightening, inconvenience. For those whose health, finances, and lives were permanently changed, the recovery is a work in progress. The pandemic impacted all of us differently, which also applies to many nonprofits. While a lucky few experienced increased giving, the majority, including United Way of Southeast Missouri, took a financial hit as many individuals worried about their own financial situation. And nearly all nonprofits that depend on volunteers suffered greatly.  

Before the pandemic, nearly one-third of Americans volunteered at least once a year according to a study by the Corporation for National and Community Service. This translates to more than $150 billion in benefits.  A 2020 study by Fidelity Charitable found that two-thirds of volunteers decreased their activity or stopped volunteering entirely after the pandemic began. As nonprofit funding declined, so did the millions of dollars in valuable volunteers’ time. The experience of the majority of the 30 partners supported by United Way of Southeast Missouri reflects these national findings. 

Big Brothers Big Sisters, which mentors through personal relationships, moved their volunteer activities to the virtual world. But many organizations depend on retired and senior volunteers, the group most susceptible to COVID-19 and least familiar with technology. Volunteers are slowly returning to pre-Covid activities, but many, especially those over 60, are not returning. 

Read to Succeed is one of only two programs housed within United Way of Southeast Missouri. Since its inception in 2011, the program has succeeded with the commitment of valuable volunteers, many who are retired teachers. During a normal school year more than 200 elementary students are able to catch up and even surpass grade-appropriate reading levels with the one-to-one tutoring donated by generous Read to Succeed volunteers. After being completely out of the schools through 2020, the program is struggling to get volunteers back into the schools for a program that is critical in helping students return to pre-pandemic reading levels. 

While Read to Succeed asks a commitment of only thirty minutes a week, programs that require a long-term commitment struggle year-round. United Way funded partner, Voices for Children/CASA, provides Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs). These volunteers serve as the voices of children who may spend months or even years in the court system as their parent(s) navigate mandated counseling, treatment or, sadly, imprisonment.  

Mark Hotop, Volunteer Coordinator for Voices for Children, organized a Volunteer Fair on Sunday, January 15, from 1-4 P.M. The fair will be in the newly remodeled gym at The Salvation Army in Cape Girardeau; it is open to all area nonprofits and free to everyone. More than two dozen nonprofits have registered to share opportunities and speak to interested volunteers. United Way will offer information on what it means to volunteer as a board member, a critical need many of our partners seek to fill. 

The proven benefits of volunteering are many. Data indicate volunteers live longer, healthier lives through lowered blood pressure and increased cardiovascular health, decreased dementia, and an increased sense of purpose and social connection. And volunteering makes our community better. It is an opportunity to help someone who may not have the same opportunities you’ve had. It truly is a chance to create lasting change. As the mother of one of our Read to Succeed students said through tears, “This program has changed my child’s life! She hated school, and she felt ‘stupid.’ Now that she can read, she is excited about learning and coming to school. She can’t wait to read and learn!” 

We intentionally chose this date at the time we celebrate an American who gave his life to making the world better for others. In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., “Life’s most urgent and persistent question is: what are you doing for others?… Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy. You vote in elections once a year, but when you volunteer, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in.” Please join us on January 15th at The Salvation Army. If you can’t attend the event, volunteer opportunities are posted on our website. Our community needs your help. 

Elizabeth Shelton, Executive Director 

United Way of Southeast Missouri

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UNITE-ing Through the Holidays

As the holidays approach us, it’s easy to get swept away in the joy of the season. The sweet scent of fresh-baked cookies drifts from open windows, past twinkling lights on decorated homes, and moves to busy downtown streets. Christmas carols can be heard twisting in and out of crowded stores as families prepare for their feasts. Children, bright-eyed, gaze longingly at shelved toys, gadgets, and gizmos, unaware that they are already wrapped and tucked safely under the tree.


Amidst all this holiday cheer, many people in our community face hardships that become more difficult to manage during the holidays and cold winter months. Some of our neighbors may be struggling to pay utilities or housing costs. Others may be hungry and not know when they will have their next meal. Children in foster care who have been separated from their families and loved ones may feel frightened and lonely.


The United Way network of funded partners unites to help tackle these issues through the holidays.


Jackson Senior Center helps provide weekday meals and engaging activities for seniors who otherwise might not have the opportunity to enjoy a hot and healthy meal or socialize with others outside of their homes. Scott City Ministerial Alliance and Little Whitewater Food Pantry provide canned and dry food for people who may not be able to purchase many items from a traditional store. Hope for One More teams up with community members to organize family meals and Christmas gifts, brightening the holidays for local children in foster care. The Salvation Army provides hot showers and utility assistance, as well as hosts Meals with Friends at the end of each month, where the whole community is welcome to sit and enjoy a filling meal and fellowship. In December, The Salvation Army also provides an additional packaged holiday meal for those unable to afford a big holiday feast. Community Partnership of Southeast Missouri’s NeighborHub in Cape and New Life Mission Inn’s Drop-in Center in Perryville invite our homeless neighbors to take a hot shower, wash laundry, and receive other services.


Though United Way partners are hard at work, we could not lift our neighbors without the support of our community. Here is how you can help others through United Way this holiday season.
  • Give. Thanks to our corporate investors, 98% of every individual donation goes directly to the programs we invest in. Make a one-time or recurring gift to help others this holiday season. Donate Now.
  • Advocate. Be a positive voice for United Way. Help us by completing our Community Survey and sharing it with others in our area. Follow United Way of Southeast Missouri on Facebook and Instagram to see United Way in action this season.
  • Volunteer. There’s no better time than the holidays to volunteer your time to someone else. Visit our Volunteer page to find current one-time and recurring volunteer opportunities. Sign-up for our quarterly Volunteer Newsletter to receive updates
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ImpactInspirationPartner Stories

United Way Donors Change Lives

United Way of Southeast Missouri believes it takes a community to lift a community.
That is why when you give, your donations stay right here in Southeast Missouri. Although UWSEMO has not been asked to invest in specific veterans’ programs, many partners in our network support veterans like Stacy, whose life was changed thanks to donors like you. 
Stacy came to Lutheran Family and Children Services of Missouri after experiencing chronic complex and acute traumas resulting in multiple suicide attempts. She had been to counseling before, but she couldn’t afford long-term treatment. She has been using a prescription multiple times a day to ease her PTSD symptoms. Stacy and her therapist spent some time building rapport, which is essential before trauma interventions can be effective. Stacy commented she had not had a safe relationship like the one with her therapist in a long time. She stated this was what she found most healing, even after the trauma interventions. Eventually, with treatment, she also lowered her use of prescriptions.
Without the funding from the United Way of Southeast Missouri, her progress would not have been possible. For trauma survivors, long-term therapeutic relationships and treatment are the basis for healing. They thrive with access to quality and consistent mental healthcare.
Thanks to United Way donors, Stacy can now envision a future where her symptoms will not interfere with her life and her relationships with others. You have helped United Way give her hope and find resilience.
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We Need to Talk…

“We need to talk…”

These four words carry such weight and importance and fill us with questions.

“Is there something we need to know?” “What can we do to make the situation better?” “How will this conversation affect others?”

These are some of the questions United Way of Southeast Missouri (UWSEMO) has for you, and the only way we can get answers is by actually having a conversation.

This is why we are asking citizens in Bollinger, Cape Girardeau, Perry, and northern Scott counties to participate in Community Conversations.

Area residents are invited to inform us of needs in their community and gaps in services that will guide volunteers on our Community Investment Committee.

These committee members review every application for funding and determine the next group of partners and programs we will invest in and the percentage of revenue each will receive. UWSEMO leaders and volunteers hope to gain valuable insight into how our network can be more effective in helping people throughout Southeast Missouri.

Select a Community Conversation to learn more about each event:

Although we are part of a global network, each United Way operates independently to support the specific needs of the communities assigned to them. An online survey is also being developed to provide more information, which will also be available in print following the Community Conversations. Information gathered in a 2019 community survey led United Way of Southeast Missouri to allocate more funding to programs focused on income stability, which became critical during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

As we begin our next funding cycle, it is critical to hear from our communities about their challenges and how United Way of Southeast Missouri can help. By investing in multiple organizations, our network is able to tackle big problems. Together we change lives and impact generations by collectively addressing what is causing the need.”

Organizations interested in applying for funding and individuals willing to help review applications are encouraged to subscribe to our monthly newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Instagram.


New Website – Take a Closer Look!

What pages on our NEW website will you want to visit first?

United Way of Southeast Missouri has a new website!

You may be saying to yourself, “A new website? Great! But what am I going to find useful?” Hopefully, by the end of reading this blog, you will have an answer!

Whether you are looking for volunteer opportunities, resources, free community events, or workplace engagement, we are here for you.

United Way of Southeast Missouri is extremely grateful to have the help of Austin Bollinger, owner of B&B Media, in creating the new website you see today. We hope to offer more opportunities for engagement with our network with the new features we have added!

Now, let’s talk about what you are most interested in – the landing pages you will want to visit first!

Funded Partners:

For those looking for resources or more information on where your donation goes.

Our Funded Partners are programs and organizations that eagerly join our fight for the health, education, and financial stability of everyone in our community.

Learn more about our focus areas:

You can find a full list of funded partners here:

Click any logo to view an organization’s website and learn more about the work they are doing in our community. If you would like to learn more about the specific programs we invest in, we encourage you to volunteer with our Community Investment Committee.

We are also excited about a new feature on our website that allows our funded partners to upload volunteer opportunities and free community events. Check back frequently for upcoming opportunities to serve and celebrate with our neighbors throughout Southeast Missouri.

Curious about where your donation goes? View our Impact Report.

Workplaces Partners:

For employees looking to engage their team in more community-centered events.

When it comes to engaging with your community, there is no better place to start than with United Way!

Check out these pages to learn more:


For those looking to make an individual donation.

We intend to make donating to United Way simple and accessible. It is 2021, after all! Find our new Donate page with the click of a button, no matter where you are on our website.

At UWSEMO, every donation counts. Thanks to our corporate investors, 98% of an individual’s donation goes directly to our partners. This means you can change a life.



For those looking to write a story about UWSEMO or one of our events.

From news releases, logos, contact information, and more, we have everything our media should need on one page here:

Well, there you have it. These are the pages we think you might want to check out first, but there is plenty more to explore and we will be adding more soon!

We will give you a hint… you will have free will!

Follow us on Facebook and Instagram and sign up for our newsletter to be the first to find out what else UWSEMO has in store for our community.


Look at How You Impacted Southeast Missouri!

Nearly 33,000 children, students, senior citizens and adults of all ages received help through United Way of Southeast Missouri during the organization’s 2017 campaign year of July 2017 through June 2018. According to Elizabeth Shelton, Executive Director, “We are preparing a comprehensive annual report, but as we begin our 2018 campaign we felt it was important to share early results with our donors and the rest of the community.”

United Way of Southeast Missouri (UWSEMO) fights for the health, education, and financial stability of everyone in Cape Girardeau, Jackson, Scott City, and Bollinger and Perry Counties. While the organization helps with emergency needs, their goal is to support programs that move individuals and families away from need toward independence and success in life.

Community volunteers that comprise the Community Investment Committee determine the programs UWSEMO will support and the percentage of funds each will receive. Annually, the group evaluates required outcomes from each program to ensure donor dollars are being used as intended. Recently, the group met to review outcomes from the 24 partner organizations that represent 30 programs and 6 Student Emergency Funds at public schools throughout United Way’s four-county footprint. Some of the results include:

  • 7,036 senior citizens remained healthier and in their own homes through support of older-adult programs from A.P.P.L.E, Hoover Center, Lutheran Family/Children Services, and the Jackson Senior Center
  • 288 students in Cape Girardeau and Scott City received literacy tutoring through Read to Succeed/Excel with most gaining a minimum of one reading level
  • 17,474 people were fed through Salvation Army’s Meals with Friends, Jackson Senior Center Meals on Wheels, and food pantries in Jackson, Scott City, and Bollinger County
  • More than 1500 individuals in the counties of Cape Girardeau, Bollinger, Scott and Perry received counseling from social workers helping to move them from poverty to financial stability.

Shelton explains that corporate sponsorships and a lean operating budget enable United Way of Southeast Missouri to invest $.99 of every $1.00 donated by individuals directly into the partners and programs working to change lives. Additionally, 99% of all funds collected remain in Southeast Missouri. The organization is required to send 1% to United Way Worldwide, which Shelton explains “provides global brand recognition, professional development, organizational training, and a peer network that is invaluable.”

United Way will submit a Request for Proposals (RFP) near the beginning of 2019 as the current three-year funding cycle will end next June. Organizations that desire funding and individuals interested in knowing more about United Way’s partners, programs, and results are encouraged to follow their social media and subscribe to the monthly newsletter via their website at to receive the most current information and updates.


How Did YOU Impact Southeast Missouri?

This year’s campaign theme ‘UNITED WE FIGHT, UNITED WE WIN,’ created a lot of fun at our 2018 Campaign Kickoff luncheon, especially with Darren Burgfeld as our ‘ring announcer.’
Thanks to our Kickoff sponsor, Home State Health, our corporate investors, our workplace and individual donors, our 24 partners, and numerous volunteers, we raised $3,000 for mini grants, premiered the moving video KFVS12 generously helps us with every year, closed with some exciting news about a one-of-a-kind event coming in May (details on that in next month’s issue) and shared some powerful data on the collective impact of the United Way network.
Each year our partner agencies and programs must provide an Outcomes report of how they invested United Way funds and the impact they made. Our Community Investment Committee of volunteers from the region reviews these Outcomes. This same group will review the requests for funding when we begin that process again in 2019 and determine which programs we will invest in that support our fight for health, education, and financial security for everyone in the four counties we serve for 2019-21.
Here are some of the impressive results from our 2017-18:
  • Collectively, the 24 partners and 30 programs that comprise the network of United Way of Southeast Missouri touched 32,964 lives: infants, children, students, working parents, senior citizens, and struggling individuals of all ages.
  • We helped 17,474 people in Cape Girardeau, Jackson, Scott City, and Bollinger County by supporting Meals with Friends at the Salvation Army and food pantries with the Jackson Ministerial Alliance, the Scott City Ministerial Alliance, and Little Whitewater Baptist Church.
  • Our support of APPLE, the Hoover Center, Lutheran Family & Children’s Services, and the Jackson Senior Center helped more than 7,000 senior citizens remain healthier and in their own homes. 
  • Our collaborative education initiative involving numerous partners, community organizations, and businesses helped to increase the graduation rate at Central High School from 68% to 88.9% in 9 years, impressively near our 10-year goal of 90% by 2019.
  • Emergency Student Funds in public schools in Cape, Jackson, Scott City, Scott County, Perryville, Woodland R-IV, even Southeast Missouri State University enabled students in need to stay in school when financial emergencies like eyeglasses, prescriptions, a winter coat or dental care could have kept them home or caused them to drop out altogether.
  • Generous volunteers tutored 288 students in Cape and Scott City through Read to Succeed, enabling 70% to gain a minimum of one reading level, some significantly more, and most importantly, moving some students from reading many grade levels behind to reading on level with their peers.
As you can see, it doesn’t take a village. It takes everyone who fights with United Way: businesses, schools, churches, community groups, funded partners, and you. For every person in our community to be healthy, educated, and financially secure, it takes everyone to LIVE UNITED.

Community Investment Update: Outcomes

I serve as a member of United Way’s Community Investment Committee, which is made up of people from area businesses and organizations who genuinely care about the community and the wonderful work United Way is doing.  This committee is unique because we only meet quarterly, yet our group plays a huge role in the way United Way works.

Many know that United Way vets funded partner agencies once every three years. It’s quite a big undertaking and always proves to be eye-opening. It’s an opportunity for members of the Community Investment Committee, United Way staff, and the Board of Directors to learn more about the specific programs applying for support.

Once applications for funding have been received and reviewed, a determination is made based on goals and projected outcomes of the particular program.  Outcomes are extremely important and are reviewed on a regular basis by the committee to determine if they are on target.  Recently, our committee worked to streamline the outcomes reporting process which we felt was a critical component to continue receiving accurate program data.

While to some it may seem like we’re requesting more detail, we have actually compared previous reporting surveys against common questions United Way stakeholders ask to ensure we capture all the information needed to share the network’s story. Some of the reporting we request from partner agencies includes:

  • Breaking down the number of families, adults, and children served by county,
  • Listing three program goals and their specific results,
  • Any changes they may have seen in the programming, including barriers, new partnerships, staffing, and more,
  • and feedback from agencies so that United Way can better serve their agencies.

United Way has been near and dear to my heart for many years.  As a former staff member serving as the campaign director, I was able to immerse myself in not only the fundraising process but also in the allocations process.  Many of the programs and services provided by the funded partners wouldn’t be possible without the funding they receive from United Way. 

The committee will begin the next funding process toward the end of this year. I invite you to join us as we review applications, visit programming sites, and determine where United Way dollars will next be invested. It’s a great learning opportunity and a unique way to be involved!

– Kim Voelker, Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce