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Category: Impact

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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
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.
ImpactVolunteerism

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.”

Elizabeth Shelton, Executive Director, United Way of Southeast Missouri

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.

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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: https://unitedwayofsemo.org/our-impact/funded-partners/

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:

Donations:

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.

DONATE NOW

Media:

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: https://unitedwayofsemo.org/about-uwsemo/media/

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.

Impact

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 unitedwayofsemo.org to receive the most current information and updates.

Impact

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.
Impact

Read to Excel Needs Your Help!

Have you heard of Read to Excel?!  Optional headline: How’s this for a success story?

We know we’ve talked a lot about our new grant-funded literacy program this year, Read to Excel (R2X). And now we have some exciting data that prove the success of this program, designed to help students reading below grade level.

Many of our stakeholders had the opportunity to watch this video at our Community Celebration earlier this month. In short:

  • 61% of students in the program accomplished reading growth for the first year in just the first semester of R2X
  • 61% of students in the program scored above the national average of 13.5 for the first half of the year
  • 65% of students increased reading scores by one grade level.

Additionally, teachers stated reading confidence increased in their students, and they’re showing real excitement and enthusiasm for being a part of the program. Specifically, students enjoy the one-on-one time spent with the tutors.

Cape Girardeau Public Schools is an incredible community partner. They provided us with data called Lexile growth for the students at Franklin and Jefferson elementary schools and Cape Middle School. A Lexile measure is defined as “the numeric representation of an individual’s reading ability.”

Statistics indicate that students who are not reading at grade level by third grade are four times more likely to drop out before graduating high school. We knew it was critical to help the older students who were already a year, and in some cases, up to three years behind their peers in reading proficiency. We anticipated less impressive data for older students at the middle school; yet these students also made impressive gains. Their achievements for the first semester include:

  • 22%  of students in the program met or exceeded the Lexile Growth Goal for the year in the first semester
  • 51% of students in the program scored above the national Lexile Growth Goal of 44 for the first half of the year
  • 80% of students increased their Lexile Score.

The middle school program enhanced the school’s existing Tiger Book Club and is slightly different than our other reading programs for two reasons:

1) Students work in small groups of 4 or 5

2) These groups get to choose an age-appropriate novel to read together.

The majority of students in the program completed one full-length novel together, all while gaining confidence in their reading skills and becoming more comfortable reading aloud and with their peers. Because of the novels, students also were able to expand their vocabulary.

As with any new initiative, we faced some challenges, including student absences, minimal reading time, and school programming conflicts. These are all things we can work out as we continue to grow what is clearly a much needed and important program.

… but we need your help!

Our DeltaCorps grant that helped us launch this program has been eliminated. We are persistently exploring a wide variety of grants and other funding possibilities to keep this program going. United Way of Southeast Missouri stakeholders have time and time again demonstrated their dedication to ensuring our students are not only graduating, but are obtaining the skills they need to be successful in the workforce. Read to Excel is contributing to both causes.

If you are willing and able to donate a little, please consider doing so here. The option to designate your contribution to Read to Excel is the drop down box on the menu.

If you have ideas for obtaining significant funds, please contact Elizabeth Shelton via email, or by calling 573-334-9634. Our office is working diligently to ensure this programming continues to be available to our students.

On behalf of all the students in Read to Excel, the Live United team, and Cape Girardeau Public Schools staff, thank you for your dedication to our programs! Because of you, we are making a real difference in the lives of these children.  

Impact

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

Impact

Advice from Perryville One Year Later

On Wednesday the community of Perryville will mark the one-year anniversary of a tornado that destroyed 42 homes, impacted 105 families and, more importantly, took one life. As a member of the Long-Term Recovery Committee (LTRC), I’ve had an opportunity to learn a lot about Perryville in the last year, mostly confirming what I’d already heard. Unarguably, this is a proud, tight-knit community of caring people.

Following immediate help from hundreds of citizens, volunteers and agencies, one of the first actions taken by a funding organization was from the Perry County Community Foundation, which chose to provide $1,000 gift cards to every family to help with immediate needs. Several families refused theirs, offering their share to others who might need it more. Many families, even after learning they were under-insured, refused to seek help from Jennifer Streiler, the professional case manager who has performed with a praiseworthy blend of compassion and equity.

Others have sought help with a wide variety of needs as they go about rebuilding their homes and their lives. Based on the recommendation of the LTRC, funds from United Way donors have contributed to back-to-school clothing and supplies, land surveys, siding, appliances, furniture, ground fill, and workshops to aid in emotional and financial recovery.

Exactly one year to the day, we will co-host with Catholic Charities and The Salvation Army an anniversary dinner for the families. Quite likely, this will be the last time these people come together specifically because of this disastrous event that provided so many lessons. Hopefully, a long-lasting one for these families will be that they are not in this alone. There are many people who care about them, including strangers near and far who physically came to help, and donors to our phone-a-thon the week following the tornado who called from as far away as Texas, Colorado and New York.

Advice our ‘tornado families’ want to share with others includes:

  • Take photos of everything in your home and store them somewhere safe and/or in the cloud.
  • Back up everything!
  • Visit with your insurers regularly to confirm and understand your coverage—be sure it covers the purchase of new items, not just the reimbursement for the item’s current value.
  • Prepare and update an emergency kit with a record of prescriptions and credit cards, first aid supplies, cash, water and food, glasses and/or contact lens supplies, a phone charger, and anything else you can’t do without for a few days.
  • And, perhaps more meaningful than anything, “Tell those you love how important they are to you every day, because you may not get another chance.”
Impact

Progression & Changes: Get Updated!

Change is certainly a word that this current United Way team is familiar with! Personally, I view change as a good thing. It’s an opportunity to welcome fresh ideas and to promote growth both within and outside of our organization.

No worries! Team United is still banded together and now has a collective 5 years’ experience under our belts. However, in case you missed it, we’ve had the opportunity to add a part-time administrator to our team and she’s been great. Cyndy has been instrumental in helping maintain our campaign data over the last few months. She also helps us with general bookkeeping, ensuring the office is organized and stocked, and so much more.

In Elizabeth’s article you can read more about the change happening around the Perryville storm last year. The Long-Term Recovery Committee has invested over $210,000 so far to help families with rebuilding costs, general basic needs, and even back-to-school expenses. YOUR continued investment in our organization is always making a difference and changing lives throughout Southeast Missouri.

Our partner agencies have seen some internal changes as well, and we wanted to take this opportunity to share the good news! By now, many know that former United Way employee, Melissa Stickel, has taken over as the Executive Director of the Community Caring Council. She is doing an incredible job of promoting collaboration and educating our community about the great work happening over in their office.

The American Red Cross – Cape Girardeau also welcomed a new director just before the holidays. Julian Watkins comes from Southern Illinois University – Carbondale where he worked as a staff attorney and was responsible for providing legal representation for students. Prior to SIUC, Julian served as an Assistant State’s Attorney for Pulaski County, owned his own law practice, and was founder to BuzzFetch Marketing, LLC. Julian comes to the Red Cross with excitement and energy and looks forward to growing this organization in our community. 

Another new face joining the United Way family is Allen Treece. Allen just recently started his role as the new Executive Director at Boys and Girls Clubs of Southeast Missouri. Previously, he served as the Executive Director of the Oscar Cross Boys & Girls Club of Paducah where he helped create tremendous growth. Allen has a passion for serving youth and helping kids fulfill their true potential, and looks forward to spearheading the continued growth of our local clubs.

On the other hand, we’re also seeing two executive directors pass on their roles as they enter retirement. Al Stoverink with Habitat for Humanity retired from the organization back in December. Al did an incredible job aiding families as they worked to get into their forever homes. Linda Nash has also announced her retirement from Voices for Children (CASA). Linda leaves the organization after being instrumental in its growth and continued success.

We want to congratulate Al and Linda on their retirement and thank them for their dedication! They’ve both truly left a mark and taught us all so much about not only their respective organizations, but also about what it means to be a team player and make a difference in our community.

If you see any of our new faces out and about, please be sure to welcome them to the community! We’re excited to see what our new faces bring to Southeast Missouri and to work with them in the coming years.

United Way is dedicated to addressing needs in the communities we serve, and right now, transportation is at the top of our list. Our current transportation survey guides long-term solutions, while our Build-a-Bench campaign gives immediate relief.