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Category: 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.  


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.”

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.


A Community Living United

Do you know about The People’s Shelter, ABC Today and Tiger Lilies? Perhaps you are more familiar with The Salvation Army, Big Brothers Big Sisters and Central Middle School. The latter all have programs United Way of Southeast Missouri helps fund, and the first three are all worthy programs we do not invest in but support by connecting others. So much occurs behind the scenes in our community that many people who are not involved in the nonprofit world are unaware of the ongoing collaboration by so many worthwhile organizations.

Just in the last two weeks a meeting with a local business owner introduced me to a new program for female students at Central Middle School called Tiger Lilies. It was developed by the same counselor who helped launch the Honorable Young Men’s Club. Although we are very involved in the schools, I had not yet heard of this program, so of course, it was not on my meeting agenda. But just days later I was able to direct the women of Zonta, interested in providing mentoring to young women, to Tiger Lilies.

United Way staff members serve on Big Brothers Big Sisters’ ABC Today network, which is in every school in the Cape school district. Through our workplace campaigns and corporate sponsors, we are able to help them acquire partners and prizes to reward students, and they help us find desperately needed volunteers for our early literacy programs. They work with other mentoring programs we support, including the Boys and Girls Club, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, and the after-school program we sponsor at The Salvation Army, which helped start the Back to School fair for all area students.

The People’s Shelter is a grass roots effort started by St. James AME Church to provide emergency housing during the bitterly cold nights our region recently experienced. While the group successfully utilized social media to rally volunteers and request aid, I first learned of them through our association with the Cape Girardeau Ministerial Alliance. Although their contributions have not been as public, numerous churches in the area have quietly contributed significant funds and services. In the first 48 hours the shelter was operating, United Way utilized our network to acquire large electric stock pots from a local caterer and the ingredients to fill them with hot vegetable soup for several days. United Way donors assisted many other community volunteers and businesses to provide food, clothing, bedding, and even transportation. Now we are working together to prepare in advance of cold weather and establish a process for these organizations to work together in helping our homeless out of the cold.

We also are part of a Community Housing Committee tackling affordable housing for low-income families and individuals. Many of our partner agencies, including Habitat for Humanity, First Call for Help and the Community Caring Council, also are represented.

Housing has been discussed at length in the Long-Term Recovery Committee meetings I attend in Perryville. Our participation in this group, which directs funding for the families impacted by the 2017 tornado, has opened doors to businesses and individuals who can help us grow our presence and offerings in Perry County, while helping its citizens.

Another group I visit when my schedule allows brings together agencies focused on workforce development. This is a key component of strategic plans in many of the communities we serve and will be discussed as we begin revising ours.

We frequently hear people bemoaning “Death by meeting,” but for the most part, the many meetings I attend every week reinforce the strength and value of our network, even to those agencies that are not a funded part of it. These meetings demonstrate our mission every day: to be the leader in uniting people with resources to build a stronger and healthier community.


Thank You for an Incredible Year!

As we near the end of the year, it is fairly common to see businesses and individuals reflect on the last 12 months. For many, it’s the end of another fiscal year and an opportunity to look at the books as they set goals for the next calendar year. Others look back on their successes and celebrate them with those who helped make it all possible. Here at United Way of Southeast Missouri, we’ve decided to do the latter, partially because we’re only in the middle of our fiscal year…

Considering I’m involved in a large percentage of what goes on in this office, thinking about what specific successes I wanted to share with our United Way family was flooding. Of course, one of my favorite memories of 2017 was the annual kickoff event. I’m unbelievably proud of everyone who helped with this event, from the United Way team who helped with set-up to the partner agencies who gave their time to our donors. The marketing committee did an outstanding job supporting the promotion of the event and, of course, we have to thank Jay and Gunnar Knudtson for being wildly fun MC’s for the afternoon. Pulling together so many people and running a seamless event is never an easy task, but we did it and I think it demonstrates our commitment to partnerships and community.

It was also the first time, to my knowledge, that this organization began annual fundraising efforts with an actual fundraiser. I’ve played a part in numerous fundraising initiatives over the last few years and one thing seems to remain constant – change is a challenge that we all manage in our own unique way. However, our loyal donors were extremely receptive to the new event and together we were able to bring in additional funds for the campaign. This was also an opportunity to educate everyone on the continued need in our community and the donations taken in during our programming actually went to support three new initiatives our partner agencies proposed, meaning we were able to make an even bigger impact in Southeast Missouri.

Let’s also not forget the impact that was made when the community came together to support our neighbors affected by the February tornado in Perryville. United Way of Southeast Missouri was able to collect over $73,000 to invest into long-term recovery initiatives in that area. So far the funds have been used to help cover additional back-to-school expenses, assist households with foundation and rebuilding expenses, and lead community discussion through emotional and financial recovery workshops.

The last piece of the year that I believed to be unbelievably important to our success was the restructuring and rebuilding of our committees. After this team got through our first campaign together, we realized how helpful it would be to re-engage the volunteers on our committees. It’s safe to say we wouldn’t make it through budgeting without the help of our finance committee; the idea of managing the annual campaign without our ambassadors and marketing committee sounds ridiculously stressful; and our community investment group has been instrumental in refining the way we collect outcome information from our partners.

So what about the rest of the team? Donna mentioned that our move was her biggest success of the year, and I can’t say I blame her! If you haven’t seen the new digs you may not realize we lost over half of our square footage with this move. That meant downsizing years of files, decorations, supplies and more. Let’s not forget that we had to build a kitchen into our new office and try to organize everything while gearing up for campaign.

Even though we downsized our office, growth and consistency were two common themes throughout our year. If you’ve talked to Elizabeth recently, she’s probably expressed her excitement for not just another year with the same dedicated team, but the growth of the team as well! Cyndy came on board as our new administrative assistant and immediately helped get the office organized. Now she’s been instrumental in helping with data entry and other administrative duties, leaving more time for the full-time staff to focus on fundraising, marketing and impact.

Speaking of impact – the final two additions to #teamUNITED were Emily and Nancy, our Read to Excel site coordinators. Their program was another HUGE win for the community this year. Students in grades 2-6 at Jefferson and Franklin Elementary and at Cape Middle School have had the opportunity to get extra reading help through Read to Excel, an expansion of United Way’s Read to Succeed program. The data we’ve been shown proves the power of this volunteer-driven program and we were thrilled to receive a grant from the Delta Regional Authority to expand into the higher grade levels.

Of course, our funded partner agencies have had an incredible 2017 as well! United Way funding helped:

  • Boys and Girls Clubs of Southeast Missouri host two summer camp locations for 133 total members attending from the surrounding counties and launch a new after-school program in Scott City,
  • First Call for Help provide assistance with over 2,000 cases in Southeast Missouri,
  • Add another desperately needed case manager to the Community Caring Council team,
  •  Enable Scott County 4-H to start a new junior leaders program,
  • Big Brothers Big Sisters expand their ABCToday network that supports student progress in all Cape public schools,
  • Habitat for Humanity completed two homes, one for a single father and his children and also broke ground on a third, which will be the first ever all-women build in our community.

The list of successes could go on and on, but it’s important to remember that none of this would have been possible without the support of United Way donors and volunteers. We hope to continue being the organization you expect us to be and look forward to having another incredible year together! Thank you for all you do and continue to do with United Way of Southeast Missouri.


Partner Spotlight: APPLE Paperwork Services

When partner agencies report outcomes to the Community Investment Committee, they’re asked to share a story that our marketing committee can utilize as well. While every story shared tugs at the heartstrings, one stood out in particular to us this year.

 “Mary* lost her MO Rx Senior discount back in June, as did much of the senior low income population.  She needed assistance due to the high cost of the drug, Azilect, prescribed for her Parkinson’s disease. Mary feared that without assistance, she would no longer be financially stable due to the cost of the medicine. It was feared she would need assistance with paying her rent each month, in turn eventually making her unable to afford a place to stay. A.P.P.L.E. staff members found the manufacturer’s pharmacy assistance program and assisted her in filling out the application and gathering the information requested by the program. Recently, the program learned Mary was approved for assistance and no longer has to worry about adjusting her budget to pay full price for her needed medication.”

September is always a busy month for United Way and our partner agencies. Schools are finishing up the first quarter of the year, the holidays are fast approaching and campaign season is in full force. The popular Safe House Vintage Now Fundraiser is being planned, Scouting organizations have organized new troops, Read to Succeed volunteers have started working with local students, and Lutheran Family & Children’s Services have identified houses for their annual holiday home tour. Another organization that continues to have a busy fall is A.P.P.L.E. Paperwork Services, although it may not be something United Way donors and community members are aware of.

A.P.P.L.E. is a comprehensive paperwork service whose goal is to help older adults maintain independence and a good quality of life. They do so by providing seniors 60 and over with counseling, advocacy, education, and direct assistance with their paperwork needs.

Currently, A.P.P.L.E. is gearing up for Medicare drug plan open enrollment. This is an opportunity for individuals to look at their current drug plan and others available to determine what works best for their needs. Thanks to United Way donors, A.P.P.L.E. plans to host events throughout Southeast Missouri that are open to the public and provide assistance when looking at the various Medicare plans.

The following sites take walk-ins only. For the events please bring a list of prescription medications, the dosage and how many times a day it’s taken as well as your Medicare card.

  • October 19 at the Perryville Senior Center 4 N Spring St in Perryville 10am
  • October 24 at Hoover Center at Southeast Missouri State University 1pm(private)
  • October 25 at the Altenburg Senior Center 200 Church St in Altenburg 1030
  • October 26 at the Cape Senior Center 921 N Clark St, Cape Girardeau 10am
  • October 31 at the Jackson Senior Center 2690 Travelers Way, Jackson 1030am
  • November 7 at the Scott City Senior Center 105 W Hickory, Scott City 1030
  • November 8 at Jackson Senior Center 32690 Travelers Way, Jackson 1030
  • November 16 at Perryville Senior Center 4 N Spring St in Perryville 10am

In-office appointments can be made by contact the A.P.P.L.E. office at 573-651-5467.

*Names were changed for confidentiality purposes.


United Ways Respond to Hurricane Harvey

It’s no secret that the people in Southeast Missouri are generous and want to do all they can to support their community. Earlier this year, we came together to help our neighbors in Perryville affected by an early spring tornado. More than $70,000 was raised by our organization alone to help aid the families impacted. Months later, the community is still rallied together to ensure that those affected have the support they need as students go back to school, holidays approach and building projects begin. This generosity is the reason it came as no surprise to hear local businesses wanted to do their part to help those affected by Hurricane Harvey.

Thousands of individuals living in the Gulf Coast have been forced to leave their flooded homes. They’ve lost everything they own due to days of continued rain. Across the country we’ve seen communities spring into action to help fellow Americans in Texas and Louisiana. Recently, we’ve had a few Southeast Missouri groups contact us about what items they can collect and where donations can be sent.

Unfortunately, collecting and sending food, clothing and other household items can do more harm than good. Volunteers are working around the clock to ensure families are evacuated from flood waters and have access to shelter and food. It takes a lot of time and money to store, sort, clean and distribute donated items, which diverts limited time and resources away from helping those most affected. The best way to support disaster victims is with a financial donation.

United Way of Southeast Missouri, a local affiliate of United Way Worldwide, understands your desire to help and wants to do our part to support you. United Way Worldwide has launched a national United Way Harvey Relief Fund. According to United Way Worldwide (UWW):

  • The fund was established in response to individual and corporate donors who are looking for one, simplified place to impact the entire affected area.
  • 100% of all money raised will be distributed to the affected United Ways for community needs. No individual donations will go toward administration and overhead at UWW.
  • UWW is working directly with affected United Ways in Texas and Louisiana to distribute the funds in an equitable manner.

If you are interested in volunteering, The American Red Cross is currently recruiting and deploying volunteers. According to a release sent by the organization, The American Red Cross of Eastern Missouri has around 50 volunteers who are in Texas or on their way. At this time, they are focused on deploying registered and trained volunteers. The best way to get involved is to register and start your training so that you’re ready if/when the call comes.

The Red Cross is holding a training this Saturday in their Cape Girardeau office located at 2430 Myra Drive. The training will run from 10:30 am – 11:30 am. Those interested in volunteering may also visit

Hurricane Irma Update – 9/11/2017

From United Way Worldwide: “The U.S. Virgin Islands suffered catastrophic damage, mainly in St. Thomas and St. John. United Way of the U.S. Virgin Islands has set up a disaster fund and is currently accepting donations. The Turks & Caicos Islands also suffered massive damage. We will be assisting them on disaster recovery plans. Both Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic suffered building damage, flooding and power outages in certain parts of the islands. Fondo Unidos de Puerto Rico is supporting the Red Cross on recovery efforts, including providing their 2-1-1 service.

We also wanted to let you know that, similar to Harvey, United Way Worldwide is launching the United Way Irma Recovery Fund. Here are a few quick facts about the Fund:

  • This is a response to individual and corporate donors who are looking for one, simplified place to give and impact the entire affected area.
  • 100% of individual donations given to the United Way Irma Recovery Fund will be used for recovery efforts in the affected areas.
  • The money will be distributed to local United Ways in the affected areas of the Southeast United States, the US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and trusted partners in other affected areas of the Caribbean.
  • We are working with affected United Ways on distributing funds in an equitable manner.

To give to the Recovery efforts or find more information, please visit You can link to the donation form here. In order to keep it as simple as possible for donors, there is one give page, and they can select to support (1) Harvey, (2) Irma, or (3) the hurricane-affected region where it’s most needed. From there, you can find links to specific information about the United Way Harvey Recovery Fund and the United Way Irma Recovery Fund, with more details on each storm and the individual local United Way funds.”