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Category: Volunteerism

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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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.


Welcome Board Members!

The United Way of Southeast Missouri is proud to announce changes to its Board of Directors and the introduction of a new Advisory Council.

Recently, the board voted to reduce the size of the board, which at one time was up to 25 directors, and allow many to move to a newly created Advisory Council. The Council is made up of 30 members of the four counties served by United Way of Southeast Missouri: Cape Girardeau, Scott, Perry, and Bollinger. The Advisory Council includes area superintendents, mayors, chamber presidents, social service providers, nonprofit leaders, health facility representatives, as well as other community members who work in fields related to United Way’s key focus areas: health, education, and financial stability.

The Board of Directors meets monthly, while the Advisory Council will meet quarterly. Many board members who moved had been on the UWSEMO board for many years as ex officio members with no term of expiration. According to Elizabeth Shelton, Executive Director of United Way of Southeast Missouri, “This provides an opportunity for them to remain engaged with less of a time commitment. We still need their expertise and guidance, but some had been on the board for ten years with no term limit. It also makes for a more manageable board size.” Shelton added both groups of volunteers will be instrumental in assisting United Way with the development of a new strategic plan currently in process.


The Executive Committee for the United Way of Southeast Missouri is led by board president, Timothy Woodard, SEMO Market President for Commerce Bank. Tim has a Bachelor of Science in Finance from Illinois State University as well as a Master of Business Administration from Bradley University. Tim is a retired US Navy Supply Corps Lieutenant.

Tim has been involved with United Way since his first professional position with Commercial National Bank of Peoria. Through the years, Tim has served as a Loaned Executive, an Allocations Committee Member, a Team Captain, and a Board Member. Tim is active in the Cape Girardeau community and currently serves as board president for SADI (Southeast Alliance for Disability Independence) and the Treasurer and President Elect for the Dalhousie Homeowners Association, as well as being active in the Rotary Club of Cape Girardeau.

Vice President, Brandy McIntire, Account Executive at FOX 23 KBSI. Brandy graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in Mass Communication. She been active as a United Way Campaign Ambassador from 2013 until 2017. As a constant advocate for United Way, she volunteers in many ways, and has been helpful in finding sponsors. Brandy served as Campaign Chair in 2014. Brandy has been a member of the United Way Board of Directors for three years.

Treasurer, Jane Myers, Investor’s Club Development Representative, with The Bank of Missouri. A graduate of Barret Graduate School of Banking. She has been involved with the United Way for more than five years, volunteering on committees including the Finance committee. In addition to representing United Way as our Perryville Liaison, she has been an active board member for over five years.

Secretary, Dr. Quantella Anderson-Noto, Assistant Professor and Director of Hospitality Management in the Harrison College of Business, at Southeast Missouri State University. Dr. Anderson-Noto earned a Bachelor of Science degree in hotel, restaurant and tourism management from East Stroudsburg University, a master of tourism administration from The George Washington University School of Business and a doctorate in educational leadership and policy analysis from the University of Missouri – Columbia.  As an active member of our community, she serves on the board of directors with the Cape Girardeau Convention and Visitors Bureau, KRCU Public Radio, Cape Girardeau Chamber of Commerce Women’s Network.

New board members include Adrienne Henry and Adam Lorenz. Henry is the Real Estate Leasing & Development Manager for Drury Southwest, Inc. She has worked at Drury Southwest for 19 years after receiving her BS in Psychology from Southeast Missouri State University. She is the past treasurer and executive board member of the Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce and the current vice chairwoman of the Cape Girardeau Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Commission.

Lorenz is an area attorney and Founding Member of Lorenz & Lorenz, LLC.  He has been a member of the Missouri Bar for 16 years and a member of the Cape Girardeau County Bar Association for 5 years. In addition to providing advisory work for several local nonprofits, he sits on the Better Business Bureau Advisory Board and frequently lectures in the St. Louis area on real estate and land title issues.

Henry and Lorenz join remaining board members: Maureen Hodges, AT&T; Jack Geissinger, Plant Manager at Procter & Gamble; Phil Roop, Lead Pastor at Bethel Assembly of God; and Scott Meyer, City Manager for City of Cape Girardeau.


Changes Ahead: Strategic Planning & Advisory Council

When you know the answers, which are at the end of this article, it becomes quite obvious that we simply could not accomplish all that we do without valuable help. If you’re interested, now is the time to get involved as we begin a new fiscal year July 1 and kick off our next campaign August 23.
Some of the changes we are excited to report for the coming year include our new Executive Committee leading our board. These members are: Tim Woodard, President (Commerce Bank); Brandy McIntire, Vice President (KBSI/Fox23); Jane Myers, Treasurer (The Bank of Missouri), and Quantella Noto, Secretary (Southeast Missouri State University). These volunteers devote a minimum of 4 hours a month to our organization, and we are grateful for their leadership.
We also are forming an Advisory Council of area representatives from the four counties we support who are knowledgeable in each of our focus areas—Education, Income, and Health. We won’t list all 24 of them here, but they include education administrators, city leaders, members of partner agencies we support, and former board members. Information from this group will be instrumental in guiding our Strategic Plan, which is being revised this year. You, too, are a critical part of the process.
A key element of our Strategic Plan is to obtain feedback from our community and those we serve. When you receive a link to a survey in the next few months, please take the time to give us your opinion. We exist to serve Southeast Missouri; we must know the needs of our citizens and how you believe we should address them.
This campaign and fiscal year also ends our three-year funding cycle to our current partners. Although 2019 seems far away, all too soon we will send Requests for Proposals (RFPs) open to all agencies and services that support our mission. With the help of many volunteers, we will go through the meticulous process of reviewing and ranking applications. If you are interested in helping with this process, let me know. Please forward this to potential volunteers and organizations seeking funding, so they can become familiar now with the work we do, the work our strategic plan reveals we still need to do, and what we will be looking for when the time comes to identify future partners and programs.
As you can see, we have a lot of excitement occurring this year, and there will be more to come! Thanks for joining us in the fight to Live United!

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Give. Advocate. Volunteer.

“Fundraising is not transactional. People give because of a connection.”

As someone who has a strong distaste for numbers and nearly all things mathematical, I have a love for statistics. Sometimes it’s enough to say that volunteering can help engage potential donors, but it goes a long way when we can back that up with research and firm numbers.

Did you know that someone who engages with United Way as a volunteer is seven times more likely to give in the future?

This single fact alone says enough about how important it is to begin engaging with individuals through more of a hands-on approach. Millennials are proof of this. While the workplace campaign model continues to be United Way’s most effective giving opportunity, as more donors move into retirement giving plans their workplace contributions aren’t being replaced by the younger generation.

One of my personal goals moving into our next campaign is to provide more opportunities for our community to gain a deeper, more individualized connection to United Way. How?

First we’ll continue to promote United Days of Caring as an annual event. This year’s two-day experience will take place on Friday, April 27th and Saturday, April 28th. Volunteers will have the opportunity to choose which project they want to get involved with, whether it be installing smoke detectors with The American Red Cross, working with Habitat for Humanity, or helping paint new stripes on the Lutheran Family and Children’s Services’ parking lot.

So why are we having a community-wide volunteer event on a Friday and Saturday? Studies show that when businesses promote volunteerism to their employees, it creates a stronger bond between the employee and the business. Is your management team looking for a teambuilding exercise? Does your sales staff need a break from making cold calls? United Days of Caring might be the perfect opportunity to help them engage with United Way.

Bill Stanczykiewicz was a keynote speaker at a United Way conference I attended earlier this month. He said, “Fundraising is not transactional. People give because of a connection.” So I ask, what’s your connection to United Way? What do you want your next connection to be? Who else can you help make that connection to United Way and our community?

Be sure to stay tuned for more information on UDOC, as well as more corporate engagement opportunities as we roll into the 2018 Campaign. United Way is here to create lasting change in our community, and we want you and your team to be a part of all the fun we have doing just that.

P.S. – Yes, that’s truly how you spell Bill’s name, now try pronouncing it!


Volunteer with Read to Succeed!

There is nothing that compares to the look that comes over a child’s face when ‘the light bulb comes on.’ I have seen that look of pure joy in the face of a beginning reader when all of the sounds and letters he has been practicing finally come together and comprehension occurs. When a child realizes he or she is reading, the proud moment ranks up there with riding a bike on two wheels! This is a memorable moment for our students, which also brings a lot of joy to our Read to Succeed volunteers.

Read to Succeed and Read to Excel are literacy programs fostered by United Way of Southeast Missouri. Read to Succeed (R2S) has been serving students in kindergarten and 1st grade since it rolled out to all Cape Girardeau public elementary schools in 2012. Data indicate students who were involved in R2S when the program first launched have the highest reading proficiency of any K-6 cohort. All participants average a gain in reading proficiency of one and one-half years.

Read to Excel (R2X) is a new program funded through a DeltaCorps grant from the Delta Regional Authority. R2X serves 2nd, 3rd & 4th grade students at two elementary schools as well as 5th & 6th grade students at Central Middle School. R2X targets a select portion of students reading at roughly one grade level below their current grade to strengthen reading skills and bolster self-confidence. As with R2S, progress will be monitored throughout the program and measured by pre- and post-assessments.

As the R2S Program Manager, I am privileged to get to read with kiddos at all of the schools on a daily basis. There is no better feeling than to witness a child’s “ah-hah” moment. It gives you, as a volunteer, such a sense of pride and accomplishment. To be there to help celebrate with that child when they finally get it is like no other feeling. Knowing that you have helped a child further their reading skills, which in turn, will further their educational abilities, is so rewarding!

I highly encourage current volunteers to spread the word of the positive impact the program has, and I encourage those who have not yet worked with the program to volunteer today!

To learn more about volunteer times feel free to email Robin Koetting, Read to Succeed Program Manager, or contact our office at 573-334-9634.


4 United Ways You Can Volunteer!

Donating my time to organizations was a huge part of my time at Southeast Missouri State. In fact, over the course of four years I probably volunteered at more than half of United Way’s partner agencies! There’s always something going on with our funded partners, and we do our best to update you all with their volunteer opportunities every month in our newsletter.

While I love promoting our partner programs and the incredible work they do, I’ve recently realized we’ve been neglecting our own volunteer opportunities. Did you know United Way of Southeast Missouri has 4 different committees you can serve on? That’s right, 4 unique and hands-on opportunities for you to get involved.

The best part? We’re seeking new volunteers for these committees right now!

Do you have an eye for videography? Or perhaps you know the best way to get your ad to stand out in the paper? Well, our Marketing Committee is the place for you to be!  This group meets once a month to strategize and execute the campaign advertisement plans for the year. In addition to the big drive, the group focuses on our Giving Tuesday and Give from the Heart plans alongside the resource development committee.

If you aren’t tapped into your creative side and prefer to crunch numbers, then you may be interested in joining our Finance Committee. This crew typically meets once every quarter, with the occasional extra meeting or two during budget season. They’re responsible for mapping out our expenses for the year and ensuring we stay within, or even under, our budget.

Our Community Investment Committee is a huge part of our United Way family. This is the group responsible for keeping track of where our allocable dollars are going and that our funded partners are utilizing their investments in the way they were promised. Every three years this group puts in the extra work to vet agencies applying for United Way funding. If you’re passionate about the impact United Way is making in the community, this is the committee for you!

Of course, we couldn’t make the difference we do without our network of businesses and investors who fund our organization. The Resource Development Committee meets monthly to identify and pursue new accounts and stakeholders for the annual campaign. This group hits the ground running and is instrumental in helping the United Way staff meet our financial goals for the year.

As our fiscal year winds down and we begin to gear up for the next campaign, it’s the perfect time for you to get involved! If one of the opportunities above sounds like something you want to be a part of, contact Kristin in our office to learn more information and sign up! 


How are You Involved with United Days of Caring?

This Friday United Way of Southeast Missouri will kick off our annual community drive with United Days of Caring, a weekend of giving back to the community. Normally, United Way works behind the scenes, investing in organizations and programs that deliver help to families and create lasting change for generations. This year we want people to see United Way strengthening the communities we serve: Cape Girardeau, Jackson, Scott City, Perryville and Bollinger County.

Friday at 8:30 a.m., volunteers will meet at the new Capaha Park pavilion for a quick breakfast before heading out to a wide variety of projects in each community. On Friday and Saturday volunteers will build homes, strip floors, paint a sanctuary or senior nutrition center, stock a food pantry or clean up trash. Others will learn how to become a Read to Succeed volunteer and spend an hour a week in Cape’s elementary schools encouraging a new reader. Students in many area schools will write letters to first responders and senior citizens and practice random acts of kindness. Many area businesses are collecting food, hygiene products and socks, which can also be donated at kickoff and project sites. There is still plenty of time for an organization to register a project and for volunteers to register to participate via a link on our website:

To celebrate our weekend of giving, United Way will host a 9/11 ceremony at 2:00 at the Common Please Park and Gazebo on September 9th. All singers are invited to arrive at 1:00 to practice patriotic songs and a piece written just for United Days of Caring. After the brief ceremony, we hope families will stay for a Community Celebration with bounce houses, lawn games, a DJ and dancing.

This weekend and through the year when United Way comes to your workplace or a letter arrives in your mailbox, please remember the thousands of Southeast Missouri families we strengthen and accept our invitation to Give, Advocate, Volunteer. By partnering with organizations that support our fight for the health, education and financial stability of everyone, we look forward to United Days of Caring and a weekend of all neighbors coming together to Live Untied.


Putting the “Volunteer” in Give.Advocate.Volunteer

After a long winter, spring is finally here. Now is a perfect time to “spring” into action and make a real difference in the community. The gift of your time and talent is invaluable. By sharing your knowledge and skills, you can help ensure children succeed in school, families achieve financial stability and self-sufficiency, community members can maintain good health, and help is there when our most vulnerable neighbors need it most. In addition, volunteering helps you:

  • Build person and professional relationships
  • Develop new skills, gain work experience and enhance your resume
  • Contribute to a stronger future by share your knowledge and skills
  • Build self-esteem and confidence
  • Improve health and lower depression

Volunteers help impact lives in our community every day.  While their work too often goes unnoticed, they are an important part of the great work that organizations do. For some organizations, volunteers are the backbone support that enables them to provide their services. The Jackson Food Pantry, for example, is completely operated by dedicated volunteers from the community who recognize the importance of helping struggling families put food on their tables. CASA, aside from a small administration staff, rely exclusively on volunteers to advocate for the best interests of abuse and neglected children. In times of disasters, American Red Cross volunteers give hope to families who may have just lost everything.  

From one time activities to ongoing relational opportunities, there are so many ways to impact your community through volunteering. Find an issue you are passionate about and DO SOMETHNG! It’s never been easier to make a difference – both in your own life and the lives of others. Visit to get started today!