BE THE CHANGE: How United Way helps outThe annual United Way campaign is in full swing and Bekki Babineau, its coordinator, is encouraging the entire community to get involved.
By: Sarah Packingham, Budgeteer News
The annual United Way campaign is in full swing and Bekki Babineau, its coordinator, is encouraging the entire community to get involved.
“[Our] largest single fundraiser is the annual United Way campaign,” Babineau said. “Dollars raised in the campaign benefit over 50 local programs that help our friends, families and neighbors in need in our area.”
“The United Way campaign encompasses the entire community: manufacturing, small business, retail, professional, education and retirees,” she continued. “Firms and individuals participate together to improve our community.”
But the annual campaign is just one way the United Way interacts with the community.
“Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a strong network of support to meet the complex needs of individuals and families in our communities,” Babineau said. “United Way impacts people’s lives in a real and meaningful way by supporting the foundation of our community and working to achieve what one single agency cannot do alone.”
Programs and initiatives supported by the United Way include: United Way Volunteer Center, the Lake Superior Initiative, Smiles Across Minnesota, United Way Success by 6, Imagination Library, the Big Red Bookshelf and the Community Services Program.
Another service of the United Way’s, 2-1-1, provides callers with information and referrals to all types of community resources.
It is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. All a caller needs to do to connect is dial 2-1-1.
The United Way Volunteer Center helps connect volunteers with opportunities for volunteer work in the community.
“The Lake Superior Initiative is a three-year, federally funded program designed to increase the efficiency, effectiveness and capability of our region’s community organizations,” Babineau said. “This is a joint partnership with the Duluth Area Family YMCA.”
Smiles Across Minnesota is a program that helps to provide preventive dental services to children from low-income homes.
Some of the children are uninsured and others are under-insured.
Children between ages 3 and 12 in the city’s public elementary schools, middle schools and head start programs are eligible for this service.
The Success by 6 program supports children by getting them ready for success in school.
One of the most popular programs supported by the United Way is the Imagination Library.
It’s a free program that delivers one book a month to children younger than the age of 5. Better still, there are no eligibility requirements for this program.
The Big Red Bookshelf project literally puts red bookshelves full of books in various locations across the community, where children or families can read a book and even bring one home.
Finally, the Community Services Program is a partnership between the United Way and labor organizations that provides needed services to the community. These services are provided through one-on-one advocacy, specialized programs and other projects.
“United Way of Greater Duluth works in close partnership with businesses, government, schools and other leading nonprofit organizations to address community needs,” Babineau said. “Through program funding, local initiatives and community-wide collaboration, United Way works toward solutions that touch lives and change community conditions.
“United Way represents the collective power of people working toward long-term solutions, not short-term fixes. United Way is a valuable partner in making a difference in the community in which we all live and work.”
Although one of its more well-known events is the annual chili cook-off, the United Way puts together a number of events throughout the course of the year.
It hosts an annual community impact report and luncheon, an annual celebration luncheon, a bike swap, the Power of the Purse event and also the Day of Caring.
While the organization does so much positive work for the community, it is a demanding job day in and day out.
“The most challenging part about working for United Way is that so many people across our community are struggling to make ends meet, and the need continues to grow,” Babineau said.
Despite its trials, it’s equally rewarding for the employees. Babineau said she enjoys working with a team that shares her passion for community and hopes of a better future.
“United Way helps ensure that when children are prepared for school, and families have adequate resources to meet their needs, we all benefit,” she said. “... The most rewarding part about working at United Way is seeing real people who have had to utilize a program of [ours] to get back on their feet — and, through [us] enhancing their lives, they are now able to give back to the community and make a real different to others.”
Those who want to help United Way are encouraged to help financially or by giving time to volunteer.
The United Way’s slogan is “Live United,” and it is Babineau’s hope that all citizens will do so.
“‘Live United’ is a reminder that when we think outside ourselves, we have the power to facilitate change,” she said. “‘Live United’ is a call to action: To give. To advocate. To volunteer.
“Because united, we elevate. United, we persevere. United, we move beyond obstacles to better lives. United, we accomplish more than any single entity can alone. United, we change what we see in our world. United, we inspire hope and create opportunities for a better tomorrow.”
Learn more about the United Way of Greater Duluth at www.unitedwayduluth.org.
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