The mission of United Way of Story County (UWSC) is to be a strategic leader in building countywide partnerships to identify needs and to develop, support and evaluate effective human services, especially in the areas of education, income and health, for our diverse community. We do this because every person in our community has a right to have a good quality of life.
We believe that when we are United together, we can find solutions that make long-lasting, positive change in the lives of these individuals and families, which is why our 2017 LIVE UNITED campaign theme is United Together. Finding Solutions, Changing Lives.
UWSC is leading several collaborations throughout the community that help to identify some of the most common areas of need in Story County. These collaborations focus on areas of grade level reading, hunger, transportation, and food pantries. We know that collaborating with other experts in the community helps us to better understand the dynamics of how one need can lead into another, and what we can do together to help set people up for long-term success.
As an example, if a family does not have reliable transportation, they will likely struggle to get to and from work every day, which will risk their ability to maintain their job. Without a job, they will struggle to feed their family, and without food, their children will likely struggle to concentrate and do well in school. If a child falls behind in school, they are less likely to graduate and move on to college.
It is a domino effect and if we do not address the community’s most basic needs of things like hunger and transportation, the cycle of poverty will continue for these children and their families. Out of these collaborations, programs and resources have been developed that are meeting the needs of struggling families and individuals within our community.
UWSC is the backbone organization for the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading through Ames Reads (which is becoming Story County Reads). The overall goal of the group is to ensure that all children in Story County read proficiently at grade level by third grade. Statistics show that third grade is a pivotal year and children who read proficiently at this age have a greater chance for overall academic success.
Recently, the Hunger Collaboration met with food pantries and realized there was a large need for fresh produce. This led The Salvation Army into a working relationship with Ames’ North Walmart to receive more meat, produce, and other perishable food three times a week. Not only have families been able to receive more food and healthier options, but it led to The Salvation Army partnering with Mid-Iowa Community Action (MICA), McCallsburg/Zearing, and Cambridge food pantries so they could also receive fresh produce.
In January 2015, three agencies from the Transportation Collaboration joined UWSC in working with Ames Ford Lincoln to launch a program that provides vehicles to qualifying families so they have transportation to and from work. The program, called Wheels for Work, has given away 20 vehicles to date. Individuals and businesses can donate a vehicle, Ames Ford Lincoln ensures it is reliable and ready to drive, and the agencies work together to review applicants to determine who will receive the vehicles based on their level of need and other qualifying factors. Donations to this effort helps cover the cost of any needed repairs to the vehicle before it is given to a family.
For families that may not qualify for this program, the Transportation Collaboration has created a brochure that lists all of the modes of transportation options in Story County. This resource is free and can be found at www.cyride.com/sct.
UWSC is in the position to bring community members together with partner agencies, subject matter experts, school districts, and other community groups to create lasting community change. Partnerships and collaborations are tools for group problem solving, decision making and action. By being United Together, they are effective, dynamic groups who get things done in the community.
Kim Mack is the marketing director for United Way Story County.