By Cassandra Sprigg
Administrative Assistant, South Bend
For 30+ years, Holladay Properties’ South Bend office has been a strong supporter of the United Way of St. Joseph County (UWSJC). Each Fall, our staff kicks off its Holladay Lives United Campaign by touring a community agency and witnessing the impact the organization has had on their programs. While these tours have given us great insight into the agencies and their practices, our knowledge of the UWSJC itself, however, has been limited.
As we discovered during our 2016 Holladay Lives United Campaign Kickoff on September 7th, the UWSJC has recently redeveloped its vision of lifting people in our community out of poverty, by focusing especially on three areas of impact: Early Learning, Youth Success, and Stable Families.
UWSJC’s Early Learning initiative aims to ensure that children from ages 0-12 surpass key readiness and early grade reading benchmarks. Working with Impact Partners such as La Casa de Amistad and Camp Fire River Bend, UWSJC seeks to encourage a love of learning in a community in which 83% of low-income children are unable to read proficiently by the end of 3rd grade.
In continuing their emphasis on education, UWSJC’s Youth Success initiative focuses on instilling in older children the skills necessary to complete high school and pursue post-secondary education or advanced training. An alarming 7,000 students drop out of school every day, and 80% of first time drug abuse happens between ages 10-14. The funding that programs such as Five Star Life – an organization which focuses on “coaching” middle school students to achieve academic success – receives, helps them to create after-school tutoring programs that deter students from making poor choices, and encourages them to graduate high school.
Recognizing that many families, regardless of their educational background, struggle financially and emotionally due to unforeseen circumstances, UWSJC has created the Stable Families initiative. The goal of this initiative is to ensure that adults achieve long-term financial stability by developing the skills and opportunities to obtain and sustain employment. In support of this, UWSJC funds “Impact Partners” such as Bridges out of Poverty, an organization that teaches people how to better manage their finances, repair their credit, and handle non-work related problems (medical, emotional, etc) that could result in absenteeism and untimely job loss.
Not only has the United Way of St. Joseph County revitalized its mission, with the Early Learning, Youth Success and Stable Families initiatives, but the organization is also building a new framework which will allow collaborative teams of organizations to work together toward common goals. During the grant proposal process, should two impact partners seek funding for mutual intentions, they will be given the opportunity to join together, and use the funding to help each other in reducing poverty in the community. This new collaborative team effort has already proven itself successful with pairings such as Hope Ministries and the Center for the Homeless. It is UWSJC’s hope to have 40% of its funded programs delivered by collaborative teams instead of individual agencies by 2017.
With 40% of households in St. Joseph County struggling to afford the basic cost of living, it is extremely important that we understand and support the vision of our local United Way. The organization’s new focus on Early Learning, Youth Success, and Stable Families lays out a clear path for the struggling in our community to build their way out of poverty, no matter their stage of life. As United Way of St. Joseph County’s 2016 Company of the Year, it is an honor and a privilege for Holladay Properties to be a part of the organization’s mission: to defeat poverty in St. Joseph County!