Giving hope to our kids

With every new year there is often a feeling of new beginnings and renewed hope. Hopefully, this is true for most people, and especially our youths. A well-known quote from Helen Keller addresses the concept of hope very well: “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.”

One of the most precious and important assets in our community is our children. An important part of United Way of Greater Fort Dodge’s mission is to help our youths develop a sense of confidence, optimism and hope. We believe one benchmark of the quality of a community is the investment it makes in advancing the health and well-being of its youths.

Unfortunately, there are many children in our community who are struggling and their potential is going unrealized. Poverty and the social ills that accompany it conspire to rob many of them of the gift of a hopeful future. Many of our youths grow up in environments where their basic needs of food, safety, shelter and love are not met. This can build a seemingly insurmountable barrier for children to grow, develop and reach their full potential.

Recent statistics on the well-being of children indicate that 20 percent of youths in our community live at or close to the poverty level. For a family of four, this is $25,100 per year, according to the 2018 Federal Health and Human Services guidelines. Another 40 percent are in families that are at 200 percent of the poverty level or lower. Many of these children grow up in old, dilapidated homes where food is scarce, their family has no transportation, resources are limited, and depression and stress levels are very high.

As citizens who care, we have ability to impact the quality of children’s lives. That is why United Way is placing a high priority on helping these children succeed in school. United Way of Greater Fort Dodge works with our schools and supports organizations and agencies that assist vulnerable children by helping them address a wide range of needs that will ultimately help them succeed academically and grow up healthy. United Way support from our annual campaign is targeted at helping our youths reach their full potential so they can grow and develop into healthy, productive and successful citizens, employees and parents.

As a community, we need to be focused on these factors and on how we can work together to ensure that every child in our community has the opportunity to grow up healthy and happy and live a life of character and integrity. Significant components of our programs are focused on collaboration and sharing resources. United Way partners with local nonprofit agencies and our schools to provide funding, leadership and other resources to help our disadvantaged youths. United Way strives to reach underprivileged youths whenever and wherever we can. We are fortunate that our community has numerous agencies and organizations that do outstanding work to meet the needs of many disadvantaged youths and their families.

The United Way campaign plays a key role in helping children overcome the challenges of poverty they face. With the financial donations of generous and altruistic individuals and companies, United Way is able to partner with and support local human service agencies, as well as spearhead projects and programs to help remove barriers and provide a helping hand for so many disadvantaged children.

This year’s United Way campaign is winding down and yet we still have a way to go to reach our $450,000 goal. It is not too late to donate. If you haven’t supported the campaign this year, please consider doing so. Be it $50, $100, or $500, United Way donations are pooled and then granted back to our community to help touch the lives of children in impactful ways.

These donations can bring hope, help, meaning and joy to the lives of many underprivileged youths in our community. I am sure you will agree that children of each generation should have the opportunity for a future that offers them a sense of hope and optimism.

Citizens can contribute to the United Way campaign by sending their charitable donation to: United Way of Greater Fort Dodge, 24 N. Ninth St., Suite B, Fort Dodge, IA 50501. For more information about United Way and our campaign, please call our office at 573-3180.

Amy Bruno is program coordinator for the Fort Dodge Community Foundation and United Way.

Twelve ways that United Way helps low-income, disadvantaged children and their families

1. Helping homeless families find stable housing.

2. Giving children who previously were sleeping on cold, drafty floors, beds to sleep in.

3. Providing donated cars to single mothers with children so they have transportation for work and other family needs.

4. Connecting children, coping with depression, to quality mental health counselors.

5. Helping families with transportation assistance to Iowa City, Rochester or Des Moines so their very sick children can receive necessary medical care.

6. Supporting programs that help students catch up on the school credits so they will graduate and get their high school diploma.

7. Supporting United Way partner organizations that teach home management, budgeting and parenting skills to single-parent families to help them become more stable and self-sufficient.

8. Assisting families, with children, that are one bill payment away from becoming homeless.

9. Providing vouchers for families so that they can get adequate clothing for their children in partnership with Goodwill.

10. Partnering with the Fort Dodge Community Schools Bridges Mentoring Program to help recruit and train dedicated mentors for students who need a caring adult in their lives.

11. Providing prescription assistance to children whose families cannot afford their children’s prescription medication (due to high deductibles or because the medication must be paid for out of pocket).

12. Providing support and financial assistance to families in emergency or crisis situations who are in need food, shelter, clothing, transportation or safety.