It is not uncommon for people to ask, "Why should I give to the United Way Community Campaign? Can my donation actually make a difference?"
The answers lies in the understanding of how these funds are actually working in our community and why they are so important.
Giving to United Way may not be a "signature" charitable contribution that you may make because United Way contributions don't build new parks, buildings, or recreational facilities. Most of the time, it is hard to even see how United Way contributions are making a difference. That is usually the case when you are helping people. When a teenager receives counseling that prevents her from committing suicide, there is no Chamber of Commerce ribbon cutting, and there is no picture on the front page of The Messenger. Yet, the contribution supported a critical program that made a life-saving difference. There may not be any publicity, but contributions to United Way are focused on advancing the common good and fanfare or not, these contributions are truly making a difference in the lives of many in our community, one youth, one family at a time.
The latest research report on poverty and children, estimates that close to 25 percent of children in Fort Dodge and Webster County live in households that are "food insecure" at some point during the year; meaning that the children do not have access to food when they need it. Can you imagine a 7-year-old child in Fort Dodge being home alone and hungry because there is no food in the house. It is disturbing to know that we have elementary students going to school hungry and suffering through the morning until school lunch time. How can these youngsters be focused on learning when their tummies are hungry? This is not unusual in Fort Dodge today.
In Fort Dodge and Webster County, we have teenagers who are so distraught and discouraged they often contemplate suicide. We have youths who go to bed hungry at night, And, we have families that are one step away from being homeless because mom just got laid off from her job. In Fort Dodge and Webster County, there are over 30 agencies working everyday to provide services to fellow citizens, neighbors and friends that are struggling and in need of support. Many of our United Way partner agencies are providing life-changing services for the youth and families they serve.
So how does a contribution, be it $50 or $500 help? Can it really make a difference? Our objective is not to ask people to give more, but rather, ask more people to give. The beauty of the United Way approach to giving is in the pooling of funds. A hundred dollars here, $50 there may not have an impact. However, when a community comes together and 2,000 citizens contribute to the cause, now you have $400,000, and that can have a real impact.
This is why our campaign theme is, Together - we're better. This statement, even though it is only three words, really says it all. When citizens to come together with a common purpose and work for the common good, great things can happen. This is particularly true with our Community Campaign because hundreds of contributions can add up to real dollars that can be invested back into important community programs and services that touch the lives of our fellow citizens and our youths.
A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. The same can be said of a community. All of us want Fort Dodge and Webster County to be a strong and vital community with a culture that supports our youths, lifts up those in need and invests in the quality of life for everyone no matter their age or socioeconomic status. In a vital community, people of all generations work together to find the right balance between meeting individual needs and meeting the needs of the community as a whole. A vital community builds connections between individual strengths and community assets. Individual strengths include personal capacity, supportive relationships, engagement, productivity, physical health and wellness, and mental health. Community assets include options for affordable housing and access to services, nutritious food, health care, healthy recreation and quality of life.
Our United Way Community Campaign is focused on "community." Be it helping fellow citizens who may be struggling because they recently lost their job, supporting families facing an emergency or crisis, or helping our youths reach their full potential, the funds from the Community Campaign are allocated to programs and services that are reaching out and touching lives in very meaningful ways.
Our future success as a community depends on the degree to which we ensure that all children have the opportunity to thrive. To this end, our United Way Community Campaign is focused on supporting programs and services that help support the positive growth and development of our youths. Priority will be given to programs and services that are designed to help youth reach their full potential as students and as responsible future citizens. We will be working with our local schools to identify ways to assist youths who are struggling and need a little extra support to help them succeed academically. We will be partnering with local agencies to enhance access to counseling services for youths who need mental health services. And, we will be supporting organizations that are helping our youths develop positive character traits that will help them make good life choices.
As the Community Campaign unfolds over the next few weeks, you may be asked to support the campaign at your place of work or business, or at your home through the mail. This solicitation is different than most because 99 cents out of every dollar donated stays right here in Fort Dodge and Webster County helping local and area youth and families. If you are approached or receive a letter to support the campaign, I hope you will strongly consider the request. Remember, it is all about "community" and your donation be it $100 or $1,000 will be pooled with others to help us make a real impact in our community ... because - "together, we're better."
To make a contribution to this year's Community Campaign, checks should be made payable to the Fort Dodge Community Foundation and United Way and can be mailed to our office at 822 Central Avenue, Suite 405, Fort Dodge, IA 50501. A very easy and convenient way to give can be done online. Just go to our web site at www.fd-foundation.org and click on the "Donate Online" icon. Either way, your caring support can help make a real difference.
Randy Kuhlman is chief executive officer of the Fort Dodge Community Foundation and United Way. Scott McQueen chairs this year's Community Campaign.