If you are like me, every morning you roll out of bed, sit at your kitchen table and have a warm cup of coffee. Maybe you move to your couch and turn on the television to catch up on the early morning news. These are things most of us take for granted. Yet, I have learned there are many in our community that don't have these advantages. In fact, there are kids in our community who get up every morning, but they didn't sleep on a bed because they don't have one. In fact, some don't have a kitchen table or a couch.
National statistics on poverty indicate that one out of every six children in our country do not get enough to eat. They go to bed hungry every night. In Fort Dodge, I am told we are not much different than the national average. Even if it is one out of eight children in our community who is hungry, that is still too much. Many of these kids are also dealing with other challenges that we just take for granted. We know many children in Fort Dodge sleep on the floor at night because they do not have a bed. Others go to school with no coat and only a T-shirt to wear. Some never get the opportunity to participate in youth sports or activities because their family doesn't have $25 to spare to pay the participation fee.
For all of us, life has its share of challenges. But for those of us with health insurance and the financial means to deal with life's ups and downs, we can manage these challenges effectively. But for kids in families that lack these means, life's challenges can be absolutely devastating. That is why our United Way campaign is focused on helping our kids.
This year's campaign theme is - Catch the Spirit. Because of the difficult economy, the need in our community is very high. We are hoping that more people this year will Catch the Spirit and support our community campaign. The struggles that many families are dealing with today are having a burdensome impact on their children. That is why our campaign funds are focused on helping kids and struggling families with children that need a helping hand for some of life's some most basic necessities. The list below identifies eight programs that United Way funds will be supporting.
Emergency - Crisis Fund to provide emergency financial assistance to families with children who are facing a financial crisis that may force them into homelessness. These funds are used to help families avoid becoming homeless. They also provide support for our local food pantries.
Kids Care Fund to help children in uninsured families gain access to health related services by providing financial support to cover co-pay costs and other costs for services for medical care, dental care, eye care, hearing and mental health services.
Wheels for Health Fund to provide support to uninsured, low-income families with a child that is coping with a serious health issue and needs to receive critical medical services through the Iowa Cares program. Funds are used to help cover travel costs to Iowa City.
Adolescent Mental Health Fund to support efforts to provide help to adolescents who are suffering from depression and need to get connected to appropriate counseling and mental health services.
Bridging the Gap Fund to support the Bridging the Gap program that provides families with children with donated used furniture, household items and clothing. This year's goal is to provide 100 kids with beds so they will no longer need to sleep on the floor.
Education Fund to support after school programs for youth. After school programs provide youth with safe, supervised enrichment programs including mentoring, homework assistance, crafts and recreation.
Positive Youth Support Fund to provide financial assistance to low income youths so they can participate in recreational and leadership, youth asset and character building programs.
Wheels for Work Fund to support costs associated with helping families without any transportation receive a donated vehicle that has been reconditioned so it is safe and operational.
There are many important causes that need charitable support these days. But, with so many causes, it is difficult to support them all. It always comes down to choices. So why is the United Way cause any different? Three reasons: first, funds stay right here in our community to meet local needs and help our fellow neighbors; secondly, these funds are focused on helping our youth thrive - not just survive; and third, funds are spread across a range of services provided by local agencies and schools therefore reaching a larger number of children.
One factor that defines the quality of a community is the degree to which its citizens ensure that all children have the opportunity to thrive. We all want Fort Dodge to be such a place; a place where citizens are engaged and willing come together for the common good to help people, particularly children, meet critical needs for some of life's most basic necessities.
This year, if you're approached in your workplace or by a campaign volunteer, or if you get a letter in the mail, I hope you will embrace the opportunity to support this year's community campaign. Be it $50 or $1,000, your support will be pooled with the contributions of hundreds of others to make a real difference in the lives of our youths.
If you want more information on how your can support this year's United Way campaign, please contact the Fort Dodge Community Foundation and United Way office at 73-3179 or stop in the office located in the Wells Fargo Bank Building, 822 Central Ave., Suite 405, in Fort Dodge.
Susan Ahlers Leman is the Community Campaign chairperson.