“Between 25 and 30 percent of students that show up on their first day of Kindergarten are unprepared to learn,” explained Carrie Wetstein, Executive Director of United Way of Defiance County. “Through our education initiative, we host six education round tables a year with principals, educators and early childhood education experts in Defiance County to share, collaborate and pinpoint issues that need to be addressed.” During these conversations, it was discovered that Kindergartners in Defiance County were showing up for the first day of school not knowing how to hold a pencil, use a book, cut with scissors or interact with their peers. The collaboration and funding from United Way of Defiance County (UWDC) and the local schools, enabled educators to identify students that were in need of help during the Kindergarten screening, and invite them to a free week-long camp to help even the playing field before school started. The Women’s Giving Circle of Defiance County donated funds to cover the cost of the lunches, as well as prepared and delivered the lunches to the schools that week. Teachers and principals were thrilled with the results of the program. “It was a great week! I certainly hope that we can continue this in future years,” said Denise Wright, principal of Northeastern Local Schools.
This year, the United Way Campaign for 2014 -2015 has officially launched with a campaign focus of Taking Action and Changing Lives in Defiance County. “Kindergarten Camp is a perfect example of how donations and collaboration in our community can work together to address a current need right here, right now,” said Wetstein. UWDC is motivated to pull together resources to address underlying causes of community issues and find long-lasting solutions. Committing to short term charity for a few, UWDC believes in lasting solutions that build opportunity for all. UWDC is calling the Defiance County community to action through a donation or by volunteering to benefit the areas of education, income, health and essential services.
Dedicated to promoting income and adult education through financial stability and family sustaining employment, UWDC funds the Life Skills program at Raven’s Care and It Takes Two at Family Service of Northwest Ohio. BJ Horner, It Takes Two Coordinator, shared a story of hope through her counseling. A Defiance County father was motivated through her counseling to meet his 4 year old son whom he had never met. Guided through the importance of his role as a father, and a provider, his son and son’s mother moved back to Defiance and he is now a full custodial parent. Follow United Way of Defiance County on Facebook as they will be ending 2014 and welcoming 2015 with more stories of hope in the Defiance County community.
“Donating money isn’t the only way to help Defiance County,” said Savanna Weber, Marketing and Community Engagement Center Director. “United Way of Defiance County is on a mission to build a community of volunteers, and mobilize those volunteers to target community opportunities.” Through their lasting impact initiative, this year UWDC has launched the Community Engagement Center (CEC). UWDC will be hosting a Day of Caring on Friday, October 17th and will have many meaningful opportunities for companies and community members to volunteer. The volunteer needs will be posted to the CEC in the coming weeks. The CEC currently has 30 registered users and their goal is to have 200 by 2015. UWDC is encouraging community individuals and companies to click “volunteer” from www.unitedwaydefiance.org to join Day of Caring and learn how to take action, and change lives in Defiance County. “I see a lot of the same compassionate people in our community volunteering time after time. My goal is to cast a wider net and encourage more people to volunteer, even if it’s just once. It’s easy to justify why an hour a month or an hour a week isn’t compatible with busy schedules. I want to connect people with volunteer opportunities that are meaningful to them, because when you lend a hand in an area your passionate about, like mentoring a child in need of your friendship, that time is easier to find. I know that from personal experience,” said Weber.
Donations to United Way of Defiance County (UWDC) over the last few years have declined, but UWDC continues to host conversations with different groups in the community around education, transportation, food, and health and strategically find ways to make the biggest impact with the funding they receive. UWDC currently funds 22 programs with agency and community partners, 4 of which are managed internally. The UWDC campaign goal this year is to get 500 new donors to give a gift of any amount. “A donation of $5 can make a bigger difference than you can imagine,” says Wetstein. “$5 can get a patient to a chemotherapy appointment. $5 can provide a weekend of nutritious food for a child during the school year. $5 can provide 250 minutes of toll-free referral or crisis help from 2-1-1.” UWDC encourages new donors who can participate in a United Way of Defiance County company campaign to start by giving a $1 a paycheck. If interested in leading a campaign for a local company, please contact us at 419-782-3510. Through a company campaign, or individually, community supporters are able to donate to all of the UWDC impact areas, or designate to a specific UWDC program that resonates with personal connection here in Defiance County. All UWDC funded programs and campaign data updates will be listed on their website and Facebook.