Today should have been the first day of the fair. It’s hard to imagine a year without this staple in the community, yet here we are.
For some this may be a time of disappointment, for others, this is a time of innovation. In Steele County, when we want something, we figure out a way. Once again, the community has pulled together with creative solutions to meet some of the social connection aspects of what the fair represents to this community, with the Drive-In Fair Fest this week. What better way to keep people engaged, than with a taste of the fair!
Each year people anxiously await the fair; they count on it. Like the fair, many people in our community count on a network of human service organizations to provide a safety net of programs in times of crisis. In 2019 United Way of Steele County’s Partner Agencies served 15,279 individuals, nearly 40% of our Steele County population. This means that there is a high probability that every person reading this column knows someone that has needed to utilize services at some point last year. Because of the caring power of this community those services were available when they were needed most. Not all counties are so lucky.
For many nonprofits across the state, the onset of COVID-19 meant increased need for services, yet significantly decreased revenues due to cancelled events and fewer donations. While state and federal aid has helped some, those communities that were not as vibrant as Steele County, have suffered tremendously and in turn so have those individuals that were already in a vulnerable position. In my last column I emphasized that Steele County is Stronger Together. This is evidenced in the fact that despite the challenges brought on by this pandemic, we continue to serve, to mobilize, to collaborate. We are a community of connected individuals, all people, united and working together for the benefit of all. Together, we figure out a way.
United Way of Steele County fights for the health, education, and financial stability of every person in Steele County. We do this because we know that our community will only prosper and grow if all families are financially stable; that means getting to work now on the local conditions that block that stability. We have great partners in the community as is evident in the good work that is accomplished each day. Our businesses are open, everyone is doing their part to keep people safe by masking up, and our nonprofit agencies continue to serve those in need. It hasn’t been easy, and we still have a long way to go, but we are figuring it out.
As with most organizations we too at the United Way of Steele County are having to do things differently amidst this COVID-19 environment. This year, to share the great work of our Partner Agencies while keeping everyone safe, our Campaign Kick-off has gone Virtual! We are inviting the community to join us August 24-28th from 12:15- 12:45 for a week-long panel series of engaging community conversations. The sessions will cover the health, education, and income needs of our community with the experts working on the frontlines to serve our friends and neighbors. If you have questions around these topics, I encourage you to email me, so our panelists can address them during this event. You can register on our Facebook page or website. Come join the conversation!
Speaking of conversations, Reading Circles started up this past week across the county. We at United Way of Steele County are so very excited to partner with Better Together in this exploration into our unconscious biases. These powerful conversations are what will lead us toward a more equitable society. I encourage everyone that has not already signed up to consider doing so. “Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending” (Maria Robinson). Let’s figure out a way, together.
It is hard to believe that summer is nearly over, and school will be starting soon. I know that each of us have mixed feelings and there are a lot of uncertainties. There are many things out of our control, but what is within our control is how we respond to what lies ahead. Our school districts are working diligently to provide our students with the best education possible, while keeping them safe. We will be faced with many challenges this upcoming school year, but I am confident that if we continue to work together, identify the gaps, and develop solutions, we can figure out a way to make this work and not leave anyone behind. This is going to take each and everyone one of us working together. Join us in this journey and together, let’s figure out a way.
Annette Duncan is President of United Way of Steele County. She can be reached at 507-455-1180 or via email by firstname.lastname@example.org. Our website is www.unitedwaysteelecounty.org