It’s official, summer is over, school has started and despite a global pandemic we continue to keep moving forward. For us this means advancing the common good. We do this by focusing on income, education, and health because we know these are the building blocks for a good quality of life. We recruit the people and organizations from across our community, who bring the passion, expertise, and resources needed to get things done. With fall comes our annual campaign and for many nonprofits in our community, the assurance that they will be able to continue in their mission.
Many of you participated in our first ever United Way of Steele County Virtual Campaign Kickoff a few weeks ago. I’ve said many times that necessity is the mother of invention and this year has proven just that. We are forced to relook at how we communicate and engage and sometimes that means accepting the fact that things could be better. Change doesn’t come easy and when things appear to be working its hard to convince ourselves that maybe we should try something different. So, thank you pandemic, you’ve forced all of us to step out of our comfort zone and learn how to connect again … and dare I say better? At least from the standpoint of being more intentional. If you missed our Virtual Campaign, check it out at qrgo.page.link/ekfKH
Our Steele County Report Cards hit your mailboxes a couple weeks ago and in them we shared the great work that was made possible because of the caring power of this community! Despite the challenges brought on by COVID-19 we continue to collaborate, innovate, and develop solutions. We keep moving forward because we know how many people would be without if we decided that it was just too hard to keep going. Over 15,000 people last year needed a hand up to get through a tough situation. We know the numbers are even higher this year. Together we must dig deeper and mobilize our resources so that every person has access to the services they need when they need them most.
Our business and community partners have already stepped up to the challenge, hosting workplace campaigns (many of which are virtual), giving individual gifts, and volunteering at awareness events. With just a few weeks into campaign, with a goal of $800,000, I am pleased to announce that we have already raised nearly $50,000 with 15 weeks to go! We’ve all had to do things differently this year, but as we are learning, different isn’t bad, it’s just an opportunity for better. We need to keep moving forward.
While our annual campaign is certainly the most visible time of year for the United Way of Steele County, rest assure that even unseen, we are working for you every day of the year to ensure that Steele County remains the strong and vibrant community you have come to count on. We know that COVID-19 caused havoc in our community, to our nonprofits. We have been collaborating, consulting, and providing resources where we could since the onset of this pandemic. Now we are pleased to announce that we have received funding from the MN Council of Foundations to assist even more with our COVID Relief Fund. 501c3 nonprofits providing human services in Steele County are encouraged to apply for our United Way of Steele County COVID Relief Funding through Friday. Applications are available online at www.unitedwaysteelecounty.org or by calling our office at 507-455-1180.
There will always be work to do, pandemic or not, so we continue to move forward, solidifying relationships and establishing strong partnerships within the community. Two such partnerships include Better Together and Steele County Safe and Drug Free Coalition. This summer many of us have had the opportunity to participate in a Community Reading Circle. Small groups of 5-10 people reading about and discussing race, white privilege, anti-racism, and related topics. People in different stages of their journey, coming together to better understand how we came to be where we are at and how we can move toward a more equitable and inclusive society. While these initial conversations may be nearing an end, the discussion is far from over. Better Together hosts a Community Reading Circle Summit this fall, bringing all participants in the initial Circles together to continue to learn. We must all keep moving forward if we are going to do better.
Steele County Safe and Drug Free Coalition is no stranger to this philosophy. With the CDC reporting more than 40% of U.S. adults facing at least one type of serious mental health challenge as a result of the pandemic and many more reports associating increased substance use in response, they know that they have to keep moving forward if they are going to help prevent our youth from entering this viscous cycle. Typically utilizing the school system as their means for reaching youth, Safe and Drug Free have had to adapt their prevention and outreach programs. Tasked with educating the community on the importance of awareness, connection, and conversation with young people in our lives, Safe and Drug Free strives each day to meet youth where they are at. This means getting creative, leveraging relationships within the community, and engaging our youth to find solutions to the complex challenges we are facing, specifically when it comes to mental health and substance abuse. The data is alarming; however, together, we can help our youth make different choices. I encourage you to get involved, help model healthy choices and show our youth just how much we care about them and their future.
We are a community of connected individuals, all people, united and working together for the benefit of all. Together, we must keep moving forward as we all have a stake in creating a healthy, prosperous community.
Annette Duncan is President of United Way of Steele County. She can be reached at 507-455-1180 or via email by email@example.com. Our website is www.unitedwaysteelecounty.org