United Way kicks off Week of Impact Sept. 16-20 to raise money for local organizations

BROOKINGS – The Brookings Area United Way is asking you to be the change you want to see. From now until the end of the year, United Way is raising money to help local organizations make a difference in the community.

It starts with the Week of Impact Sept. 16-20, said Heidi Gullickson, executive director of Brookings Area United Way.

“Our campaign theme is … being a local face of change,” she said.

It takes each and every person to keep the services going to those who need them, Gullickson said. 

And it takes each and every dollar they raise. 

“Our board decided to set a goal of $1 million with the emphasis that there’s much more need in the community than simply $1 million, so anything over a million dollars is our goal,” said Jameson Berreth, president-elect of the United Way’s board. 

The need only increases each year, they said.

Week of Impact

The United Way has three pillars to emphasize during the Week of Impact activities, Gullickson said: health, education and financial stability. 

Monday’s focus will be health.

A Red Cross blood drive is set for noon-6 p.m. Sept. 16 at the Brookings County Outdoor Adventure Center.

“We’re partnering with the Bobcat Backers,” Gullickson said.

If at least 30 people donate blood, the Red Cross will make a donation to a local booster club. For more information, call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or visit RedCrossBlood.org and enter “Brookings Booster Club” to schedule an appointment. 

Starting Monday and running through Thursday, Rotary Club members will be stationed in Hy-Vee’s lobby in the late afternoons and evenings to take donations of money and food “as a way to highlight and educate on the food insecurity that we have in our county,” Gullickson said.

The focus on Tuesday, Sept. 17, will be education.

The United Way is partnering with the Children’s Museum of South Dakota to host a book signing. Everyone is welcome. For questions, call Dana Livermont at 605-280-0710.

“The book is called ‘Porter the Hoarder,’” Gullickson said. It was written by Sean Covel and illustrated by Rebecca Swift.

The South Dakota Statewide Family Engagement Center will bring books to all the first-graders in Brookings County.

“The author and illustrator will do a short presentation in the schools for those first-graders,” Gullickson said.

Thursday is also focused on education.

“We are helping to co-host a grant-writing workshop along with the Brookings Economic Development Corporation,” Gullickson said. Sign-up is through the BEDC at bedc@brookingsedc.com. Sign up before Sept. 16 for the early bird rate of $25.

On Friday, Sept. 20, the focus is financial stability.

A poverty simulation will show people “what it’s like to live in poverty for a month and the choices you make and how they kind of affect the rest of your month,” Gullickson said.

United Way is working with South Dakota State University for the project, she added.

For more information, or to volunteer, call United Way at 692-4970, visit United Way’s website at brookingsunitedway.org or Facebook page, or the Volunteer Connections website on the Helpline Center’s page.

Good causes

The United Way distributes the money raised to its 40 funded partners, which have 56 different programs that United Way chooses to fund because it supports one of the health, education and financial stability pillars.

For instance, the Boys & Girls Club has six different programs funded by United Way; one focuses on health, the other five on education.

Inter-Lakes Community Action Partnership is another multi-program partner, with one focused on health, one on education and two on financial stability.

“Each one of these partners has a lot going on within it,” Gullickson said. “Our Dolly Parton Imagination Library Program would fall under school readiness, helping kids build their vocabulary so when they get to school, they are ready to learn.

“Another one that would fall under that school readiness would be the ICAP Head Start program. The Boys & Girls Club, their Early Childhood Program, the preschool program, we help to fund scholarships for that.

Health and emotional wellness are covered by the Red Cross, which aids in disaster relief, as well as the Brookings Empowerment Project, NAMI, and Brookings Behavioral Health and Wellness (formerly East Central Behavioral Health), the Helpline Center and Lutheran Social Services, she said.

“These are the types of programs that are helping people in our community, providing access to basic needs types of programs, all the way to independent and safe living situations,” Gullickson said.

Needs ever-changing

All of these partners have different needs that change from year to year. That’s why each nonprofit organization must apply annually for United Way funding.

Applications are due in December, and the United Way board will review them. How the funds are allocated will be determined with those pillars of health, education and financial stability in mind.

“The exact dollar amount that our agencies request isn’t known yet, but we know by past experiences and having those communications along the way, that the requests will come in over $1 million,” Gullickson said. 

United Way will allocate “where we see the greatest needs and (help) to fill those gaps,” she added.

Requested funding can change from year to year.

“Sometimes we have partners that don’t even request funding because they’re doing OK financially for that year … We had one group that said (they) got a large grant from someplace else (and didn’t need United Way funding),” Gullickson said.

“Which was nice that they didn’t just keep coming back and saying we need this money, so those dollars could be used elsewhere in the community,” Gullickson said.

“There’s always more need out there,” Berreth said.

That’s why it’s so important that they not only meet, but surpass the financial goal.

New programs spring up and established programs face rising costs to keep giving the same services they have in the past, they said.

Some programs need to raise money locally so they can get those dollars matched by federal funding, Gullickson said. If the local dollars fall short, so does the federal funding. 

“We’ve already seen sometimes what can happen, like in the situation with BATA (Brookings Area Transit Authority). If the funding isn’t there, then sometimes services have to be cut back,” Gullickson said. 

This creates problems for the future.

“As our community grows, things like BATA have a bigger pull on them because there’s more people to use it, just like a lot of our different programs,” Gullickson said.

It’s an advantage to the community to have the United Way and all these organizations working together, she added.

Educate and work together

Not only does the United Way raise money, but they try to educate the public on the programs, what they do and what would happen if those services were not in the community, Gullickson said. They also connect the various organizations with each other so they don’t overlap services or leave gaps where no services exist.

“Everybody working independently isn’t gonna be as effective as everybody working together,” she said.

“I think collaboration is a focal point of that. Having these organizations, not only aware, but working together with each other, they can help to address the needs in our community a lot more efficiently and a lot more effectively,” Gullickson said.

United Way also helps connect people with the organizations that match their interests and can use the volunteer help they provide to make the community better for all.

“Brookings is a very generous community and has helped to keep these programs in place,” Gullickson said.

COURTESY OF: The Brookings Register

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