When You Invest in Your Community, You Invest in Yourself

“Givers gain.”

That phrase was racing through my mind as I put on my “Live United” t-shirt, scanned the conference room and listened to the Rappahannock United Way staff explain the logistics of the sort-a-thon. I was surrounded by Fredericksburg, Virginia, residents, all of whom were eager to sort children’s books, divvy up school supplies and create “kits” to help kids prepare for the school year ahead.

Once a month, United Way Worldwide employees can spend a day volunteering. It’s an opportunity for us to extend our support beyond helping the network from afar—to join the “boots on the ground.” I chose to lace my boots and contribute to my local United Way’s school readiness efforts. Rappahannock United Way is doing great work in the education space. When I heard about their sort-a-thon, I decided to contribute. I expected to give my time, and what I got was far more valuable.

The conference room was a bibliophile’s dream. There must have been a hundred books on tabletops, with volunteers organizing each. Nick, a Marine from nearby Marine Corps Base Quantico, drove 30 minutes to participate, and he was enjoying every second of it.

“I heard about the event from a volunteer coordinator on base,” said Nick. “I’m big into reading, and I like to support anything that has to do with youth and literature.”

Once the books were sorted and labeled, they were handed over to a crew of kit creators. Bags were filled with miscellaneous school items—from markers to notebooks—and given one book each before being set aside. It was a well-oiled assembly line of goodwill. I manned the supplies line, doling out cardboard paper for future coloring. To my right, a woman was talking about inspiring her sons to volunteer. Another woman, Geetha, commented on early learning.

“The beginning part of a child’s education is the most important,” said Geetha, a former nutritionist for Head Start. “Each month they don’t get the right education, they’re set back two months.”

All in all, the sort-a-thon was a hit, with dozens of people coming together to create hundreds of kits and set underprivileged children up for success. Personally, I was given a valuable reminder: Anything is possible when you combine your heart with hard work. Volunteering doesn’t have to be complicated. It doesn’t have to be arduous, and you don’t need to be an expert. You just need to act.

One decision, one hour, one moment—you’ll get back tenfold what you give.

Supporting Moms with Postpartum Depression and Anxiety

According to the beautiful images on Instagram and Facebook, a plump new baby and a well-rested, smiling mother enjoying every minute of motherhood is the norm in the early days after giving birth.  But real life does not always play out like it does in curated posts and choreographed photos. Every new mother I know is familiar with the roller coaster that accompanies the first few weeks and months after welcoming a new baby. For many, the days just after giving birth are marked by restless nights in the hospital, an uncomfortable recovery from labor, the learning curve of how to care for a newborn – all while attempting to catch up on sleep.

For some mothers, that’s not where the stress and anxiety ends. Some new moms are grappling with their newborn’s health issues. Some mothers could be jobless, homeless or plagued with an addiction, while others deal with a partner who is deployed or not in the picture. Some new moms are teenagers and may have a minimal support system in place. With all of those factors in play, in addition to recalibrating post-pregnancy hormones, it is no wonder that many mothers feel overwhelmed.

The American Psychological Association says postpartum depression afflicts approximately one out of seven new mothers and can start anytime after giving birth, from a few weeks to a year. With almost four million births reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2016, that means over half a million new mothers are suffering from postpartum depression or anxiety in the U.S. alone. Symptoms and severity range from mood swings, to difficulty sleeping, to feeling overwhelmed to the more serious thoughts of hopelessness or self-harm. A full list of symptoms can be found here. What all new mothers and those around her need to know is that help and support is available to them.

United Way believes that children deserve a strong start in life and that having a healthy mother or caregiver is the first step in that direction. If you or someone you know is a new parent (mother or father) and experiencing any symptoms of postpartum depression or anxiety, reach out for help. Talk to your partner, doctor, pediatrician, other moms, friends or relatives about what you’re going through. You can also call 2-1-1 for immediate assistance.

This Mother’s Day, let’s ensure every mother gets the support and care she needs to be the strongest advocate she can for her new child.

#ThankaTeacher

Most of us can rattle off the names of each of our teachers from grade school through high school. And there’s good reason – teachers make a lasting, positive impression on countless young minds every day.

For many communities, teachers are a student’s mentor, friend and cheerleader. They often provide their class with necessary supplies, extra snacks and friendly encouragement. Without a doubt, teachers are an important part of raising healthy and educated children.

Recent research shows the average teacher spends almost $500 a year on classroom supplies, from decorations to tissues and pencils. Almost 20 percent of teachers report having a second job outside of the classroom. And, for most teachers, the average starting salary is just $38,617. Given all the challenges that our nation’s teachers face every day when educating the next generation, we’ve rounded up a list of ways you can thank a teacher in your community during Teacher Appreciation Week:

  1. Consider funding a local classroom project on DonorsChoose.org. The organization connects teachers in high-need communities with donors who want to help. Projects can range from distributing basic art supplies to iPads for the classroom.
  2. Connect with your child’s school PTA group and offer to collect supplies or funds for their classroom, or even offer to clean or help decorate their classroom. Every teacher appreciates when parents or caretakers can pitch in a few hours.
  3. Offer to cater lunch for teachers at a local school on a Friday. They’ll appreciate the break, and it’s a great way to get involved as a local business.
  4. Send a handwritten note of appreciation to your child’s teacher. A simple note can help brighten a teacher’s day.
  5. Consider nominating your child’s teacher for a local, state or national award. Many educational organizations have award programs, including the National Teacher’s Hall of Fame and the National Teacher of the Year Award.

Nest ‘Power Project’ Donating One Million Thermostats to Help U.S. Families Save Energy

The smart home is often touted as delivering conveniences like automation and remote control. One often overlooked aspect of installing a smart thermostat is power savings, with Nest launching a new Power Project initiative to help low-income Americans with their electric bills. Read more here .

Get Thrifty: 3 Ways Your Donations Could Change Lives

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are close to 41 million people currently living in poverty, many of whom would love to have your gently used items. So, in the spirit of spring cleaning, here are three ways you can make the most of your overlooked items. Read more here .

Essential Mindset Shifts for Collective Impact

Since the initial publication of “Collective Impact” in Stanford Social Innovation Review (Winter 2011), collective impact has gained tremendous momentum as a disciplined, cross-sector approach to solving social and environmental problems on a large scale. The idea of collective impact is not new—many collaborations pre-date the original article and embody the five conditions of collective impact1—but the original article created a framework and language that have resonated deeply with practitioners who were frustrated with existing approaches to change. Read more here .

Press Release: Five Companies Receive United Way Spirit of North Carolina Award

Five Companies Receive United Way Spirit of North Carolina Award : Reynolds American, Quality Oil, Hanes Brands, BBT and Texwipe recognized for commitment to community

Winston Salem,  NC – United Way Forsyth County announced today Reynolds American, Quality Oil, Hanes Brands, BBT and Texwipe have been awarded the Spirit of North Carolina Award . The Spirit of North Carolina Award recognizes business and other organizations that are leading their communities in embracing a united spirit of giving and volunteering that extends beyond the traditional United Way campaign season. The Award was presented by United Way of North Carolina at its Spirit of North Carolina Award Luncheon in Pinehurst on February 21.

 Winners have not only demonstrated excellence in their United Way campaign, but also a strong philanthropic culture and community engagement. All received high marks for overall organizational volunteer culture, including collaborative work with United Way as well as other organizations in the community; corporate and non-traditional or in-kind support they provide; employee engagement, participation, and recognition; use of special events to engage and educate employees; and the role their leadership plays in promoting a culture of philanthropy and community support.

 “The Spirit of North Carolina Award recognizes the collaborative partnerships United Way Forsyth County (UWFC) builds with its supporters,” said UWFC President and CEO Cindy Gordineer “We are honored to have these companies as a key partners in building a stronger community where every man, woman, and child has the opportunity to reach their full potential.”

 Winners were determined by a panel of 20 judges from United Way organizations across the state. For more information about the Spirit of North Carolina Award and a complete list of winners, visit unitedwaync.org/spirit-north-carolina-award-winners.

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 About the Spirit of North Carolina Award

The Spirit of North Carolina Award offers United Ways in NC communities an opportunity to honor organizations whose United Way campaigns exemplify the “spirit” of their community. Winners meet specific standards of achievement and are selected by a team of United Way leaders from across the state. United Way of North Carolina leads the award nomination and judging process and presents the award annually. For more information, contact Maureen McKeon, director of marketing and communications, at 919-834-5200 or mmckeon@unitedwaync.org.

 

Pictured l-r Dave B. Riser, Kelli Rush, Mamie Sutphin from Reynolds American

 

Four Ways You can Lift People Out of Poverty

Childhood malnutrition. Illiteracy. Low-wage career paths. These are just a few of the outcomes families face due to chronic unemployment or underemployment. Choosing between putting food on the table, purchasing medication or buying school supplies is a daily financial dilemma for many parents, one that is avoidable with the right support system in place. Read more here .

 

 

Press Release: United Way of Forsyth County Announces 2017 Campaign Goal

Winston-Salem, NC – November 7, 2017 United Way of Forsyth County Announces 2017 Campaign Goal

United Way Forsyth County has announced that the 2017 community campaign goal has been set at $15.5 million.

Last year, United Way Forsyth County raised $15.1 million in its annual campaign and funded over 60 programs through over forty agencies which provided much needed assistance for more than 78,000 Forsyth County residents.

President and CEO, Cindy Gordineer notes, “We hope that the entire community will be inspired to join the fight to address our most pressing issues. Through collaboration and partnerships, we have seen the high school graduation rate rise from 70.7% to 86.5% since 2007, veteran homelessness has ended and through funding from United Way, close to 60,000 Forsyth County residents were provided with food they otherwise couldn’t afford last year. However we know that to sustain true change, there are always new ways to work together, more resources needed and more to accomplish. United Way has a unique role in that we work to solve problems that no one organization can address alone.”

Campaign Chair, CEO Emeritus of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, Dr. John McConnell notes. “I am honored to serve as the 2017-2018 Campaign Chair. Since 1923, the Forsyth United Way has been serving individuals in our community and beyond. Because of the community’s involvement in the 2016 campaign we were able to decrease homelessness, improve preparedness for kindergarten, increase the high school graduation rate and help families become more financially secure. We know that as a community that when we unite in the fight, we all win.”

As of November 1, 2017, the campaign has raised 55% of its goal.

Press Release: United Way Forsyth County is Awarded Prestigious Whitney M. Young Award for Place Matters

On Saturday, October 21 at 7 pm, the Winston-Salem Urban League hosted the 2017 Whitney M. Young Gala. The event, sponsored by Food Lion, Reynolds American/British American Tobacco, AT&T and others recognized business and community pioneers in the Triad community and launched the Winston-Salem Urban League’s (WSUL) Advisory Board.

The 2017 Whitney M. Young Award was awarded to United Way Forsyth County’s Place Matters Program. The Program focuses on 13 neighborhoods in northeast Winston-Salem to impact Education, Financial Stability, Health and Basic Needs. In 2016, United Way of Forsyth County invested $2.7 Million in 22 programs focused on strengthening the Place Matters neighborhoods. These are innovative, collaborative initiatives that engage existing community assets, especially the residents themselves, to further enhance these neighborhoods and the lives of those who live there.

The Whitney M. Young award is the most prestigious given by Urban League Boards across the country.

United Way President and CEO, Cindy Gordineer notes, “We are extremely grateful and honored for this recognition. Through Place Matters, United Way is focused on improving how we work by developing solutions with residents and funding a number of innovative programs that are strengthening assets and improving lives.”

Chief Impact Officer Debbie Wilson notes, ” This is such a wonderful honor for a program that truly empowers residents to impact where they live and build better futures.”

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United Way of Forsyth County brings the community and its resources together to solve problems that no one organization can address alone.