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The United Way: Creating a Vibrant Community

United Way of Cass Clay

The United Way of Cass-Clay is focused on slowing the cycle of poverty.

In 2011, the board of trustees decided to refocuse the organization’s investment strategies to better serve this goal.

The focus shifted from basic needs like food and shelter to providing funding and support for programming focused on:
    Education - preparing children and youth for success in school and life.
    Income - promoting financial stability and independence.
    Health - empowering people to lead health lives.

United Way has been focusing specifically on early childhood education in recent years. They currently invest in five early childhood education programs that serve more than 4,000 children locally.

A few highlights of these programs include:
    Imagination Library, which has been sending children books in the mail for 10 years. The goal is to get children ages 0 to 5 interested in reading. In 2013, the United Way sent more than 106,000 books to 9,000 children.
    North Dakota Reading Corps works with children from pre-kindergarten to third grade to improve reading skills. The program works through tutors to ensure children entering third grade are at a normal reading level. This is critical as it marks the point where children stop learning to read and start reading to learn.

The investment of $266,200 in early childhood development by the United Way leverages more than $200 million in reduced dependence on public assistance, increased school readiness, higher lifetime earnings and reduced crime costs.

The organization sees this type of investment as a great preventative measure, helping to slow the cycle of poverty. All these strategic investments are just that — strategic.

United Way makes investment decisions based off world class research, one of the many advantages of being a member of a global organization. The research looks at not only immediate impacts of programs but long-term sustainable results that make a difference.

United Way sees the money raised not as charity but as an investment in economic development and the well-being of our entire region.

“Lessening the demand for basic needs will help create a vibrant community for everyone,” said President Sherri Thomsen. Thomsen also explained how the organization looks at the community as whole to make decisions on where to invest.

Recently, our community has heard a lot about workforce development and the need for skilled works. United Way is working with community partners to help resolve the issue by “changing the way we teach and not pushing everyone to a four-year degree without looking at their skills and interests,” Thomsen said.

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