Community Impact Blog - Archive

Building Community-Wide Collaboration Through Community Impact
by: Terry Coffelt, Community Volunteer
January 2013

In this month’s Community Impact blog, Terry Coffelt, Executive Vice President of Landmark Bank, explains why he is excited about building community-wide collaboration through Heart of Missouri United Way’s Community Impact work.  Having served as President of the HMUW Board of Directors from 2009-2011, Coffelt is the 2012 Jack Matthews Award recipient recognizing his outstanding leadership, dedication and vision for our community through United Way. Terry led our board through the search for a new director upon the retirement of long-time executive David Franta.  He then presided over an intensive strategic planning process that resulted in our transformational move to the Community Impact service model.  Terry has served as Community Campaign Chair, Board President, and most recently, as Community Impact – Income Advisory Council Chair.

I joined the United Way board in early 2007. During my tenure, the organization has moved toward the Community Impact strategy. This decision and process has been very thoughtful and deliberate. The process included a needs assessment, community outreach to hear and identify concerns, and formation of Advisory Councils. The Councils worked to identify community impact targets, evaluate proposals and make recommendations on how to accomplish the community targets.
The opportunities for our community as a result of this new direction are exciting. We have an opportunity to focus our resources on root causes, as we seek to address the wound as opposed to "put a band-aid" on it. I have heard community leadership from Cincinnati present information about their Strive Partnership and describe the success they have had. Strive is an endeavor much like our move to Community Impact. Their work and results are impressive. When I hear about their success, I think........why not us? Why not now?
The campaign for 2012 is complete. We raised over $3 million dollars to spend in a focused way to create a "community impact". But the thing that excites me about Community Impact is not the money we raise, or even the specific targets we identify. What excites me is that we are building a collaboration in our community. You see, our $3 million dollars, although a tidy sum, can't really move the needle by itself. It will take the focused targets PLUS engaging other community stakeholders to make a real difference.
Involving the Columbia Public School district, the faith-based community, community corporate citizens, the business community, City resources, University resources, grant opportunities, and others willing to support the targets is where the "real muscle" gets applied. When we harness the collective force, when we have a concerted and coordinated effort on specific targets, this is HOW we will make a difference. This is the exciting part.
Who among us isn't connected to one of the community groups noted above? You have an opportunity to support the community impact initiative, either by volunteering or financially. Please make the effort to do so. Our Executive Director, United Way staff and Board are working very hard to build the collaboration needed for success. Your assistance is encouraged and necessary!!


The World Has Changed
by: Tim Rich, Executive Director
November 2012

Much attention has been focused on the Heart of Missouri United Way (HMUW) this year and rightfully so. The world has changed. Our community has changed. The needs and numbers of those seeking our help have changed dramatically, especially since 2008. But, for more than 65 years, the Heart of Missouri United Way continued to operate the same way, year in and year out. Nothing changed.

The old ways provided critical and essential support services to those in need in Mid-Missouri for decades. But their needs are increasing exponentially and have eclipsed our resources and ability to keep up. In fact, despite our best intentioned efforts, coupled with the incredible generosity of community donors, nearly every indicator of human need and suffering has gotten worse every year until now: 23% poverty rate; 43% of public school children eligible for federal meals program; 7,000 people going hungry; 200 homeless; 150 high-school drop-outs annually; 18% of all children living in poverty; minorities dying three times faster than others of preventable diseases – all despite annual community investments of nearly $3 million in United Way and our partner agencies. Clearly, the old ways do not meet the new realities.

So, we paused, we looked, and we listened.

We looked at hard data and research provided by the MU Truman Institute on Public Policy. We looked at how our community ranked against national, state, and county indicators of human need and conditions. It doesn’t look good. We recruited and listened to more than 100 community experts in the fields of Education, Income, and Health. They gave more than 5,000 volunteer hours to assist us. We solicited input from more than 500 Mid-Missouri citizens about our community’s most pressing needs and what United Way should do about them. We listened to donors and potential donors who care deeply but want to see real change and a measurable return on their community investments.

Ultimately, the community spoke, and we listened.

What we heard was that in order to change our community conditions, we had to change ourselves, and we needed to change now. We heard that we should be less focused on agencies and more focused on strategies and solutions for community issues. We heard that we could no longer lead from behind our agency partners; we were expected to lead from the front. We heard we must invest in activities that create measurable life-long changes in the families we serve. We heard that we need to build true collaborations with any and all that share our goals and will work with us to accomplish them. We heard that we needed to focus - our attention; our volunteers; our agencies; and our dollars - for maximum impact. We heard we must produce real results and bear the responsibility of creating real lasting change.

We listened. We heard. We took action.

The first measurable results of our efforts came in our October 17, 2012 Board of Directors’ announcement of 2013 Community Impact funding. More than 50 local agencies proposed an initial 109 strategies requesting more than $6.2 million in support. Once vetted, our volunteers recommended $3.2 million be invested in 38 selected strategies and initiatives proposed by 26 Boone County organizations and HMUW:

  • 7 traditionally funded agencies failed to compete well enough to merit 2013 funding.
  • 3 currently funded senior services agencies did not apply for funding.
  • 8 out of 20 new agency applicants scored well and were selected for funding.
  • 14 traditional services and 24 new strategies were selected for funding.

The world has changed, and so have we.

Recognizing it is no longer enough to simply support people in poverty, our goal now is to change the world for those living in poverty - one family, one child, one life at a time – for the good of us all.  I hope you will generously join us in this new work.

~ Tim Rich, Executive Director

Visit our Community Impact tab for more details on our 2013 Community Impact Strategic Investments.


Community Impact: Bold, Courageous and Exactly What Is Needed In Our Community
by: Jane Williams & Pat McMurry, Co-founders, Love INC of Columbia

September 2012

This entry for the Community Impact blog has been submitted by Pat McMurry and Jane Williams, the Co-founders of Love INC of Columbia. The mission of Love INC (In the Name of Christ) of Columbia is “Mobilizing to help our neighbors.” They are one of 150 local affiliates of a 35-year-old national organization founded in 1977. They opened their doors in May 2008 in order to enable churches within our city to better network their resources, ministries, and talents to help those in need. To learn more about Love INC and the services they provide, visit their website

From the perspective of safety net volunteer service providers, we see the move to Community Impact as bold, courageous and exactly what is needed in our community.  We applaud HMUW’s willingness to move past tradition to seek a new way forward for our community and particularly those in poverty.  What are some of the things we love about Community Impact?  It recognizes that we can’t do everything and must prioritize limited funds.  It supports those who want to go deeper with fewer to see lasting change.  It is more concerned about outcomes and actually making a difference than generating high counts of numbers “served”.   It stimulates, even requires collaboration to maximize resources and avoid duplication.   The time spent on community surveys and research has demonstrated a true sincerity to best serve the donors and entire community by focusing on the most strategic areas.  Additionally, it recognizes and addresses a major shortcoming of traditional assistance, namely that assistance without development often cripples those supported, locks both supporter and supported in a non-sustainable paternalistic relationship, and can generate toxic entitlement.

Courageous move, United Way!  Bravo!


Community Impact: A Turning Point
by: Carolyn Micklem, Executive Director, Fun City

July 18, 2012

This entry for the Community Impact blog has been submitted by Carolyn Micklem, Executive Director of Fun City Youth Academy. Fun City provides culturally-enriched academic, artistic, recreational and social programming to youth ages 5-18. Now in its 40th year, Fun City provides mentoring and programs to improve the quality of life for central city children and their families through their historic Summer Academy in the summer and during the school-year through Saturday Academy. Programming is provided in a safe-structured setting for math and reading skills enhancement while building the self-esteem of young people who live within a two-mile radius and beyond historic Frederick Douglass High School.

When reading one of United Way’s Community Impact goals – increasing the number of our community’s youth who are ready to succeed in school & life – it is easy to dismiss it as wishful thinking.

And, of course, it is just that, a goal.  It highlights and intends to address the multiple factors that lead to the achievement gap between high and low income students that exists in Columbia, as it does all over the U.S.

To read the four areas of focus - Education, Health, Income, Safety Net Services – one has to think:  well, they’ve gotten that right.  The one area that is easiest to link with graduating from high school is education, as it is generally agreed that the way out of poverty is education.  But, as Dr. Chris Belcher has made clear, the school district cannot achieve that alone.  Low income children come from, no surprise, low income families and it doesn’t take an expert to know that low income families have a high incidence of health challenges, including stress and depression. Parents who are working at low wages or are unemployed have few resources to meet the need for transportation, child care, food, and shelter that all families face and they are especially vulnerable to the crises that arise from the lack of basic resources.

Latest research says that only 40% of people from low income families in the U.S. are able to become middle income wage earners, a significantly lower rate than in European countries.  It will take years for the graduation of all students in Columbia to become close to 100% and the United Way acknowledges that.  But it is challenging the community to support this effort financially and community agencies to address it, working collaboratively to address several areas of impact in the proposals they will be making for funding.

For a small agency that has been working for 40 years to be part of the solution to the achievement gap, Fun City can view the challenge from the United Way as comparable to the Chinese symbol for Crisis:  danger and opportunity.  The opportunity arises in identifying programs that are already in operation and that have shown that they are valued by parents.   Adults who attended Fun City as children are now contributing members of the community, some in very visible positions. The danger is in trying to undertake new programs or at least new efforts with limited resources on the one hand and in promising too much in terms of results in the short run on the other.

With all of that in mind, we are gratified to have this opportunity to join in this important effort, which we believe is very brave on the part of the United Way and very needed in this community, despite its enviable level of education, income, and cultural advantages. The shared goals and efforts of the United Way and the Columbia Public Schools are a powerful combination of determination and resources and Fun City is one among many community agencies who recognize what a turning point this can be for Columbia and its low income children and their families.

Let's Be the Change We Want to See in the Heart of Missouri
by: James Thomas, Ph.D.

May 1, 2012

As a practicing sociologist, when I first happened upon the Community Impact template laid forth by United Way, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Here was an organization with a mission to end poverty! And they actually had a method for doing this!

In my discipline, it’s quite commonplace for my colleagues to spend 90% of their time ‘documenting dystopia,’ and then 10% of the time pointing at all the other people around them to do something about it. For years, it has frustrated me. There are, of course, merits to this documenting of dystopia, including:  developing a working knowledge about our social settings; building a socio-historical framework for understanding how these inequalities came to be; and synthesizing existing lines of inquiry with old ones. However, at the end of the day, at-risk children and families are more than just a statistic. They are more than just a negative correlation. They are human. Their quality of life can, of course, be quantified, but their suffering requires action.

Community Impact’s agenda is frightening, challenging, and exciting all at the same time. If this were a poker game, then we would have to agree that United Way and its core of passionate, wonderful volunteers have gone “all in.” But unlike a poker game, where not only are the stakes high but the outcomes are uncertain, Community Impact does have some certainty. We know, without a doubt, that the old model of combatting poverty served as a Band-Aid, but did little to stop the bleeding over time. We know, without a doubt, that if we continue with the old model we will do nothing more than meet immediate needs and never really address the root causes of impoverishment. Finally, we know, without a doubt, that the Community Impact model works. It has worked in other communities, and it will work in Columbia and Boone County.

For example, as part of their Community Impact initiative the United Way of Greater Rochester (NY) implemented a tax-assistance and asset-building program in 2002, Creating Assets, Savings, and Hope (CASH). Strong partnerships with key community stakeholders coupled with an even stronger volunteer base has increased the overall financial stability of at-risk families significantly. In 2008, more than 8,000 households received $10.5 million in refunds and credits through C.A.S.H, an average of over $1300 per family. That is true Community Impact!

In 2000, the United Way of Greenville County, South Carolina assisted in the formation of the Community Health Alliance with other NPOs, small-businesses, and health care-professionals to reduce the number of medically underserved persons in Greenville County. With an efficient method of collaboration in place, and the commitment from staff and volunteers, more than 13,000 new patients have been served since 2001, with an estimate of $22-27 million saved in avoided hospital visits. In 1998, 20,000 residents of Greenville County reported access barriers to adequate health care. By 2003, that number had decreased to 16,000. That is true Community Impact!

I give these examples to demonstrate that while the terrain ahead will require careful navigation, it can be done. There are dozens of other examples like the ones mentioned above. Here in Columbia and Boone County, we are a community of scholars. We are a community of professionals. We are a community of caretakers, and we are most definitely a community of concerned citizens. It is time we embrace this collective identity, and be the change we want to see in the Heart of Missouri.

From Good to GREAT
by: Dr. Jim Spain

March 28, 2012

This week's Community Impact blog is written by Dr. Jim Spain. Dr. Spain has been on the faculty at Mizzou since 1990. He is a Professor of Animal Science and the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Programs and interim Vice Provost for eLearning. He served as regional chair and more recently campus tri- chair for the Mizzou United Way Campaign for three years, and is beginning his third year on the Heart of Missouri United Way Board of Directors.

Columbia has been recognized as one of the country’s best communities. But is it a great community? Would everyone in our community say that Columbia is a GREAT community? If we are honest, we can all find things we would improve. One recent discussion has focused on improving airline service through the Columbia Regional Airport. But how do we go from a good community, a REALLY good community to becoming a GREAT community? In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins describes how companies have achieved this transformation. Collins applied these same principles (bolded in the text below) to non-profit organizations. It seems plausible to apply the same principles to making Columbia a GREAT community. Indeed, it seems these same principles are being applied by the Heart of Missouri United Way as we transition to the Community Impact model of supporting community agencies.

The first principle – “Good is the enemy of Great” can certainly be applied. How often has this been applied to roads, trails, schools? It is only when we aspire to becoming great that we can make improvements! And we all want our families to live in a GREAT community. This “Good to Great” approach led Heart of Missouri United Way to adopt the Community Impact model. This model is focused on helping our community in central Missouri become GREAT!

To make the change to the Community Impact model, we required leadership that Collins calls Level 5. Executive Director Tim Rich exemplifies the qualities of a Level 5 leader – a humble leader who is concerned about the long term impact United Way can have. With committed leadership in place, it was essential to have “the right people on the bus.” A series of discussions involving community members from a broad cross section of Columbia allowed us to attract the right people with very diverse perspectives and who play many different roles in our community. This process of community discussions was essential to the community’s ability to “confront the Brutal Facts!” The discussions led to the realization that poverty, or more accurately, the cycle of poverty was the greatest challenge our community needs to address. The Brutal Facts are that 21.5% of all families in Boone County with related children under 5 years have income below the poverty level. The Brutal Facts are that more than 43% of students attending Columbia Public Schools qualify for free or reduced lunch. The Brutal Facts are that children living in poverty are less likely to leave poverty as they become adults.

Community Impact allows Heart of Missouri United Way to acknowledge the Brutal Facts. And the Board of Directors has determined the starting point is to address this challenge. The only real chance to change this aspect of our community is to FOCUS our resources and energy on this particular challenge – a barrier to our community’s ability to become a great community. Collin’s refers to this approach as the hedgehog concept. Organizations that achieve “great” have utilized this approach of focus, a focus of resources on a high priority.

So, the Community Impact model is built on an approach that has been demonstrated to lead organizations from good to GREAT. It can make a difference in the quality of our community by improving the quality of the lives of our most vulnerable citizens, our children. And as a boy, I experienced this firsthand through the programs of the Boys Club in my hometown in eastern N.C. For our community in the Heart of Missouri to make these kinds of commitments and to achieve this kind of change, we will need to be not only focused but also disciplined in implementing the Community Impact model. We will need to be totally focused on our pursuit of making our community a truly GREAT community by breaking the cycle of poverty, starting with our most vulnerable population – our children.


Put Your Mop Down!
by: Jennifer Bukowsky

March 12, 2012

This edition of the Community Impact blog is written by Jennifer Bukowsky, member of the Heart of Missouri United Way Board of Directors. She owns the Bukowsky Law Firm where she passionately fights to preserve the constitution and to protect individual liberty by fighting for the accused in criminal and traffic cases.  She and her husband Brant (a serial entrepreneur and co-Founder of Veteran’s United Home Loans) live in Columbia, Missouri with their two young sons.

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
    - Albert Einstein

You are alone in the house when drops of water land on your head.  The ceiling is wet.  You hear running water.  Quickly, you go upstairs to investigate.  You find that the bathroom sink is overflowing and that there is over an inch of water on the floor.  What do you do?  You’d probably do what any sane person would do in that situation- you’d turn off the faucet

The faucet of need is flooding our community.  We have more and more people in our community who cannot take care of themselves.  But we’ve been combatting the flood the wrong way- by focusing our time and efforts on the consequences of the flood instead of on the cause of the flood.  But if we are to prevail, we need more than big-hearted individuals wielding mops.  We need to collaborate with each other to turn off the faucet

We’d be insane to continue to mop without turning off the faucet.  But that’s what we’ve been doing.  Consider our approach to the flood with regard to two areas- combatting crime and educating children.

Combatting crime- Dependence breeds crime because those who cannot take care of themselves and who have little to lose are more likely to engage in risky (i.e., criminal) behavior.  But we need to combat the flood of crime with more than mops.  It is mind-boggling to consider the burden that the children who grow up to be criminals impose on the children who grow up to be taxpayers.  If we really want to be safe in the long term, we need to increase the number of children who grow up to be taxpayers and to decrease the flow of children who grow up to be criminals. 

But what have we been doing instead?  Trying to deal with those children once they’ve already grown up and committed crimes, by arresting those individuals for their crimes, and then processing them through our criminal justice system.   Often the consequences of being branded a criminal are so severe that the path to independence for that individual becomes all-the-more unattainable.  But if we had less children growing up to be criminals, we would have a whole lot less water for our criminal justice system to mop up, and with less criminals and more taxpayers, we’d have more money to spend as we saw fit too.  We cannot mop our way to public safety.  If we want to be safe, we need to turn off (or at least down) the faucet by empowering children to achieve independence.  
A child who enters adulthood without the ability and/or ambition to rise out of poverty will not be deterred by the consequences imposed by our criminal justice system as much as those who are empowered with the ability to be independent and who have a vision of a future that they intend to build for themselves that they do not want to risk losing.

Educating children- People who cannot take care of themselves are nonetheless having children that they can neither provide for nor prepare to grow into independent adults.  We try to help those children have a chance at a better future through education. So we take money from other people to pay teachers to make up for the parent who failed to provide for his/her own child.  Our teachers devote extra time and attention to those children.  And we spend even more of our scarce money and time on ensuring that those children are provided with basic necessities (breakfast, lunch, weekend meals, clothes, shoes, coats, backpacks, etc) at no cost to the child’s parent. 

In the end, we spend far less educating children of taxpayers than we do children of people the taxpayers are already supporting.  Now, I certainly do not want any child in my community to be without food or clothing, but dedicating scarce resources to have our schools provide basic necessities like food and clothing does not turn off the faucet.  In fact, it arguably increases the faucet’s flow by increasing the number of children born to people who depend on the schools to provide their children with basic necessities and decreasing the number of people who take care of themselves in that regard.  And further, the quality of education received by ALL students suffers.  When the education received by our children goes down, the future of our community goes with it.  And every minute and every dollar spent on providing basic necessities is one minute and one dollar less that we have to devote to enhancing the education of all children and thereby improving the future of our community.  If we want to have people in our community who are able to take care of themselves, we should endeavor to educate them in such a way that they are empowered and motivated to do just that- to take care of themselves. 

Why turn off the faucet?

We can evade reality, but we cannot evade the consequences of evading reality. 
    - Ayn Rand

If we don’t turn off the faucet, the flood of need will eventually overtake our community.  We can only provide public safety and education to the extent that there are people living in the community who have money to pay for those things.  If we don’t have people to tax, we won’t have money to keep mopping. But people with the ability to earn money to tax do not want to live in a dangerous community that is full of poorly educated people and bad schools.  And those with an entrepreneurial spirit who wish to start and grow businesses will not choose to do so in a dangerous place that does not have talented people to hire.    The survival of our community depends on making this community one where people want and choose to live.  If we manage to make this community one in which people want to live, we’ll all be happier, richer, and safer in the future.  But in order for our community to be one which people want to live (including ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren), we have to do something about the faucet.

Together, we can turn off the faucet.

At the Heart of Missouri United Way, we’ve realized the insanity of furiously mopping without turning off the faucet.  As a result, we’ve adopted the Community Impact Model.  With this model, we hope to collaborate with the community to turn off the faucet.  “Through Community Impact, we move beyond simply meeting the immediate needs of those we serve by mobilizing a comprehensive and collaborative community effort to change the conditions which create those ever increasing needs.”  Heart of Missouri Community Impact brochure (2012). 

But we cannot do it without you.  No one person is capable of ensuring our children grow up to be self-sufficient and that all the people in our community achieve independence.  To overcome this flood of need that our community is facing, we will need to devise and implement a solution through the ideas, talents, efforts, and generous contributions of many people throughout the community. 

Aren’t you tired of mopping?  What if we didn’t have to spend so much time and money on mopping?  If we spent that much time and money building instead of mopping, where could we be?  We could be living right here and enjoying the wonderful, safe, and prosperous community that we built for our children and ourselves. 

Let’s stop burdening our children and start building for them.  Please look up from the water that is on the floor and turn your attention to the flowing faucet.  And join us.  Because united together, we can turn off that faucet.  That’s the United Way.

--Jennifer Bukowsky, JD, CPA


Columbia's 'health gap' shows there is much work to be done
by: Dr. Jan Swaney

February 28, 2012

This week’s Community Impact Blog has been contributed by dedicated, tireless volunteer, Dr. Jan Swaney. She currently serves on the Heart of Missouri United Way Board of Directors and as Chair of the Community Impact Health Advisory Council. Dr. Swaney has over 25 years of experience in medicine as a medical school professor, primary care physician, and managed care executive.  Repeatedly recognized as one of our “Best Doctors,” she is a practicing internist, Fellow of the American College of Physicians, and Clinical Associate Professor of Internal Medicine at the University of Missouri-Columbia. She is co-founder and Chief Medical Officer of Longitude Health, Inc. a company that provides health and wellness solutions for employers.  In addition to designing innovative programs for companies across the United States, she has been funded by the NIH to do innovative research in web-based care management for diabetes.  Dr. Swaney completed medical school and residency training at the University of Oklahoma and received her MSPH from the University of Missouri.

The Health Advisory Council has spent the past eight months checking the vital signs of Boone County citizens to help guide Heart of Missouri United Way (HMUW) on how to best use its finite resources to maximize the health of those in need.

To do this, we reviewed available data from national, state and local resources; met with partner agencies; and listened to community stakeholders at HMUW’s community-wide “We Can Fix It” event.  We’ve learned that despite our community’s rightful pride in the fact that education, healthcare and insurance are its leading industries, the health experience of our citizens plays out much like the tale of two cities.  It’s ironic that in the year that marks the two hundredth anniversary of Charles Dickens’ birth, Boone County health indicators reveal very significant health-related disparities based on the availability of access to preventive and primary healthcare services. 

Our community is not alone, for there is a body of health policy research that shows health disparities are a pervasive problem in the US, largely due to poverty, though they fall roughly along racial lines.  You may not find it surprising that whites in Boone County are healthier than whites in Missouri, given the abundance of healthcare services in Columbia.*  But the data also show that African Americans fare far worse than whites in Boone County, and even worse than African Americans in the state on several important health-related indicators. 

Let’s take a glance at the health disparities in Boone County, by race:

  • Maternal child health:  African Americans have 2-3x higher rate than whites for of out-of-wedlock births, inadequate prenatal care, and infant low birth weight.
  • Emergency room visits:  when compared with whites, African Americans have a rate that is 5x higher or more for asthma and diabetes, and 1.5x higher for alcohol/drug abuse.
  • Age-adjusted mortality:  when compared with whites, African Americans are over 9x more likely to die from HIV/AIDS, over 5.5x more likely to die from homicide, over 4x for diabetes, and almost twice as likely to die from pneumonia/influenza.


And on these health indicators, African Americans in Boone County fare worse than do African Americans in the State of Missouri:

  • Out-of-wedlock births
  • Inadequate prenatal care
  • Age-adjusted deaths from diabetes, cancer, pneumonia/influenza


Now take a look at just one or two of those bullet points and ask yourself, what does this cost our community?  Think of the indirect costs of lost productivity on the part of the individual and his/her family, the direct costs of services that may not be reimbursed by insurance or government programs (and the cost-shifting that occurs as a consequence), and other intangible costs that erode our community’s demonstrable commitment to social justice.

Of course, the missed opportunity here is that Columbia boasts schools of medicine, nursing, allied health, public policy, health informatics and management, the Tiger Institute for Healthcare Innovation, a newly-accredited graduate program in public health, a training site in pharmacy and therapeutics, as well as robust graduate research and training programs fostering technology transfer in various aspects of biotechnology including nanomedicine.  Add to this, clinical facilities including two new orthopedics specialty hospitals, a state-of-the-art patient care tower recently opened at Boone Hospital Center, and one underway at University Hospital.  Finally, let’s not forget that city and county government, an array of nonprofit agencies, and many faith-based groups are actively engaged in improving the wellbeing of our citizens.

I list these resources to make it clear why I think Columbia and Boone County are uniquely positioned to tackle the problem collectively and creatively, to improve the quality of life for all. To a real extent, the health gap captured in these metrics mirrors the achievement gap that has generated a productive community dialogue around student readiness for success in Columbia Public Schools. 

It’s estimated that about 95% of health care dollars in the US are used for sick care rather than prevention, even though most of us would agree with Ben Franklin, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  What kind of prevention, specifically?  Here is the framework used in health:

  • 1° prevention – programs and services that prevent an important health condition from developing in the first place
  • 2° prevention – programs and services that detect a condition at an early (silent) stage, so that serious long-term consequences may be avoided
  • 3° prevention – treatment for a chronic condition that averts long-term disability and premature death

The Health Advisory Council has recommended that primary and secondary prevention programs, root solutions, are the wisest choice for HMUW funding and ought to begin in childhood to be most effective. Those programs that improve readiness to learn and reduce the likelihood of teen pregnancy, which forever changes the lives of both children, will have the highest likelihood of breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty and reduce health disparities.  To this end, we look forward to working with community stakeholders to narrow the health gap and make a lasting difference.

-- Jan Swaney, MD, MSPH



Community Impact:  For Help in Life's Critical Crossings
by: Scott Ward

February 21, 2012

This edition of the Community Impact Blog is written by committed community volunteer, Scott Ward. President-Elect of the Board of Directors and Chair of the Community Impact Committee, Scott has worked tirelessly to lead the Heart of Missouri United Way Board through the Community Impact process over the last year.

As we all know, life is a journey; and there are critical times in our lives when we have difficult crossings to make along that journey.  Sometimes you can make it on your own; but many times you need help from others, including family and friends. And sometimes you need something more.

Heart of Missouri United Way has a long history of providing critical financial support to human services agencies in mid-Missouri, all of which have provided valuable services to people in our community in need.  However, as we evaluate the impacts of all those funds distributed throughout the years, it is clear that, at best, we have been simply trying to rescue people from drowning in the river as they try to cross on their journey through critical times in their life.  And every day more people are trying to cross and getting swept down the river in the current.  It is not that we should stop rescuing these people, but we need to find solutions to help people cross these turbulent waters safely and then successfully continue their journey.  I see Community Impact as that effort to find better solutions.  It is a strategic change on how we approach the problems our community faces.  It looks to identify the root causes which prevent individuals and families from successfully making the critical crossing.  This path requires planning based on hard data derived from our community, development of a more focused set of goals designed to specifically address the root causes by providing critical assistance and guidance to people, and empowering them with the tools and skills necessary to find a safe way across the river on their journey.

With this critical life support and guidance, more folks will safely cross which will reduce the number that need rescuing. This, in turn, means we can devote less of our resources to rescuing people, and therefore, have more human, as well as financial, resources to lead more people safely across the river.  This will be the legacy of Community Impact and why I am committed to its implementation.


Community Impact to Effect Positive Change
by: Steven A. Smith

February 13, 2012

This edition of the Community Impact Blog is written by Steven A. Smith, Vice President, Business Development for First State Community Bank. Steve serves as the Treasurer for the Board of Directors for Heart of Missouri United Way, and is also a committed community volunteer.

The Heart of Missouri United Way has a long and proud history of raising and allocating funds in order to assist numerous needs of people in our area.  The reputation of the local United Way is very strong due to the commitment of dedicated staff, hordes of volunteers and an ever-growing number of donors.  The consistent growth of the annual campaign along with the evolution of tried and true methods of raising and allocating funding to affiliated agencies has given comfort to all involved that the dollars donated would be handled in a prudent manner and benefit those who have a proven need with the services provided by staff of agencies that passed muster under guidelines developed by the local United Way.  The bulk of these services were safety net types with ever-growing needs. 

Results were based primarily on numbers served.  Coordination with the City of Columbia as well as the Public Schools allowed for some levels of efficiency but the numbers in need grew ever larger due to the economic downturn causing many Government agencies to cut back support or not allow for growth anywhere near the pace of the increased need.

A few years ago, several facets came together that caused the local United Way Board to decide that Community Impact was the direction we needed to go in order to cause positive change in the area.  United Way Worldwide concluded Community Impact was a way to effect positive change rather than constantly addressing symptoms.  A change in leadership also caused reflection by the Board.  The prior leadership provided many positives, but the timing of the change, combined with the information provided by United Way Worldwide, as well as some very deep reflection by the Board, resulted in a full-blown commitment to Community Impact as the course to follow.

This determination has been positively received by most involved with United Way.  Even though there are many questions that will be answered as we proceed down this path, the idea of working to effect positive change while still addressing safety net issues is exciting.  As some answers become evident many more questions arise.  The fluidity necessary to this approach requires a great deal of change in mental approach for all involved.  There will be much less of “that’s how we’ve always done it.”  While we wish to maintain the pillars of strength from the past, change is required moving forward.  Goals have been set in each of the areas.  Collaboration will make for some strange bedfellows as compared to past relationships.  Efficiencies will be explored for allocation of all resources. 

Monitoring will need to be constant in order to determine what models are more effective while always being on the lookout for the next method that is better.  Donors will require new and different measurements as they decide where to offer support.  Staff has already shown great adaptability and more will be required as the changes are just beginning relative to what is to come.

As my term on the local United Way Board is drawing to a close, I am excited to see the enthusiasm, commitment, and dedication of thought, as well as deed, that is occurring by all that are touched by United Way.  With this level of resources and talent dedicated to the cause, I am confident that Community Impact will succeed in strengthening services in the area and provide the foundation for greater service in the future.

Respectfully submitted,

Steven A. Smith, Treasurer for the Board of Directors


Fix Columbia
by: Jason Becking

January 18, 2012

This edition of the Community Impact Blog is written by Jason Becking.  Jason serves as a member of the board of Directors for Heart of Missouri United Way.  He brings a wealth of knowledge from his business background and is a committed community volunteer who cares deeply about the issues we all face together.

Columbia is great, it doesn’t need fixing!  That was my first reaction, my internal pride and defense mechanism, the first few times I heard Community Impact discussed.  I came here for college in 1989, moved away for 2 years afterwards, but have otherwise been here ever since.  I love it, love all it offers my family, and basically love everything about it. I encourage people to move here and chastise those that move away.

Sure, at school, I notice more than a few kids who clearly could use a little more help than they’re seemingly receiving at home. Sure, over the years, it seems crime is becoming more noticeable. Sure, the economy is hitting us, but that’s true everywhere, right?  There are problems, but it’s isolated. Columbia doesn’t need fixing, right?

Then, the more I digest the statistics United Way presents… yikes.

  • 8.5% of the local population doesn’t have at least a high school diploma? I didn’t know that. In a previous job, I hired approximately 60 people a year. None of those 8.5% would have made it past my initial screening for our most entry level position. Yikes.
  • 12% of Boone County residents lacked money and resources to obtain enough food last year. I certainly didn’t know that. Yikes.
  • More than 43% of Columbia public school kids qualify for free or reduced lunch, an indicator of poverty. Yikes starts to not cover it for me anymore.

Add in some anecdotal evidence I did know, such as local cost of housing and child care making it extremely difficult on those sincerely trying to enter the workforce.  By now there are some things I’m starting to hate about Columbia. I still love it, but it’s clear to me that the potential for further decline is real.

However, I’m more than certain that we can fix Columbia.  Many, many, many volunteers from the community have been hard at work for months identifying specific goals that can reverse these trends. The new Heart of Missouri United Way funding model allows the Community to track progress toward those goals, enabling quick action and providing proof that a program is having an Impact (and, importantly, if something is not working).

Plain and simple, the first step to fixing our problems is to recognize and acknowledge them. I imagine that’s the foundation of any recovery plan, personal or otherwise.  I’m both thankful that the Community Impact process brought these many issues to my attention and irritated at myself for being blind to them.

But, I’m blind to them no more. And I’m confident that all of us, working together, can indeed fix Columbia. Together, we’ll Live United.

-- Jason Becking


Give Them Hope!
by: Tim Rich

January 9, 2012

For the second year in a row, a local donor couple asked Heart of Missouri United Way to accept a special anonymous "Christmas Gift" with the condition that it be used to provide "Christmas" to very poor children in a Columbia Public School.  It is a very personal gift with a very personal focus:  "Let the children know they are not alone in a cold, dark world. People do care about them.  Give them hope."

Growing up, Christmas time was always a deeply important season for me.  My parents were both raised in low-income homes. They sometimes struggled to put food on the table for me and my sisters when we were very young.  However, they worked hard, joined a faith community, built relationships with people of diverse backgrounds, and never forgot about those less fortunate than themselves.

As children, we were immersed in giving of ourselves to others - sometimes willingly, sometimes not.  Regardless of our personal motivations at that young age, we constantly saw the face of poverty, of struggle, of disability, of despair, and we learned to love those who were often called the "unlovable."  We became the face of hope to those who had little for which to be hopeful.  It was a powerful influence in our personal development.  It still is.

So, you can imagine my joy when these donors called and invited us to be their partners in making Christmas happen for some very poor children.  The first year's gift was $1,000.  We worked with the principal and teachers at Shepard Boulevard Elementary School where my lovely bride is employed.  The teachers identified children and families in need and then contacted the families to see what their children would like for Christmas. The donor's expected requests for all kinds of toys and presents.  We did, too.  But, that wasn't the first priority for these families.

"Could we get some bed sheets and a blanket?" asked one mother.  "She really needs a winter coat," said another of her daughter.  The first things on their list were items most of us take for granted and consider basic needs - a pillow case, sheets, blankets, comforters, shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste and brushes, winter coats, and maybe a pair of jeans and socks.  A pair of shoes would be awesome!  Most of those items were never on my Christmas list or under our tree when I was a kid.  The requests were quite sobering, humbling.

In 2010, through their generous gift, our special donors provided all of these items and some great toys and games for four families in need.  This Christmas, the donors increased their special gift to $5,000.  We used the same process to identify children and families in greatest need.  Their lists were very similar to last year's.  Yet the magic of the giving spirit expanded.  Volunteers came forward to shop for toys and deliver the packages direct to the children’s homes. The teachers volunteered to spend an evening wrapping the gifts and packaging them for delivery.  As I picked them up that night, one teacher burst into tears while hugging me saying, "Thank You for doing this!"  Another told my bride that this one expression of giving to others restored the spirit of Christmas for her.  Compassion flowed.

As we embark on this New Year, in the shadow of this past season of giving, a single desire burns within my heart.  It is that each of us would seek out and embrace people in need - that we would see the faces of poverty with eyes wide open.  Every time I do this, I am compelled to be and do more to give them a hand up.  I think you will, too! 

Will you join me in this quest?  I hope so.  In the meantime, Happy New Year!

-Tim Rich, Executive Director/CPO


The Seeds of Poverty
by: Dr. Chris Belcher

December 16, 2011

Our guest writer for this edition of our Community Impact blog is Dr. Chris Belcher, Superintendent of Columbia Public Schools.  We are blessed to have Dr. Belcher serve as a member of our Board of Directors and as a vital partner in our move to Community Impact.  Dr. Belcher understands and articulates well the reality that the academic achievement gap among public school children is largely a result of the conditions of children in poverty, and that poverty at its beginning is the result of academic underachievement.  The two are inseparable and the solution requires more than just changes in public education.  It is a community wide problem that requires a collaborative community wide solution.  He is doing his utmost to be part of the solution!

A child has no control over the condition of his or her birth and the quality of the home environment. Some receive the fortune of family and finance while others face limited resources, family dysfunction, or health concerns. It is an understatement to respond that “life isn’t fair.” The core of a compassionate community lies in its ability to not judge those in need, but to respond with resources that provide opportunity, hope and respect.

I am proud to be a member of the Heart of Missouri United Way board. The board’s active pursuit of the Community Impact model is a courageous move to better serve the community. Poverty is the manifestation of a complex set of variables. Like a seed, it often goes unnoticed until it germinates and even then it appears but a small weed. The weed will grow over time and can eventually consume a whole garden. Reclaiming the garden is a chore.

The seeds of poverty exist in various shapes. First, failure to graduate from high school is well documented as a precursor to poverty. A high school diploma is the ticket to college, technical training, military, or entry-level career options. This seed of poverty usually sprouts years before a student enters high school. It is first observed in the schools as poor school attendance, risk-taking behaviors, poor academic performance, and by other indicators. Of course, the best intervention is the earliest intervention. Heart of Missouri United Way funds many programs that support the needs of young children. These programs provide services that prepare these children for successful entry into kindergarten.

Secondly, a lack of access to mental health services can prevent adults from obtaining and maintaining a job and can create abusive situations for children. The statistics on substance abuse and untreated mental illness are staggering. This issue is overloading our legal system and putting children in harm’s way.

Finally, the last seed of poverty to discuss (although there are many more) is teenage parenting. Studies indicate that teen pregnancy is closely linked to a host of other critical social issues — poverty and income, overall child well-being, out-of-wedlock births, responsible fatherhood, health issues, education, child welfare, and other risky behaviors. There are also substantial public costs associated with adolescent childbearing. Consequently, teen pregnancy prevention should be viewed not only as a reproductive health issue, but as one that works to improve all of these issues.

In reality, it is impossible to separate the seeds. Poverty is often a combination of many factors. To judge those in poverty as weak in character or lacking ambition is short sighted and leads to social policies that eliminate opportunities. The people I know who live in poverty desperately want a way out. They want to work and to be good parents and to enjoy the fruits of our democracy. What they lack is an understanding or a plan to move out of the world they know. They often need an advocate who can take them by the hand and offer them wisdom, hope and support.

Many who have grown up in poverty are able to find a pathway out and become successful in work and in life. And, many others get lost on their way, perpetuating generational poverty. Research indicates that those who make it out can account for more than three significant adult mentors/heroes that provided support, motivation, guidance out of poverty. Those still in poverty could account for less than one such mentor.

Columbia is blessed to have the Heart of Missouri United Way and the many agencies, churches, and others that provide opportunities for people to serve as mentors and provide resources to those in need. The challenge is great, but the rewards are greater.

- Chris Belcher


by: Tina Ehrhardt

December 12, 2011

It is a great pleasure to introduce Tina Ehrhardt as our guest writer for this edition of our Community Impact blog.  Tina is a selfless and tireless volunteer with Heart of Missouri United Way.  She has served as chair of our Community Initiatives Committee, as a member of our Agency Relations and Executive Committees of the Board of Directors, and our Task Force on Community Impact.  She currently serves on our Board of Directors and Community Impact Committee.

Disruption. For Heart of Missouri United Way, 2011 has been a year of “disruption” as we transition into Community Impact. This disruption creates feelings of angst, excitement, resistance, fear and energy within the staff, our board, volunteers, and community members. It is disruptive because we are moving from an environment of “what we know” by funding programs and engaging volunteers and the community primarily through fundraising. Now, initiatives will include outcomes researched by dedicated volunteers addressing education, income, health, and safety net areas.  Fundraising will support these goals to positively change our community by changing the human condition through data driven outcomes. Imagine the health of our community if we increase high school graduation rates by 5%, or kindergarten readiness increases by 10% because we, collaboratively, were able to address these issues together and make the mid-Missouri area stronger. It is exciting and challenging! We are ready to embrace the challenge in collaborating with you, our community! I invite you to join us on this journey and thank all of you giving of your resources. I appreciate your putting your trust in us as we move forward in 2012 and begin this new adventure together. I wish to thank each and every one of our volunteers for their dedication to Heart of Missouri United Way and the mid-Missouri area. Together, we LIVE UNITED!


Overcoming Challenges, Change & Growth
by: Karla DeSpain

November 18, 2011

This week’s Community Impact blog entry is offered by Ms. Karla DeSpain.  Karla is a former Columbia Public Schools Board of Education member, Financial Officer for DeSpain Cayce Dermatology, Heart of Missouri United Way (HMUW) Board member, and chair of our Education Advisory Council.

Overcoming challenges, change, growth. These are pretty common themes in life. When I look at my volunteer activities, these themes characterize both what I hope to gain and what I hope to help cause for others. It’s rare that you see all three of these activities in an institution or organization. All three are the current mode of operation for Heart of Missouri United Way.

I’ve been involved with United Way for over 30 years, either as a donor or an active volunteer. I was very comfortable with the old model – raise money, allocate money, review agencies and programs. It seemed to work well and involve a lot of people in our community. Over the last several years, with needs far outstripping resources, it has become apparent that what was done in the past could no longer be effective. We were putting on Band-Aids when major surgery was needed, treating the symptoms and not the causes. Great work was being done but the same needs were seen over and over again.

Heart of Missouri United Way saw a need for change. The Community Impact model that has been adopted seeks to work on the causes of needs in our community through the four impact areas of education, income, health, and safety net services. Through dialogue with many in our community, United Way is looking at goals that will help alleviate needs in the impact areas. United Way is focused on creating partnerships to work in our community. The involvement of the Columbia community is crucial to finding the solutions that we need.

It’s exciting for me to think about things being done differently to create different outcomes. In most areas of our lives, it’s a lot easier to do things the way we have always done them. This can stifle growth and it’s the antithesis of change. It is through dynamic, thoughtful processes that we, as people or organizations, grow and change. It is through that growth and change that we are effective at overcoming challenges.

In this season of Thanksgiving, I am thankful for people and organizations that encourage growth and change in our community. It is that encouragement that can lead to blessings for us all.


Why Now? Why Us?
by: Tim Rich

October 13, 2011

Conventional wisdom says now is not the time to make drastic changes, not the time to rock the boat, not the time to try something new.  Instead, it says we should just hold on tight and hope we can weather the storm with only minor damage.  But I disagree.

I believe now is the time.  Now is the time for all of us to come together, to work together, for real change. 

The Heart of Missouri United Way has mobilized the Mid-Missouri community for more than 65 years, providing an easy and unified way for individual citizens and businesses to contribute time, talent, and financial aid to a myriad of great causes:  early childhood development, senior citizen services, homelessness, abuse and neglect services for children and families, individualized assistance and services for people with disabilities, and many more.  All of these are important to a strong and thriving community.  Many health and human service agencies rely heavily on United Way funding to keep their doors open.  Others use United Way funds to leverage state, federal and foundation funding maximizing the impact of our support.  Still others depend on United Way to fill gaps that other funders cannot.  We have served our agencies well.

On behalf of our donors, individuals and businesses, we engage the best and brightest minds in our community to oversee our (your) community investments.  These volunteers bring a wealth of experience and expertise in public health issues, financial management, program development, community relations, and volunteerism.  Annually they perform an intensive review of our funded partner agencies based on high standards of excellence.  Once the annual reviews are completed, these same volunteers wrestle with ever increasing needs and requests for additional funding.  Inevitably, the needs always seem to outpace available support making the process of recommending funding levels increasingly difficult.

Our donors enjoy the ability to contribute by payroll deduction at approximately 230 local employers.  This allows everyone to give a little each pay period to help people with diverse needs and crises.  Their generosity provides a strong safety net for those struggling in poverty.  Their compassion in action provides hope to tens of thousands of people each month who have literally reached the end of their rope.

But times have changed.  The needs have increased dramatically in the present economy - 40% of public school children live in poverty; 1,500 people are on the waiting list for public housing (a 2-year wait); 6,000+ people are unemployed; 7,000 will go hungry today - right here in Mid-Missouri.  Workforces have tightened and, in places, contracted.  People who have never experienced the need for assistance with food, clothing, transportation, health and other basic services find themselves in "situational poverty". And, it lasts longer than they expect.  For these neighbors of ours, hope dims quickly and despair sets in.

To make matters worse, public funding of health and human services has been cut dramatically.  Many of our funded partner agencies have had to scramble to make ends meet with fewer resources and many more needs, just like those they serve.  It is a tough environment.  We can no longer look to Washington, D.C. to fix these problems.  That well is dry.  We can no longer look to Jefferson City for support.  That well is dry, too.

Today, we must look to each other to solve the problems faced by our communities. We must find new ways of working together by sharing resources and building broad community-based collaborative efforts.  We must maximize every resource, talent, skill and expertise.  We must mobilize young and old, employed and unemployed, entrepreneur and line-worker, captains of business, community volunteers and public welfare recipients.  We must engage every sector of our community - government, business & industry, non-profits, faith communities, neighborhood associations - to build and implement our own solutions, to solve our own problems and strengthen the future for our entire community.  The truth is we all want the same thing:  a strong, safe, vibrant, thriving community that provides opportunities for all to achieve their maximum human potential.  I am often struck by the vast pool of untapped human potential and human capacity that exists within our community among the poorest of the poor.  We must unleash it!

That's why the time is now.  Heart of Missouri United Way is committed to changing the conditions in our community, and in individual lives, that create so many needs right here where we live.  It is no longer good enough to just give hope for another day.  We must come together and make hope real for the long-run.  We can't do it alone.  But, I am persuaded that together we can fix it!  Now is the time!

I hope you will join us in this fight for our future.  We need your heart, your mind, and your voice.  We know what the statistics tell us about the needs of our community.  But, what say you?  What creates such needs and, more importantly, how can we fix it.  How should we prioritize the needs of our community?  What should United Way be working on?  Please join us at Stephens College on October 25th, 6:30 - 8:30pm in Lela Raney Wood Hall and let your voice be heard.  We'll spend two hours in a community conversation about these issues with our volunteers and citizens.  What we hear will be put into action directing our new work in January 2012.  It's up to us!

~ Tim Rich, Executive Director/CPO, Heart of Missouri United Way


Where We Came From and Where We're Going
by: Tim Rich

October 3, 2011

It all began with a Priest, two Ministers, and a Rabbi….  Seriously, that’s how United Way was born. In the 1880’s there was a “Gold Rush” to Colorado and Denver felt its impact.  Tens of thousands of people packed up their families and everything they owned and travelled west with dreams of striking it rich in the mountains of Colorado.  Unfortunately, there were far more people looking for gold than there were that found it.  Instead, Denver found itself overrun with too many people and not nearly enough basic necessities to meet their needs.  Religious leaders and congregations did their best to provide food, clothing and shelter for those who had none.  They spawned charities to help meet the demand and quickly found fundraising efforts were stumbling over each other.  Together, two protestant ministers, a Roman Catholic priest, and the local rabbi founded the Charity Organizations Society in 1887 and conducted a unified fundraising campaign to support 22 local charities.  This first campaign raised nearly $22,000.  This model spread across the country rapidly.

In 1913, nine Cleveland, Ohio charities collaborated to develop a system for equitable allocation of campaign funds and the Community Chest was born.  Some of their names are still familiar:  YMCA, YWCA, Associated Charities, Public Health League, Boy Scouts, Colored Community Center, Salvation Army, Mercy Hospital, and the Hamilton Training School.

Fundraising federations continued to organize in cities throughout America to help agencies serving people in need.  In 1918, the executives of 12 of these federations met in Chicago and formed the American Association for Community Organizations, a “trade organization” which supported local Community Chests.  Nationally, the number of Community Chests grew from 39 in 1919 to 353 in 1929.  Little did they know how important they would become in responding to the market crash and ensuing Great Depression that lay ahead of them.  It was in that year that President Calvin Coolidge became the first U.S. President to give the “United Way."

During the 1930’s, these community funds were held up as A Bridge for Humanity to stop and overcome the suffering of so many throughout the nation.  In 1938, President Roosevelt made the first all-network radio broadcast asking the American people to support United Way campaigns throughout the land.  During the 1940’s, the AFL and CIO union leaders advocated that their employers allow union members to make gifts to charity through a payroll deduction.  This single move allowed every working man and woman to give a little and help a lot.

In 1946, the Columbia Community Chest reported they had raised nearly $26,000 to support local agencies.  In 1955, Columbia adopted the United Fund name and later the United Way name.

It’s A New Day At United Way!

This is truly an amazing time to be at Heart of Missouri United Way (HMUW).  For more than 65 years, HMUW has been the bridge between people who need help and those who can help.  Our old framework was built to provide a one-stop-shop for donors who care about our community and want to make a difference.  That model has served our community relatively well in the past.  But, the world has changed.

Today, our donors are more educated, more connected, more passionate, and more focused on finding ways to change the face of need in our community.  While we must meet the same basic needs experienced by those early gold-rush settlers in the 1800’s, today, we must also work together to develop solutions that reduce those needs.  We can no longer look to Washington D.C. or Jefferson City, MO to bring us solutions to poverty, educational achievement gaps, and unemployment.  Those wells are dry.  Today, it is up to us – right here in our own communities – to build efficient, collaborative efforts that engage all willing stakeholders in creating long-term solutions to reduce the needs.  That is Community Impact.   And, that’s what we’re up to.

Please stop by next week to hear about our progress and plans for implementation.  We hope you’ll join us on this journey.  GIVE.  ADVOCATE. VOLUNTEER.  LIVE UNITED!

-Tim Rich, Executive Director/CPO


What Do We Do Now?
by: Tim Rich

September 12, 2011

That was the question many of us were asking on September 12, 2001. The previous day’s events and overwhelming destruction, broadcast around the world in real time, left us with a flood of emotions – horror, grief, anger, disbelief, helplessness. But, as Americans always seem to, we rose to the needs of our neighbors. People from across the land poured themselves out to help others in need. The First Responders worked selflessly around the clock until they were overcome by sheer exhaustion. One man from Missouri packed a few things in his car and drove straight through to New York. A former military man, he packed his uniform and reported for duty. He felt irresistibly compelled to take action immediately once he saw the need.
In the days and months that followed, thousands of people across America volunteered to do whatever they could to help. Many of them went to New York to serve the First Responders through The Salvation Army and American Red Cross emergency canteens. Others donated food and water to serve the recovery effort. Missouri Task Force One sent some of Mid-Missouri’s finest to assist. That’s just what Americans do.

On May 22nd of this year, our own Missouri neighbors experienced unprecedented destruction from an EF5 tornado. It took a good 24 hours for pictures to emerge and this time it wasn’t television that alerted us to the destruction, it was Facebook and Twitter. Brent Beshore, United Way Board Member and Joplin native, set up the Joplin, Mo Tornado Recovery page within an hour of the storm’s impact. By Monday morning some 40,000 people were following the page. Within weeks that number would grow to more than 173,000 followers.

Once again, people responded as they saw the needs. Donations began to pour in totaling more than $1.7 million in less than 60 days. Boxes of baby supplies arrived in Columbia from across the country as people sprang into action. Truckloads of supplies were sent unannounced to Joplin and some 1,500 people showed up to volunteer on May 23rd without being asked. That is truly the American Spirit in action!

Here in Mid-Missouri we face challenges that are less obvious, less reported, and seemingly less real to those of us not directly affected. We all know the challenges of a tight economy, rising healthcare and grocery costs, increasing fuel costs and a tough job market. The truth is; nearly 40% of our public school children are eligible for the federal Free & Reduce Price Lunch program, an indicator of poverty; 1,500 people are on the waiting list for public housing; 6,000 people have lost their jobs; and nearly 7,000 people will go to bed hungry tonight right here where we live. While we all feel the pinch, people living in poverty spend their waking hours consumed with trying to find a job and a way to feed their families for one more day.

I believe we as people have a need to give, to help others, to become part of the solutions our communities need. At our core we want to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. We saw that vividly in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks ten years ago. We saw it again in real and tangible ways on May 23rd this year. We saw the extraordinary American Spirit spring into action in those days because the needs were so clear and so loud that our hearts compelled us to action.
At Heart of Missouri United Way we work to improve lives of people in need by mobilizing and coordinating the caring power of community resources in Mid-Missouri. To mobilize those resources we have to become the face and the voice of those who are struggling.

We must be the light of hope to those who despair about the future. We provide that light by providing basic needs assistance – food, clothing, shelter, healthcare, respite care and disaster relief services. To make hope real for those we serve we must also work with the entire community to determine the underlying conditions in our community which create these needs. Then we have to focus our efforts in collaboration with community stakeholders to change those conditions. If we will, together we can begin to build a new path out of poverty for those who want to take a different path.

That’s what we must do now. Now, what will you do?

“Americans make great and real sacrifices to the public welfare; and I have noticed a hundred instances in which they hardly ever failed to lend faithful support to one another.” – Alexis de Tocqueville