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FORT WAYNE (Oct. 25, 2007) – Many Allen County residents are qualifying for crucial social services but they aren’t receiving those services because there isn’t sufficient funding, United Way President and CEO Jerry Peterson said today.
“Giving is no longer about charity,” Peterson said. “Giving in this day and age is critical to the current well-being of the community and to the future economic stability of Allen County. In helping people overcome barriers to success, we ensure a thriving community that improves success in school, promotes family stability and meets basic needs.”
Through United Way, Allen County donors help thousands of individuals and families each year by providing funding for more than 70 services.
But the effort is not enough to meet all of the needs.
In 2007-2008, Peterson said, United Way of Allen County has projected it will take $7.5 million to meet the community’s most critical needs. The projection is based on services United Way of Allen County was unable to fund in 2006-2007, when the nonprofit organization raised $6.1 million.
United Way is again aiming for $6.1 million in the 2007-2008 fundraising campaign, and that will be especially challenging because $750,000 in donations last year were one-time gifts.
“The truth is,” Peterson said, “we would love to raise $7.5 million in this campaign, so that more of the community’s needs can be met. It is the latter – not the dollar figure – that we should concentrate on most. Meeting needs is the barometer for success in building a stronger community.”
The current United Way fundraising campaign began in late August and will run through mid- March.
Peterson said United Way funding has gone a long way toward providing critical services such as childcare and tutoring, family counseling and abuse prevention, and emergency shelter and medical services.
Still, many people are without services because of insufficient funding. This year:
This comes at a time when the needs in the community continue to grow:
Beyond raising money, United Way is working to meet needs by forging community collaborations, including an emerging three-pronged mission to close the reading achievement gap by the third grade through attention to early literacy, prenatal care and in-school tutoring.
The early literacy component is a priority of United Way’s Women’s Initiative, a growing group of 56 women who formed in 2006 to strengthen the community through leadership, fundraising and advocacy.
An achievement gap is an academic disparity among racial/ethnic and socio-economic groups. Across the board, low-income children score lower on ISTEP vocabulary tests than higherincome students in Allen County’s four school districts.
Using free or reduced lunches as an indicator of poverty, these figures illustrate the local vocabulary achievement gap:
“These gaps should not be construed as an indictment of our school systems,” Peterson said. “The table for learning is set between the ages of 0 and 5 – before children even get to school. In fact, the No. 1 predictor of 10th-grade reading is knowing the alphabet by age 5.
“This is not just a local issue. School districts nationwide are seeing this trend.”
The next step for United Way and the Women’s Initiative is to work with partners throughout the community to develop a detailed, strategic plan to close the achievement gap and present it to the United Way Board in early 2008.
“I am honored to be a part of the Women's Initiative,” said co-chair Kris Foate. “It's a powerful group of women who not only care about the community in which they live and work, but take action to make lasting improvements in the lives of those in our community least able to obtain help and resources. Our goal is to partner with existing programs and organizations to ensure that children receive the resources they need to enter school prepared to learn.
“Preparing the children in our community to succeed in school is critical for not only the future of our children but the success of our communities and our local economy."
Said co-chair Chris Rupp: “The efforts of this core group of women over the past year have established the foundation for the Women’s Initiative to move forward in a focused, positive direction. I am excited about the potential of this initiative and its members to ensure that all children in Allen County have the opportunity to succeed in school.”