The United Way of Southeastern Utah (UWSEU) has been serving Carbon, Emery, Grand and San Juan counties since 1981. The organization has changed and evolved over the years but one thing remains the same, "to improve lives by mobilizing the caring power of communities, creating lasting change for all." This is the United Way's mission globally.
Yes, globally the United Way International, whose purpose worldwide is to mobilize local leaders and their communities in order to identify and address local human needs, distributed more than $30 million through 900+ grants benefiting local communities in 85 countries and territories in 2007. Here in the United States, over $4 billion dollars in contributions were dispersed into communities by 1,300 local United Way programs in 2006. This is a long way from United Way's humble beginnings.
The concept of United Way originated in Denver, Colo. in 1887 when four Clergymen - Rev. Myron W. Reed, Msgr. William J. O'Ryan, Dean H. Martyn Hart, Rabbi William S. Friedman, and one public-spirited woman - Frances Wisebart Jacobs formed the first joint appeal for organized help in the United States. Their immediate goal was to help people who came searching for riches in the gold mines but instead, found misfortune. In 1887, $21,700 was raised in Denver to assist the impoverished, sick and homeless. In 1963, and after several name changes, the term United Way was adopted.
The United Way of Southeastern Utah is working to advance the common good by focusing on education, income, and health. These are the building blocks for a good life - a quality education which leads to a stable job, enough income to support a family through retirement, and good health. Advancing the common good means creating opportunities for a better life for all.
"We've had quite a busy and exciting year," stated Kate Alleman, executive director for the area. "We have offered four free dental clinics (two in Carbon County and Emery County each) over the past 12 months in partnership with the Family Dental Plan. Approximately 200 services were performed at each clinic. These clinics are open to anyone without dental insurance. It is not income based. Many of our families work two and three jobs without benefits. Medicare is not designed to reimburse for routine dental care and covers very little on dental for our elderly."
These clinics also provide services for the homeless population.
"As we know, oral diseases are progressive and cumulative and become more complex over time," stated Alleman. "These diseases can affect economic productivity and compromise our ability to work at home, at school, or on the job."
According to the Utah Department of Health in 2006, employed adults in Utah lost more than 1.6 million hours of work each year due to dental disease and more than 500,000 school hours are lost each year with our children due to dental-related illness.
FamilyWize and the United Way of Southeastern Utah have partnered together to provide a free prescription discount card for anyone who does not have prescription coverage. FamilyWize is a wonderful opportunity for the whole community to live united around the issue of making prescriptions more readily accessible and affordable to the uninsured. With a network of partners helping with the distribution, the program has been very easy to implement and has generated tremendous impact locally. FamilyWize is a resource that can help during tough economic times when many are forced to choose between meeting their basic needs or using that money to get medications that they need to stay healthy.Â Last month, FamilyWize cards distributed by United Way saved people in need over $3.2 million on the cost of their medicine, bringing the total to $25 million. That's over $100,000 per day, with an average savings over 35 percent.
The United Way also oversees the Angel Tree Program database for the counties.
"In 2007, Top Line Computers created a secure website for us, which allows designated individuals to access the site," said Alleman. "Our local Department of Workforce Services provides an employee to help in the screening of confidential information and verifies the information on individuals and families enabling us to more quickly adopt them out. This decreased the number of applicants double dipping and increased the number of families and individuals who truly needed assistance. The application was translated into Spanish which accommodated our non-English speaking population. This year we have partnered with the Carbon County School District and each school will have a designated individual to help coordinate and assist families in need. There is no age limit with our Angel Tree Program as we believe everyone should have a happy holiday. Our oldest recipient last year was over 60 years old and was homebound. A third party referred her to us and stated she was in need of a ramp to get in and out of her home and also some flannel sheets."
Active Re-Entry was able to provide the ramp which would have cost this woman $5,000 and a group at the junior high school raised the money for her flannel sheets and a holiday meal.Applications for Angel Tree may be picked up at the United Way Office, Workforce Services and the Eastern Utah Community Credit Union. Applications for 2008 began Wednesday, Oct. 15th and run through Monday, Dec. 1st.
UWSEU coordinates several days of caring throughout the year in which volunteers help individuals, families and non-profits agencies in local communities. With the help of CEU's Sun Center volunteers, Keith Cox, Roger Rowley and the board of directors, they were able to provide a new roof and clean up the yard for an older couple with disabilities before the winter weather set in.
UWSEU also recently helped Active Re-Entry insulate their storage shed so the batteries for their wheelchairs would not freeze during the cold winter months.
In September, volunteers from Mont Harmon Jr. High helped a single mom with two children in a yard clean-up.
Each year, UWSEU partners with the College of Eastern Utah's SUN Center and Active Re-Entry (ARE) for a "Spring Break-Away" project on the Navajo Nation. Joey Allred with ARE, coordinates the projects for elderly Navajo people with disabilities. In the fall, student leaders begin planning the projects with Kathy Murray, director and heart of the SUN Center, ARE and the UWSEU. These student leaders and volunteers spend their entire spring break building ramps to allow homebound individuals the ability to get in and out of their homes, outhouses, pens for their livestock, wood boxes for winter, side and paint homes, and just about anything else you can think of.
Brenda Pappas also contacted United Way in need of some volunteers for the annual Greek Festival.
"We decided to cover an entire shift by our Board of Directors, some partner agencies, BACA, and some friends," said Alleman. "A fun time was had by all we will be serving the community again in 2009."
Alleman stated that the United Way of Southeastern Utah has grown considerably over the past two years and credits this growth to a proactive board of directors with vision, and some cornerstone partners, who cover the administrative costs, active community investors and all of the community partners.
The current board of directors includes: Ethan Migliori (chair), Susan Etzel (vice chair), Marvin Mutz (board treasurer), Laura Wissmar (board secretary), Jennifer Davis (financial officer), David Bowles, Conae Black, Dorothy Carter, Debra Dull, and Robin Potochnick.
"Our goal is that 100 percent of all personal contributions will deliver lasting results that matter to our community," said Alleman. "No personal contributions will support the United Way of Southeastern Utah's administrative expenses. United Way is effective when it functions as a partnership of local leaders, citizens, community organizations and businesses. With these resources and support, the United Way of Southeastern Utah strives to change the lives of families and individuals with genuine needs. Underneath everything we are, underneath everything we do, we are all people; connect, interdependent, united. And when we reach out a hand to one, we influence the condition of all. That's what it means to live united."