United Way on its way to $1.25M goal

Published 10:25 am Tuesday, November 1, 2016

United Way of Mower County has the wheels turning on its 2016-17 campaign — and Executive Director Diane Baker said the brakes won’t go on until the $1.25 million goal is met.

“We ended just shy of that amount last year,” Baker said. “This year, we are determined to reach it. We don’t  think of it as a goal; we think of it as a community in need.”

The slogan for this year’s campaign is “We’re All in This Together.”

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Baker has been presenting to local businesses and organizations since mid-September. She is armed with a knowledge that people in her community are hurting.

“We have a community where 18.7 percent of school children are living in poverty; more than half of our children are on free and reduced lunches,” Baker said. The program provides school lunches to children whose parents meet low-income guidelines. “Our goal is to supply families in a way that they don’t have to make a decision about whether they will pay the rent or buy food,” she added. “These are the working poor — we know that 76 percent of people ages 16-64 in Mower County are employed,” and often with more than one job.

Issues facing those in need are complex. The cost of food, housing and child care all combine to hurt budgets.

“And if you are a refugee, you come here with nothing; even though you have a job – and they do have jobs – it’s not enough, at the beginning,” Baker said.

Baker added federal poverty guidelines need to be adjusted. Right now, guidelines say a family of four has to be living with an income of $24,230 or less to qualify.

“A family of two would have a hard time” living on that amount, Baker said.

The largest chunk of funds — some 38 percent — raised each year are used to help fund 19 different basic needs programs. Just a few include community meals and the student backpack program overseen by Salvation Army, as well as a crisis nursery and a Parents in Poverty and Transition Program, conducted by the Parenting Resource Center. Other support is given to education (21 percent), health (24 percent) and income help (17 percent). In total, 55 organizations are supported by local United Way funds.

Baker emphasized all donations are valuable. For just one dollar a week for one year, a week’s worth of meals for a low-income family of four can be purchased, she said.

It’s easy to give

Citizens do not have to be employed by companies who provide payroll deductions to participate.

If you want to give and did not receive a recent United Way mailer and want to make a donation, call United Way at 507-437-2313 (they take credit cards) or send a check to: United Way of Mower County, P.O. Box 605, Austin MN 55912.