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United Way Board Spotlight: Kayla Schubert

As of March 2017, Kayla Schubert became a board member of the United Way of 1000 Lakes. Kayla moved to the Grand Rapids area in August of 2016 after accepting the Promise Fellow position at Greenway High School, which works in conjunction to the United Way. She enjoys marathon training, art creation and advocacy, and traveling across the country to learn about history.

What inspired you to be involved with United Way?
When I moved to Grand Rapids, my first official experience with United Way was volunteering at the Lumberjack Pancake Breakfast. I saw the passion and dedication for community advocacy and engagement that the staff and board of United Way had for our local community; it was a great introduction to the community spirit of Grand Rapids.

What is the most rewarding thing you have taken from this experience?
The most rewarding aspect of working with United Way, first as a Promise Fellow and now as a Board Member, is cultivating relationships with the youth and families that make up our community. I believe that mentoring and community involvement are important for youth to have stake in their community for the future, and I have enjoyed supporting them.

What is one word you would use to sum up United Way’s work?

Dynamic

What impresses you most about Itasca?
After moving to Itasca County I have been most impressed by the arts and culture organizations, events, and participation that the citizens of the area show for enhancing the quality of life in rural Minnesota.

What is one thing about United Way that you think most people don’t know?
One things that I think most people should be aware of about United Way of 1000 Lakes is how passionate the staff, volunteers, and board members are about their role in the organization. Without these individuals, many of the organizations our community relies on for services would be limited, or unavailable!

What advice would you give to a potential donor who is considering investing in United Way?
Giving to United Way of 1000 Lakes giving back to your community in countless ways. Between the individuals that volunteer to the organizations that are supported by United Way, your investment in your community will have an impact on many people’s lives. 




Spotlight: United Way Board President Luke Francisco

Luke Francisco serves as 2017-2018 president of United Way of 1000 Lakes Board of Directors

I grew up in Grand Rapids and after spending 6+ years in the Duluth area, had the opportunity to return to my hometown. Growing up here, I was fortunate to benefit from so many of the opportunities the Northwoods’ is known for. I spent a lot of time playing hockey and baseball, hunting and fishing. It was through some of those things that I recognized what a close community this is. I married my high school sweetheart Anna Johnson in 2012. We have a two-year old son (Otto), a new baby (Milo), and a friendly yellow lab named Nyko. We feel very fortunate to call Itasca County our home.


What inspired you to be involved with United Way?
During my experience in the Blandin Community Leadership Program, I was lucky to meet a lot of people who are doing great things for various programs in the community. The exciting thing about United Way is the breadth of programs that it supports.  I was attracted to the opportunity to learn more about how these programs and initiatives invest in this community. The United Way of 1000 Lakes was a direct avenue to do just that because it serves almost like a mutual fund, the dollars we receive are transformed into a diversified investment into health, education, and basic needs. These are three staples of a healthy community in terms of providing services to those in need.  Since serving on the board, it has only become more and more apparent how much the group of the programs we fund make an impact on people’s lives. I am proud to serve on and lead this board because we really are making a difference here.
 
What is the most rewarding thing you have taken from this experience?
The most rewarding piece of the United Way experience for me has been seeing the stories of how the programs we support have real impact. For example, one individual was able to go from homeless to full-time employment with a residence in a matter of a couple of months. This testimonial was especially compelling because it highlighted how a United Way sponsored program propelled a motivated person who wanted contribute to society to do so by simply paving a path. As we go around and do site visits during our allocation process, we come across stories like these. This is why we invest.
 
What is one word you would use to sum up United Way’s work?
Again, I like to use the word “Investment.” United Way’s efforts really serve as an investment in our community. We ask for donations, but each donation, whether large or small, is an investment in the programs we serve.
 
What impresses you most about Itasca?
This community really has a lot of pride. I haven’t met someone from here who isn’t proud of that fact. I also feel that pride grow when transplants or newcomers point out how special Itasca County is.  And it seems everyone that comes here embraces this community for what it is. Growing up, many kids want to leave this “small town.” Now I am finding so many of those people are trying to return to raise their families. I think this is because of programs like the United Way. It is just one of many nonprofit agencies that promote health, happiness, and goodwill in the area. As I grow older, I realize that things that exist here aren’t in larger cities or in smaller towns. We really have a niche here.
 
What is one thing about United Way that you think most people don’t know?
I think most people consider United Way from the national platform. They see the television commercials during NFL games or see the logo posted in advertisements. I think what most people may not realize is that we spend a lot of time and energy looking into what specific needs this local community has.  We react to those needs, and we ensure that we allocate our investments to the things that most embody those needs. We are LOCAL, only about 1% goes to Untied Way World-Wide, and the resources and materials we are able to utilize and distribute to community members as part of that membership far outweigh that fractional cost.

What advice would you give to a potential donor who is considering investing in United Way?
First I would ask them to check out our website and see what we support, but then I would urge them to consider the domino effect that one donation can have. Some people have a specific program they want to invest in. While that is great, many, like myself, don’t know exactly what to support. The great thing about the United Way that I mentioned about is the diversity of our dollar spent. You can make one investment that will sprawl across several disciplines that strengthen the community as a whole. That investment can be money, or it can be in-kind, or it can be volunteering for a great event like the Day of Action. There are several ways to help sustain the success and the winning that happens with the United Way of 1000 Lakes.



United Way Board Spotlight: Peter Birkey
Peter Birkey serves as the Ex-Offico of United Way of 1000 Lakes Board of Directors

Before moving to Grand Rapids, Peter lived in Boston, serving as an Executive Vice President of Liberty Mutual Group Asset Management Inc. and was responsible for all Strategy, Public Markets, Risk Management, Real Estate and Special Situations. Peter is also currently on the Vancouver-based Pretium (NYSE ticker - PVG) Board of Directors, Coe College Board of Trustees, and the ICC Foundation Board.

Some of Peter’s favorite activities include travelling with his 15 and twin 11 year old daughters, and spending time outdoors.

What inspired you to be involved with United Way?
The thing that most inspired me to be involved with United Way was seeing the various needs represented in the Itasca community. Despite the rich opportunities in our community, we have many families living below the poverty line. Nearly 50% of our families meet the free and reduced lunch requirements. Coming from Boston, I was surprised to see those differences between the city culture and the needs of the rural communities of Itasca County. Despite a challenging economic condition, I am continually impressed by how strong members of Itasca County are in their determination to make a living. I know that United Way taps into the community’s strengths, creating a network of investors and partners who are dedicated to supporting the community and making lasting change.  
 
What is the most rewarding thing you have taken from this experience?
Meeting the people impacted by United Way has been very rewarding. Like Chelsi Drobnick, many people have a direct story with United Way, and how they have been touched by its efforts. Those stories give meaning to the work of United Way and make the impact real and tangible.
 
What is one word you would use to sum up United Way’s work?
Meaningful
 
What impresses you most about Itasca?
I am impressed by the vibrant culture represented in the community. To have facilities like the Reif Performing Arts Center and the Grand Rapids Area Library is impressive and reflects a dedication to arts and culture. The beauty of the outdoors is also very impressive. The lakes, the Mississippi River, the wildlife – it’s a beautiful place to live.
 
What is one thing about United Way that you think most people don’t know?
1 out of 3 people in Itasca County are impacted by United Way efforts – and it all stays local! I think a common misconception is that money donated to United Way goes to big cities like New York or Chicago, but it stays right here in Itasca County and directly impacts our communities.
 
What advice would you give to a potential donor who is considering investing in United Way?
I can think of no better way to make an impact to the Itasca area than a donation to the United Way of 1000 Lakes. 





The Hero Effect

 

Celebrating the power of the human spirit is the focus of a new docu-series, The Hero Effect, presented by United Way and Produced by Dolphin Entertainment. The Hero Effect tells the stories of ordinary individuals who are making extraordinary differences in their communities. Each episode is shot on location in different communities across the country, celebrating everyday heroes that facilitate beneficial, life-changing impact on the people around them. 

Much like our local Change the Story series, each Hero Effect episode brings audiences real-life stories that show the impact one person can make and motivates and inspires viewers to take action in their own communities.

“Throughout my 35 years of working with communities at United Way, I’ve learned that the vast majority of people are eager to make the world a better place,” said Brian Gallagher, President and CEO of United Way Worldwide.  “The men and women featured in ‘The Hero Effect’ are our local heroes, stepping forward to make a difference in their communities.  We’re incredibly inspired by their work and excited to help share them and their efforts with the world.”

The ten-episode original series, which premiered on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), on November 12, 2016, covers a broad range of issues, from connecting veterans with housing and jobs in Florida, to building children’s reading skills in Iowa. Back-to-back episodes include:

·         Mission United (11/12/16) – Veterans
·         Café Momentum (12/10/16) – Youth Empowerment
·         More Too Life (1/14/17) – Human Trafficking
·         Mary’s Center (2/11/17) – Health and Wellness
·         Raising Readers in Story County (3/11/17) – Literacy / Education
·         Rising Tide Car Wash (4/8/17) – Autism
·         Treehouse Foundation (5/13/17) – Foster Care
·         Katie’s Krops (6/10/17) – Hunger
·         Cheyenne River Youth Project (7/8/17) – Health and Wellness
·         Indo Jax Surf Charities (8/12/17) – Special Needs

The Hero Effect airs monthly on Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. ET and is co-hosted by former Super Bowl Champion Donald Driver and actress/advocate Emily Wilson. Tune into Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) for the next episode on Saturday, February 11th.

To learn more, including summaries of each episodes, visit HeroEffect.com.

 




United Way Board Spotlight: Patrick Goggin

Patrick Goggin moved to Grand Rapids in July of 2015 when he accepted his current position as Chief Financial Officer of the Grand Rapids School District. He has four grown children and seven wonderfully spoiled grandchildren. Goggin loves the Itasca area with the many activities and events held here in the community, and he especially loves fishing, taking walks, and reading. 

What inspired you to be involved with United Way?
I thought that belonging to an organization like the United Way would give me an opportunity to get more involved in the community.

What is the most rewarding thing you have taken from this experience?
Regardless of what is happening in the world today, if you focus on the things you can personally impact, you will find there are many more acts of kindness and caring in this world than some people would have you believe.

What is one word you would use to sum up United Way’s work?

Caring

What impresses you most about Itasca?
The beautiful scenery, wonderful business community, and excellent educational system.

What is one thing about United Way that you think most people don’t know?
The organization works very hard to make sure that the funds that have been entrusted to them, are given to legitimate, caring groups and individuals that will have the most impact in our area. 

What advice would you give to a potential donor who is considering investing in United Way?

If anyone have questions or concerns, they should talk to a current or past board member and they will find out that United Way of 1,000 Lakes will make sure their donation helps and touches as many local individuals and causes as possible. 

 




United Way Board Spotlight: Dick Sackett

Dick Sackett was born and raised in Grand Rapids. He and his wife Kristi have four children: Nathan (21), Matthew (15), Mitchell (13), and Ava (9). He works at Minnesota Power as a Lead Electrician. In his free time, Dick enjoys spending time on the lakes fishing and boating in the summer, and ice fishing and snowshoeing in the winter. He and his family are also strong supporters of the arts and enjoy participating in music and theatre.


What inspired you to be involved with United Way?
I like to help people, and United Way is a community-based organization that values working in collaboration with other groups and people outside your sphere of influence. Being involved with united Way allows me to be out in the community that I grew up in, and it’s rewarding to make a difference for my friends and neighbors.

What is the most rewarding thing you have taken from this experience?

It’s a great avenue to give of my time and talents and see how I can make a difference. I have really enjoyed being in the community working with the PlayStation initiative and engaging with local businesses.

What is one word you would use to sum up United Way’s work?

Family

What impresses you most about Itasca?
What impresses me most about the Itasca area is the diversity and talent of the people who live here. There is also a strong culture surrounding the arts that is very impressive to be found in a small community.

What is one thing about United Way that you think most people don’t know?
99% of money raised goes right back into the community and the United Way officers and staff are working hard to ensure that the general public has the greatest return on their investment

What advice would you give to a potential donor who is considering investing in United Way?

I would assure them that their donations will help their friends and neighbors in our area.

 




United Way Board Spotlight: Brad Zumbaum

I came to the Grand Rapids area in January of 2013 from South Dakota, and opened Itasca Tax & Consulting. He joined the United Way of 1000 Lakes board in March of 2014 and currently serves as the Treasurer. In his spare time, Brad officiates football and lacrosse games for local high schools and community colleges, and enjoys spending time outdoors exploring the north woods with his wife, April.

What inspired you to be involved with United Way?
Coming from out of state, I wanted to find a way to learn about the area and get to know the people who make up this community. It turned out to be a great way to meet people and use my profession to give back to my new community.

What is the most rewarding thing you have taken from this experience?
The most rewarding thing is being a part of the Community Investment Panel. I was a part of the “Income and Basic Needs” committee and it was very rewarding to see firsthand the work that these agencies are doing to better the Itasca area. Seeing the people who work in the trenches every day helped me understand the urgency of our work and made it really meaningful.

What is one word you would use to sum up United Way’s work?
Impactful

What impresses you most about Itasca?
The thing that sticks out to me is the optimism of the people who live here, regardless of the situation that they’re facing. 

What is one thing about United Way that you think most people don’t know?
I don’t think that people realize the scope of work we do year-round. While our campaign is a major focus, we do more work than the campaign season. For example, we have Day of Action for volunteers in June, the Lumberjack Breakfast in September, etc. We offer more to people year-round than raising and distributing money. There are a lot of ways to volunteer and be involved.

What advice would you give to a potential donor who is considering investing in United Way?
A gift to United Way of 1000 Lakes is the best way to impact multiple organizations who need support. Donor’s dollars can go to education, health, income and basic needs with just one donation. It’s the most effective way to give one gift and have it make an impact on a broader basis and benefit more people. 




Community Life Lines 
by Conley Janssen

Our community is the small world that we live our everyday lives in.  It is the people, places, events and organizations that make up the “where” of who we are. Human beings typically function better if they have ties to others with common ground, and within most communities, there will be service-minded people that have a goal of helping the general public. Most of these people act out of duty or good will. For most of us, we are compelled to serve simply because of who we are. Many of us are military, law enforcement, fire fighters, teachers, or clergy. None of these jobs are very high paying and most are high risk, but they all focus on commitment to something higher than ourselves. It’s this commitment that brought me in contact with United Way.

As an active community member and a person of action, I normally get involved in more “good causes” than I can easily handle. I need to prioritize and choose where I can make the biggest impact for the overall good of my community. When I was asked to be part of the United Way grant review committee, I realized that this was a perfect fit for maximizing my time and energy into meaningful results. Many of the small groups or non-profits I am aware of were started by an individual or small group who saw a need and took action. Each of them, however, face the challenge of securing the resources necessary to create a financially sustainable organization. This is where groups such as United Way come into the picture. By writing grants and collaborating with others local non-profits, large and small, can obtain some much needed funding for their program. Being part of this process was both rewarding and very satisfying. Reading through the grants, making the site visits, and participating in small group discussion meetings were all very positive experiences. The most challenging aspect was not having enough donations to fully grant all the requests. Even that one negative can be turned into a positive, as we were able to give feedback that encouraged organizations to focus on collaboration with other partnering agencies or diversification of their funding. 

Overall, being involved in the United Way grant process was an enlightening and beneficial experience. The entire process was incredibly organized and very well thought out. All of my time was well spent and productive. Most importantly was the great follow up meetings, and actually knowing that the work we did was productive and beneficial.  

United Way is dedicated to the betterment of community which is achieved by taking action in our communities and helping fund other small entities that may not otherwise have the resources to do their good work. These active groups help keep our community vibrant and moving forward. United Way is a critical part of many of these lifeline groups.  It was an honor and a privilege to be part of the process that helps so many people in our small local world. Being part of this committee allowed me to help several groups that I had heard of, and thought I could help if only I had the time. United Way gave me that time.

In closing, I invite you to participate in the allocation process and volunteer for the allocation committee beginning in January 2017. Call 218-999-7570 with questions.

Conley Janssen volunteers his time with the United Way of 1,000 Lakes. He is a local parent, husband, and U.S. Marine.





United Way Board Spotlight: Christina Monson

I grew up in a small town in the northeast corner of Iowa with wonderful parents who instilled in me a great sense of determination and a top-notch work ethic. Both employed in the education system, I grew up watching their community involvement and was always inspired by their drive to help others. My husband, daughter, and I moved to Grand Rapids in May of 2015 and I’ve found myself back in a small town with a big heart. For fun we like to hike, do art projects, take photographs, and explore the area. As the editor of Lake Time Magazine, I’m fortunate to get to know this community and the surrounding northern Minnesota area on a new level and I wouldn’t trade it for the world! 


What inspired you to be involved with United Way?
I grew up in a small town and had a great sense of community growing up but having lived in a metropolitan city for 15 years, it was hard to feel that connection. For the first time in my adult life, I now feel that I am in a community where I can be involved in helping others without being lost in the mix. It gives me satisfaction that I can be a part of an organization like the United Way and really make a difference. 

What is the most rewarding thing you have taken from this experience?
The fact that a little bit goes a long way. People need not be intimidated by donating “only” what they can afford because the age-old adage “a little goes a long way” rings so true with this organization. Your contribution, no matter the size, truly makes a significant difference and goes right back into your community.

What is one word you would use to sum up United Way’s work?
Inspiring.

What impresses you most about Itasca?
The excitement that people have about living here and supporting their community wholeheartedly.

What is one thing about United Way that you think most people don’t know?
There are so many easy ways to be involved! Donate your time: pick one event a year and participate. Donate a few dollars here or there: it does matter! Spread the message to your friends and family: tell others about how this organization can help the community. 

What advice would you give to a potential donor who is considering investing in United Way?
Don’t think… just do. Take advantage of the opportunity to donate to a great cause and take pride in the fact that you’ve helped the local community in ways you may not have been able to otherwise.




Promise Fellow supports local youth
by Rachel Knoop

While Fall activities are in full swing, Kayla Schubert continues to settle in at Greenway School District. Kayla is serving as the AmeriCorps Promise Fellow for the duration of the 2016-2017 school year, working with students who have fallen behind on the path to graduation. By working with students individually, Kayla is able to identify specific needs and create individualized plans to help students get back on track to meet graduation requirements.

 “My goal for the year is to create meaningful relationships with the students and to help them develop the self-confidence to believe that they are capable of achieving whatever they put their mind to,” said Schubert. “I want them to know that there is another adult around who wants to hear what’s going on in their lives and to be a listening ear.”

Schubert joined the school in a joint collaboration between Minnesota Youth Alliance, Independent School District 316, and United Way of 1000 Lakes. According to United Way Executive Director, Kim Brink Smith, the Promise Fellow program aligns with the goals to help area youth thrive. As a community-centered nonprofit, United Way of 1000 Lakes is continuously looking for opportunities to assist the next generation of citizens during their formative years. Smith worked with Greenway during the Spring semester of the 2015-2016 academic year to bring in a Promise Fellow. The program experienced such positive results that it was awarded its second consecutive host agreement to expand in the Greenway school district and beyond.

“Working at Greenway has been an awesome experience,” Schubert said. “The faculty and staff at Greenway have been so welcoming. They have helped me get acclimated to the culture of the school and made me feel very comfortable. I can’t imagine working with a better group of people.”

A native of St. Cloud, Schubert has extensive experience in cultural studies, working in museums, historical centers, and libraries around the country. Using her experiences, she is excited about the opportunity to transition into a classroom setting.

“I know that I want my career to be centered on education, but I don’t know exactly what capacity that will be,” she said. “It is exciting to explore education in a high school setting, and to build more personal relationships with the staff and students.”

According to Schubert, some of the challenges that she faces include adapting to the culture of a new school, adjusting to living in a small town, and learning the rules of hockey.

“Going into a new community is definitely a lot of work, but it’s worth it. I want to learn about the things that are important to these kids so that I can understand and relate to them better. If it’s a big part of their lives, I want to be able to meet them where they are not only in their academics, but also in their extracurricular activities and hobbies.” 

Schubert began the year working with 7 students, but is anticipating working with more than 30 by the end of the academic year.

For more information regarding the AmeriCorps Promise Fellow program, call United Way at 218-999-7570.



United Way Board Spotlight: John Stemper

United Way Board member, John Stemper (right) stands with United Way Ex-Offico, Ken Kinsey at the 2015 Lumberjack Pancake Kick-off.

I work for MDI as the Director of Product Development and New Ventures and am married with two adult children. We have enjoyed all aspects of Itasca County and Northern Minnesota including the rich natural resources, friendly people, and the great variety of community activities, restaurants and arts.

What inspired you to be involved with United Way? 
United Way of 1000 Lakes is actively involved in supporting so many of the critical social services that our community requires, and as a result, touches the lives of individuals every day. This type of support is what makes a necessary difference in our community. 

What is the most rewarding thing you have taken from this experience? 
Knowing that the grants United Way makes within our community truly make a difference in the quality of life for so many individuals and families.

What is one word you would use to sum up United Way’s work? 
Life-changing

What impresses you most about Itasca? 
Itasca County has a rich mix of employers and hard-working employees who are proud of their community, located in a beautiful part of the state. The county also has many services to support our citizens in all aspects of their daily lives. We have many of the benefits and services of a larger city, but with the charm and cohesiveness that small towns and rural areas offer.

What is one thing about United Way that you think most people don’t know? 
That the United Way is made up of individuals from the local community and that in turn, all of the dollars raised from the community are invested back in our community.

What advice would you give to a potential donor who is considering investing in United Way? 
A donation to the United Way of 1000 Lakes is an investment in our local community to help address the education, income/basic needs, and the health of our residents.




United Way Board Spotlight: Amanda Kluge

Amanda Kluge serves as secretary of United Way of 1000 Lakes Board of Directors

I work for Minnesota Power as the Fuels Business Operations Manager at the Boswell Energy Center.  In my spare time, I enjoy spending time with my family, vacationing in the winter, and hanging out at the beach and boating in the summer.  I have a 6-year old son, who is full of energy and lights up my life!

What inspired you to be involved with United Way?
Minnesota Power has always been a strong supporter of the United Way.  We have a group of some of the most dedicated employees, who are willing to give back to their community.  I recognize that there are many who don’t have access to basic needs and services, so I like to help in any way I can to support the programs within our local community.

What’s the most rewarding thing you have taken from this experience?
Learning about the partners the United Way supports has been inspiring.  I had no idea the number of programs within our community that work hard each and every day to support others.  The people who work with these agencies are truly hometown heroes, with an obvious passion for helping others.

What is one word you would use to sum up United Way’s work?

Selfless

What impresses you most about Itasca?
I am always impressed by the collaboration between various organizations in order to promote a healthier community.

What is one thing about United Way you think most people don’t know about?
I don’t think most people realize the number of local agencies that are supported by the United Way and the large number of individuals served by their support. 

What advice would you give to a potential donor who is considering investing in United Way?
Educate yourself about the mission of the United Way, the community partners it serves, and give – either financially or by volunteering your time.




The Promise Fellow

Though graduation rates continue to climb in nearly every state in the country, the national average is still only 81 percent of high school students graduating within the typical four-year high school career. Reasons why the remaining 19 percent fail to procure a diploma are varied, so naturally the solutions to this problem have to be numerous, or at minimum, flexible. 

It’s because of the students that traditionally “fall through the cracks” that AmeriCorps has developed the different educational programs that they have, such as Reading Corps and Math Corps. But it’s a lesser-known program under the AmeriCorps umbrella, the Promise Fellows, that focuses on raising the graduation rate by means of casting a wider net to students in need. 

“I would pull (my students) out of classes intermittently and help them get caught up. Be a mentor for them, because a lot of these students don’t have anyone to talk to, or may or may not have (struggles outside of school),” said Sadie Blake, Greenway High School’s Promise Fellow.

A mentor more than a tutor, Blake’s experience as a Promise Fellow largely consisted of encouraging her students to be more self-reliant and building their confidence. Especially for students who have fallen behind in class due to situations outside of the classroom, even the daily course load can appear daunting. But over the few months that she spent at Greenway, each of the students Blake worked with showed a marked improvement in attendance, behavior, and course work (the ABCs of the Promise Fellow).  

Blake was brought to the school in a joint collaboration between the school district and United Way of 1000 Lakes. According to United Way Executive Director Kim Brink Smith, the Promise Fellow program aligns with the goals to help area youth thrive. As a community-centered non-profit, United Way of 1000 Lakes is continuously looking for opportunities to assist the next generation of citizens during their formative years. Smith worked with Greenway earlier in the school year to bring in a fellow in the hope that this style of mentorship program would have the results they anticipated. Greenway High School Principal Jeff Britten breaks the student body population down generally that 85 percent of students in any school will be successful with regular instructional delivery. Another five percent on top of that are students that will require special education programming. The other 10 percent in the middle are typically students who may be struggling and who can benefit from additional support. 

As part of a greater team of educators at Greenway, Blake worked with just over 20 students in both seventh and eighth grade, which comprise 14 percent of the student body. But even beyond the statistics that showed improved attendance, behavior, and course work, Blake noted that she saw students working harder at school and becoming more engaged with their assignments.“By the end of the school year, I saw them going up to talk to teachers on their own, and taking more control of their (studies),” said Blake. 

This fall, Blake will be starting the next chapter of her life teaching at a charter school in Minneapolis, and so will not be returning to Greenway as the district’s Promise Fellow. Because of the success after only one semester of the program, Smith is hoping to work with other area school districts who may be interested in bringing in additional intervention staff for at-risk students. Smith noted that having United Way of 1000 Lakes involved will make it easier for any school interested to bring in a Promise Fellow, since they can act as the grant host for multiple districts. For more information on the position, visit www.unitedwayof1000lakes.org/Current-Openings.

“It’s a great program! You have a lot of support, and there’s a big community of AmeriCorps Promise Fellows at the state level,” said Blake. “You go to meetings and hear different stories and share your stories, and it’s just fun to see how much you’re really helping.”




United Way Plaid Challenge!

 

In an effort to boost the United Way campaign, a generous donor has pledged $25 on behalf of each guest at United Way's upcoming Campaign Celebration & Best of Awards wearing plaid. United Way's "Wear Plaid for Purpose" campaign sparked the challenge. 

Whether it’s tartan or houndstooth, a kilt or your favorite flannel shirt, you can benefit United Way of 1000 Lakes simply by arriving to the Campaign Celebration donning your choice of plaid. The annual Campaign Celebration and Best of Awards is set for Thursday, March 24, 2016 from 4:30-6:30 at Timberlake Lodge and marks the conclusion of the United Way 2015 Campaign. 

Starting at 4:30, enjoy appetizers, a cash bar, and live music during a networking and social hour featuring jazz guitarist, Sam Miltich. Featured program immediately following includes:  

  • welcome new members to the United Way of 1000 Lakes Board of Directors
  • prestent this year’s Best of Award winners and recognize outstanding community partners and volunteers
  • announce campaign results
  • keynote speaker will be ALLETE President and CEO, Al Hodnik. 

Hodnik, an Iron Range native, serves as the President and CEO of Duluth-based ALLETE. Hodnik first joined Minnesota Power in 1982, and was appointed chairman of the ALLETE Board of Directors in 2011. Minnesota Power operations include Boswell Energy Center, which employs nearly 300 employees in the Grand Rapids, Cohasset, and Coleraine area. 

The celebration will conclude the 2015 United Way of 1000 Lakes campaign. Over 25 local organizations benefited from United Way services in 2015, touching one in three people in Itasca County.  

This event is free and open to the public, so invite a friend, wear your plaid, and join us. However, space is limited. 

 



United Way welcomes new Community Resource Coordinator 

Rachel Knoop joins United Way of 1000 Lakes as the Community Resource Coordinator. Rachel is a graduate of University of Northwestern – St. Paul with a degree in International Marketing and Public Relations. She has a passion for nonprofit organizations and seeing local communities thrive.  A native of Itasca County, Rachel is looking forward to joining the United Way of 1000 Lakes team and serving her home community.

Outside of work, Rachel enjoys exploring outdoors, playing sports, being involved in church, travelling, and playing the ukulele. She loves being with her family and friends, and spends copious amounts of time with her dog, Manders. 

In her life, Rachel hopes to extinguish the mosquito population, travel to every continent, end poverty, and let everyone on Earth know that they are loved. 


United Way celebrates April as National Volunteer Month

April is National Volunteer Month - a month set aside to inspire, recognize and encourage people to take action in their respective communities to be at the center of social change – discovering and actively demonstrating their collective power to make a difference.

While philanthropy provides critical funding for hundreds of causes, volunteers are an essential part of the success of United Way and the programs we support. Volunteers help cook meals for the homeless and run employee campaigns. They dig into financials, mentor our youth, and paint and clean up community spaces.  

April is National Volunteer Month, and in honor of its extensive network of volunteers, the United Way of 1000 Lakes has recognized several of these dedicated community members with their Volunteer of the Year awards. Continue reading


United Way Board Spotlight: Ken Kinsey
Ken Kinsey serves as past president of United Way of 1000 Lakes Board of Directors

I am long-time supporter of United Way and have been actively involved in United Way projects throughout my career. I moved to Northern Minnesota in late 2010 to work for Essar on their project in Nashwauk. Outside of work, I enjoy fishing and hunting, as well as other outdoor activities, and spending time with my three children, Amber, Hunter, and Shade. 

What inspired you to be involved with United Way?
I became involved with United Way many years ago because I felt that I wanted to help those in need. I found that United Way was the most effective way for my dollars to benefit those who needed help. When I moved to Grand Rapids I knew that I wanted to become more actively involved, and was fortunate enough to join the board for United Way of 1000 Lakes.

What’s the most rewarding thing you have taken from this experience?
Seeing how the donor’s dollars can bring a positive effect into the lives of those that are in need. Serving on the board allows me to see the work each agency is doing and allows me to make an impact in seeing how those dollars benefit the community. 

What is one word you would use to sum up United Way’s work?

IMPRESSIVE!

What impresses you most about Itasca?
For such a large area, there is a closeness in the communities. I've seen more people that want to be involved in their communities than other areas I have lived in. 

What is one thing about United Way you think most people don’t know about?
I don’t think most people know the multitude of agencies that United Way supports. There is such a wide spectrum of programs and services offered by partner agencies of United Way that serve so many people in our community. I don’t think people realize how much impact United Way has in the community. And how many agencies and people are positively impacted by the efforts of the United Way. 





United Way Celebrates Dr. Seuss' Birthday with Book Drive 

Several childhood memories consist of reading “Green Eggs and Ham,” “Fox in Socks” and “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.” Dr. Seuss is honored around the nation on his birthday, March 2nd. During the first week in March, United Way of 1000 Lakes will be collecting donations of new and gently used children’s books to celebrate Dr. Seuss birthday! Simply drop off the books at the United Way (located at 350 NW 1st Ave., Suite A, in Grand Rapids).

United Way hosts Bright Red Bookshelves in Grand Rapids, Inger, and Squaw Lake communities. The program promotes literacy development by getting hundreds of books into the hands and homes of young readers across the Itasca area.

As donations are received, books will be sorted, cleaned and labeled with a Bright Red Bookshelf sticker and then displayed on red painted bookshelves at various sites around the community. Coordinated by Project READ, a United Way grantee, the program promotes literacy by increasing book ownership in low-income homes, encouraging parent-child interactions with books, and developing confidence in young readers. 

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” - Dr. Seuss

For a complete list of donation and bookshelf sites, and for more information on ways to spread the word on early literacy, visit www.projectread.net or call 327-5753.



Meet Sadie Blake, Promise Fellow

Mercede “Sadie” Blake is excited to serve at Greenway High School as an AmeriCorps Promise Fellow for the remainder of this 2015-2016 school year.  A Promise Fellow is a program hosted through United Way that places individuals in various schools to create and develop strong voices within the youth. Through this program, Promise Fellows help 6th through 8th grade students acquire life-long skills to build a better future for them. 

A recent graduate of Mankato State University, Sadie has a degree in Elementary Education and a minor in Middle School Communication Arts and Literature. She has a passion for working with youth, developing connections and helping foster effective skills for a successful future. Good teaching practices are essential for student success, and to attain that achievement, she values the importance of committing to lifelong learning as a teacher.  

Sadie is excited about working with young people in a leadership position. Her goal is to be a positive role model, letting the students know that she genuinely cares about them academically as well as individually. Sadie’s hope for these students is that they become as excited as she is about learning and about their future.  
 
Sadie continues to be excited about teaching, learning and growing in her profession. Serving as a Promise Fellow allows Sadie to give back to this wonderful community that has given her so many opportunities. She knows that she will grow as much, if not more, than the students she will help. Sadie values the opportunity to work with young people as a Promise Fellow and looks forward to seeing the growth in the students these next few months.




Five easy ways to show someone you care this Valentine’s Day

February 10, 2016

With Valentine’s Day upon us, it’s the perfect time to show all the special people in our lives – neighbors, friends, family, and mentors – how much we care. It doesn’t have to be something big, just something thoughtful — a gesture of love, friendship or appreciation. We all have the power to let others know that they matter, and we all have the ability to show others that we care. Whether you have 5 minutes or 5 hours, here are a few examples:

1. Send a handwritten card.
A handwritten note allows your personality to come through. A personal card from you is unlike one that anyone else might send.

2. Make a donation in their honor.
Are they passionate about an issue or cause? Make a donation to their favorite charity in their name as a way to say thank you for all they do.

3. Pick up the phone and call.

Electronic communication is great, but there is nothing like hearing a friend's voice to lift someone’s day. The phone calls don't have to be long; just a few minutes every month can make a difference.

4. Give an unexpected gift.
Recognize someone who gives all year but never asks for anything in return, such as caregivers, volunteers, shelter workers or youth mentors. One idea could be a book you’ve read that you think they’ll love, with an inscription from you. It could be homemade bread or cupcakes. You don't have to spend a lot of money to show someone you care.

5. Plan an outing together.
One of the easiest ways to show someone that they matter is by spending time together. Meet them for coffee, invite them for dinner, take a long walk, see a movie, or volunteer together. The options are endless.

Photo courtesy of Delish Cupcakes and Sweets, Grand Rapids



Local Restaurants Team up to Support United Way

Local restaurants teamed up with United Way to improve lives and strengthen our community. The organization partners with local restaurants for various Dining United events during the month of October, raising a total of $1,310 to support the annual campaign. Partnering restaurants included: 17th Street Grill, Forest Lake, and Toivo’s Restaurant and Sports Grill. The United Way aims to raise $289,000 to support a network of more than 40 local programs and initiatives. 

United Way focuses on helping children succeed in school and life, providing tools for individuals and families to become financially stable, and addressing the critical basic needs of individuals and families experiencing hunger and homelessness. The campaign, Unleash Your Inner Hero, runs through May. For more information about United Way of 1000 Lakes or how to donate, visit www.unitedwayof1000lakes.org or call (218) 999-7570.

Timberlake Lodge Hotel 17th Street Grill serves a delicious menu of fish, steaks, pasta and more. This year they donated $5 from every pasta bar order to United Way, raising $710 to support education, financial stability and good health. Thank you to everyone who supported this event and all of our friends at Timberlake Lodge.

Toivo's owners, Nikki and Amy Toivonen present a $200 gift to United Way of 1000 Lakes. They pledged $1 for every dessert order, raising $200 for this year's campaign!

 


Our friends at Forest Lake Restaurant, Lounge & Steakhouse helped raised $400 for the United Way campaign.They pledged to donate $1 for every appetizer order during this year's Dining United events.


 



United Way Celebrates Annual Campaign

United Way of 1000 Lakes launched their annual campaign at a kick-off breakfast at Old Central School in Grand Rapids Saturday. This year’s theme, Together we can change the story, highlights local community members, who have been impacted by one or more of the 24 agencies support through the campaign.

The event featured a pancake breakfast, live broadcast from KOZY, pancake cook-off, pancake flip relay race and a variety of pancake themed activities for all ages.

Minneota Power’s Cook-off team, Tall Stacks, took home the title for their cream cheese filled Power Cakes. Other teams competing included Project Care Free Clinic, aka Project Pancake!; and Timberlake Lodge, AKA Timbercakes. Four teams competed in the Pancake Flip Relay, with the Grand Rapids Key Club taking the lead in the last leg of the race, winning the gold. Other relay teams participating were UPS, United Way Board of Directors, as well as a team made up of United Way Partnering Agency’s staff (KOOTASCA, Campus Life, Home Visitor and Project Care).

Celebrity judges for the contest included: Peter Birkey, United Way Board of Directors; Sheriff Vic Williams; Kathy Annette, Blandin Foundation President; and Jeff Britten, Greenway High School Principal.

Now that the drive has officially begun, similar efforts are being planned for the community as a whole. Upcoming events include, United Way’s annual “Dining United” starting in October. Dining United The events provide an opportunity for individuals and businesses to make a single contribution that will impact more than 24 nonprofit agencies.

The “Small Business Blitz” campaign, where more than a dozen United Way volunteers call on small business owners and their employees to pledge funds to the United Way of 1000 Lakes. Funds raised stay in the Itasca County area for nearly 40 programs that focus on Education, Health and Income Stability. The week-long Small Business Blitz will kick-off on Monday, October 8.

The “Dining United,” is another campaign where local restaurants host special events each fall to support United Way of 1000 Lakes. This is a way restaurants, their employees and their patrons can come together to help those in need.

For more information about United Way or how to donate, visit www.unitedwayof1000lakes.org or call (218) 999-7570.


 

Who will win this year’s cook-off? 

Who makes the best pancake? On Saturday, Sept. 12th, it’s up to attendees of United Way’s annual Pancake Cook-off to decide. Join the chefs cooking and flipping hundreds of creative pancakes to a crowd of hungry folks between 9 and 11 a.m. at the Central School Grounds in Grand Rapids. After tasting the custom creations, our judges will vote for their favorite and the winning team will have ultimate pancake bragging rights.

As delicious as this is going to be, it’s also for a good cause as donations to the United Way’s Community Impact Fund are encouraged in exchange for getting a taste of the chefs’ creations.

So, think you have the winning recipe? 

 


 

Pictured: NALC Branch #3610 food drive coordinators Dave Olson and Doug Pennertz unload donated food at the Grand Rapids Post Office during the Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive.


Local Letter Carriers Union collects donations for Food Bank

The National Association of Letter Carriers in Grand Rapids participated in the Stamp Out Hunger food drive on Saturday.

As letter carriers delivered mail Saturday, they also collected canned goods and other non-perishable food items left by residents near their mail boxes. Over 5,700 pounds of food and $461 in monetary donations were collected to assistance hundreds of children and adults who access the Grand Rapids Food Shelf. 

 “The letter carriers hard work and the generosity of the donors go a long ways to help make a better community and help feed local families,” according to Ellen Christmas, Program Manager.  “Their participation and extra effort during this national one day food drive helps call attention to the issue of hunger and helps fill the shelves of the Food Shelf at Second Harvest.”  

In its 23rd year, the annual food drive has grown to be the largest national single-day effort that benefits millions of Americans who struggle to put food on the table. Since the effort was started, the National Association of Letter Carriers has collected more than a billion pounds of food in more than 10,000 communities across the country.



United Way Celebrates Campaign Results

More than 140 energetic volunteers, donors, advocates, agency and community partners, and staff attending the campaign celebration on March 26th. Thanks to the tremendous generosity of hundreds of people in our region, the United Way campaign raised $290,000 to support critical programs and strategic initiatives essential to Itasca communities. 

Thanks to the tremendous generosity of those in our region, this year the community raised $290,000 to support critical programs and strategic initiatives essential to Itasca area. 
Guests of all ages were treated to music by area youth musicians – Matt Riehle, pianist and 12 members of the Itasca Orchestra & Strings Program. 

The program opened with a Social Media Mashup (see pictures from the event on Facebook/Twitter using #unitedwayhero). Highlights included the announcement of this year’s Best of Award winners, Volunteer of the Year and Youth Volunteer recipients. The evening also featured a young women named Chelsie who shared her personal journey and how United Way funded programs helped change her story, bringing the room to a standing ovation.

We also welcomed new board members and announced the 2015 United Way Board of Director President, Ken Kinsey, Essar. Peter Birkey, Liberty Mutual Retiree was named vice president; Itasca Tax & Consulting Service owner, Brad Zumbaum, was named Treasurer and Amanda Kluge of Minnesota Power was named Secretary. Others serving on the volunteer Board of Directors include: Becky Aho, Deerwood Bank; Davis, DC, Davis Chiropractic; Ben Denucci, Mayor of Nashwauk; Luke Francisco, Magnetation; Robbie Radaich, 4-H; Linnea Soular, DC, Grand Itasca Clinic & Hospital and Jon Stemper, Higher Education and Non-Profit Consultant.

See pictures from the event on Facebook/Twitter using #unitedwayhero and check back for more event highlights and photos.





 

US Bank Supports Campaign with 100 Percent Participation

The United Way campaign has raised $180,815 towards its $300,000 goal. Helping the United Way campaign to the 60 percent mark was the staff of US Bank, with 100 percent employee participation in the workplace giving program for the campaign. In addition, US Bank matches employee donations dollar-for-dollar, doubling their impact on the greater Itasca community. 

If you have already made your United Way gift, thank you. If you haven’t yet given, please consider a gift of any amount – even $5 can make an impact. When you give to United Way, your gift is combined with the gifts of others and creates big change in our community.
• Give through your workplace campaign. For more information about how your company can participate, call 218-999-7570.
• Mail a check to United Way of 1000 Lakes, 350 NW 1st Ave., Suite A, Grand Rapids, MN 55744.
• Donate on-line at www.unitedwayof1000lakes.org. Click on the “Give” button.

Here, Heather Dodd (left) and Amber Heinle (right) of US Bank present United Way of 1000 Lakes with US Bank’s corporate gift. 



 

Momentum Builds for United Way of 1000 Lakes Campaign 

The United Way of 1000 Lakes Unleash Your Inner Hero Campaign is building momentum, hitting the halfway point of the 2014 goal. Currently, the campaign has raised $151,786, and stands at 50% of the $300,000 goal and so far, 638 donors have already pledged their support. 

The United Way campaign supports local programs that help feed hungry families, assist the victims of domestic violence, provide child care for working parents, keep youth on track to graduation, provide shelter for the homeless and help for the sick – among a myriad of other services in the Itasca Area.

If you have already made your United Way gift, thank you. If you haven’t yet given, please consider a gift of any amount – even $5 can make an impact. That’s the beauty of United Way: when all those small gifts are combined, they create big change in our community.

United Way Board of Directors (left to right): Guy Clairmont, Madelen Schuemann, Peter Birkey, Brad Zumbaum and Luke Francisco post the 50% mark on the United Way Thermometer on the grounds of Old Central School.



 

United Way Celebrates Annual Campaign

United Way of 1000 Lakes launched their “Unleash Your Inner Hero” campaign at a kick-off breakfast at Old Central School in Grand Rapids. Executive Director, Kimberly Brink Smith announced this year’s dynamic team leading the charge to raise $300,000 for our community’s most vulnerable — Jim Hoolihan, Industrial Lube, Inc.; Kyle Erickson, MDI Deer River Hired Hands; Nikki Lehtinten, Independent School District 318; Matt Lehtinen, Magnetation; and Trish Klein, Itasca County.

The kick-off featured a pancake breakfast, live broadcast from KOZY, pancake cook-off, pancake flip relay race and a variety of lumberjack themed activities for kids. 



Kurt Ogles and Tom Scheirer of Ogle’s Marketplace Foods took home the title for their Cinnamon Swirl Pancakes. A total of seven teams entered the cook-off and pancake recipes ranged from a Red Velvet to S ‘mores. Other teams competing were Timberlake Lodge (Timber Jacks); Forest History Center (Big Jack & the Cookies); Minnesota Power (The Tall Stacks); MDI (Magnificent Delicious Incredibles); Project Care Free Clinic; and Itasca County (Team Alaskan Itaskan).




Four teams competed in the Pancake Flip Relay, with UPS (Universal Pancake Slingers) edging out the competition to win the race. The UPS team consisted of Jay Zapzalka, Dan Haider, Dan Johnson and Jared Stoneman. Other teams participating were United Way Board of Directors; Grand Rapids High School Key Club; and Grand Itasca.

 

United Way Receives Donation from American Bank
The United Way of 1000 Lakes is nearing the end of its annual campaign, with less than a month to raise funds for the 27 local agencies it supports. United Way of 1000 Lakes recently received a donation of $1,500 from American Bank. American Bank also conducted an annual campaign in the fall, which raised $3,500.

Amy Trast and Jennifer Baker of American Bank presented the check to United Way Board members, Wendy Uzelac, RE/MAX Thousand Lakes; and Ken Kinsey, Essar Steel on Thursday.
 

L  to R: Amy Trast, American Bank; Ken Kinsey, Essar Steel; Jennifer Baker,  American Bank; and Wendy Uzelac, RE/MAX Thousand Lakes.


 

Celebrating a Great 2013 Campaign!

On March 20th, we celebrated a successful 2013 United Way campaign and honored the best of the best campaigns with Best of Awards!

The Social Media Mashup along with the FAB Five Campaign Co-chairs kept the crowd of more than 120 attendees entertained at the Timberlake Hotel in Grand Rapids. And guests were treated to all the lights and excitement of the Academy Awards, including live motion picture music by U-Sax Quartet (members include Austin Erdman; Dillion Campbell; Alik VanReese Jasso and Alex Wooner) of Grand Rapids High School.

We welcomed new board members and announced the 2014 United Way Board of Director President, Madelen Schuemann, Minnesota Power retiree. President of Guy Clairmont Financial was named Treasurer and Brad Zumbaum was named Secretary. Others serving on the volunteer Board of Directors include: Peter Birkey, Liberty Mutual Retiree; Ryan Davis, DC, Davis Chiropractic; Ken Kinsey, Essar; Amanda Kluge, Minnesota Power; Linnea Soular, DC, Grand Itasca Clinic & Hospital; Wendy Uzelac, RE/MAX; and Brad Zumbaum, Itasca Tax & Consulting Service.

Attendees at the event were also the first to see this year's Best of Award winners, honored for their 2013 campaigns. See pictures from the event on Facebook/Twitter using #unitedwayhero and check back for more event highlights.

We may have given out a lot of awards, but the real winner here is the community. On behalf of the people who will benefit from the generosity and support of all these partners' campaigns, thank you!

And to the teams at Itasca Tax Service; Minuteman Press; Miskovich Dental Clinic; Paul Bunyan Communications; Rapids Ford; RE/MAX Thousand Lakes; and The South Cabin Group. —thanks for making this event possible.

More than 120 guests attended the Campaign Celebration and Awards on March 20th at the Timberlake Hotel in Grand Rapids. 


 

Grand Rapids State Bank gifts help United Way reach 90% marker

The United Way of 1000 Lakes is nearing the end of its annual campaign to raise money for the 27 essential community organizations it serves. Grand Rapids State Bank recently completed their workplace campaign, which raised $6,343. More than a dozen employees at the Bank’s three locations pledged $5,343 through one-time donations and the company’s payroll deduction program. The Grand Rapids State Bank also contributed $1,000 corporate gift.

This year’s Community Campaign has raised a total of $280,000, about $25,000 short of its $305,000 goal. Approximately one-in-three are helped by one or more of the 40 local programs and initiatives supported by the United Way Campaign. Money raised here, stays here, to help people with disabilities, low-income seniors, disadvantaged youth, families-in-crisis, survivors of domestic violence, and many others.
If you have already made your United Way gift, thank you. If you haven’t yet given, please consider donating on-line at www.unitedwayof1000lakes.org or mailing a donation to United Way of 1000 Lakes, 350 NW 1st Ave., Suite A, Grand Rapids, MN 55744.



Grand Rapids State Bank’s Steven Wilcox, Noah Wilcox, Shelly Steere and Edward Zabinski present a $6,343 campaign gift to Kimberly Brink Smith, United Way of 1000 Lakes Executive Director (left).