United Way organizations exist in nearly every community in the United States, with 1,200 United Ways operating in the country. Forty-six nations have a United Way presence, so the work is worldwide as well.
All United Ways operate in their community in a similar fashion. They all have a local fundraising drive, then have a community-based process for investing donations back into the community. One of the things that attracted me to United Way is that each one is customized to its local community. Every United Way is independent, autonomous and locally governed. There is not one United Way, there are many.
Last week, I attended an annual gathering of United Ways on the Western Slope of Colorado, and we called in to a meeting of all United Ways around the state. There are 14 United Ways in Colorado, from Mile High United Way in Denver that receives more than $30 million annually to Logan County United Way in Sterling that generates about $50,000 each year.
Moffat County United Way is located in Craig. Moffat County United Way raised almost $500,000 for its local partner agencies last year. The organization has always met or exceeded its fundraising goals under the staff leadership of Corrie Ponikvar. It operates a youth United Way in Craig and also works with its city and county governments to secure funding for human service organizations.
United Way of Mesa County is based in Grand Junction and focuses its resources on building strong families, increasing self-sufficiency and promoting health. In February, it announced raising $1.081 million in its last fundraising drive.
Mile High United Way in Denver is the largest United Way in Colorado. Its staff works not only in the Denver metro area but all across Colorado in conjunction with local United Ways to effect positive community change. One new idea is a literacy action plan for the state. In 2009, 29 percent of Colorado third-graders are not reading at grade level and are more likely to drop out of school. Mile High United Way is working around the state to help find local solutions to this issue.
At your local United Way, we have lots of innovative work we can be proud of as well. For example, with your support, we beat our last fundraising goal by more than $10,000 in a very tough economy. We have implemented a new focus for donations by investing them in programs in Education, Self-Reliance and Health. United Way feels these are the building blocks for successful, thriving residents in our communities.
We also continue to work on the 2-1-1 information and referral phone number. It should be turned on soon thanks to partnerships with all three Durango-based Rotary Clubs and the fine folks at www.SWConnect.org.
I am proud to work for a nonprofit that has national and worldwide impact but more importantly, has impact right here where I call home. I love my community and want it to be the best place it can be for everyone who lives here. My work for United Way allows me an opportunity every day to do just that.
To learn how you can get involved, email me at timw@united way-swco.org.
Tim Walsworth is president and CEO for United Way and a member of the Durango High Noon Rotary Club.