It’s February and with it comes many great opportunities to express love and show kindness. It is also a month of remembrance and awareness. Fun fact, February has been designated as Black History Month by every American president since 1976. This year’s theme is “Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity”. I encourage each of you to take advantage of the great programming that is occurring this month, learn something new, then share it with a friend.

We are very fortunate to have in our community an amazing organization that is committed to advancing equity and building a cohesive community where unity, respect, and dignity create a sense of belonging for everyone. Alliance for Greater Equity, formally known as Cultural Diversity Network and Better Together, has four areas of focus: Education, Celebration, Advocacy, and Leadership Integration. United Way of Steele County is very proud to partner with this organization and looks forward to the great work we can do together in the future.

Here is what is happening at United Way of Steele County…

Community Investments is gearing up for their annual Partner Agency Grant Review. We are looking for community members to help with this process. This is a great opportunity for you to see your donations at work! We will provide training and guidance to help you be successful while filling this role. If you are interested in being a part of this process, even if you have never done something like this before, please contact Tom Worhach, our Community Impact and Fundraising Coordinator, at impact@unitedwaysteelecounty.org or by calling 507-455-1180. Spots are limited.

Our Strategic Impact committee has been hard at work on several initiatives that help address some of the identified needs in our community. Here are a few initiatives that are now active and awaiting your help to spread the word!

We are pleased to announce that Steele County will have a resource for low-income families that need to get their taxes done. We have partnered with My Free Taxes and are offering this service to the community at no charge for federal or state tax submission. If you know of an individual or family in need, please have them call our office at 507-455-1180 or have them visit our website at www.unitedwaysteelecounty.org and click “Get Help” to register online.

As promised, we are currently working on building our volunteer database for Volunteers United, a local volunteer resource to help individuals find a variety of volunteer opportunities and to provide our local nonprofits with a pool of volunteers to help build their internal capacity. My ask of you today is to sign up. Even if you do not know when or if you’ll have time to volunteer, if you register then we can push opportunities out to you that may be of interest. Register at www.unitedwaysteelecounty.org and Click “Help the Cause”.

We are excited to officially introduce the Health and Happiness Project, a collaboration between Allina, Rice County Chemical and Mental Health Coalition, Rice County Public Health, and the United Way of Steele County. When it comes to taking care of yourself, it can be tough to find the right place to start. The purpose of this Mental Health initiative is to provide a place for people to go to access resources that can help when they are struggling or know of someone who is having a difficult time. Visit www.healthandhappinessproject.org today and download our free RESILIENCY Toolkit.

Some of you may know that United Way of Steele County is the fiscal agent for Steele County Safe and Drug Free Coalition. This month our featured topic is Vaping, the signs that your teen may be vaping and the resources to help them stop. Check out our Facebook page for tips on how to talk to your teen about this important topic. If you are interested in getting involved with the coalition and helping to address the needs of Youth in our community, please call 507-455-1180 or email safedrugfree@unitedwaysteelecounty.org.

In the spirit of love, kindness, and appreciation, I would like to take a moment to thank three very important people in our community. Dave Albrecht who served on our board for 10 years, the last 2 years as our Board Chair, Shane Sattler who served on our board for 9 years, the past several as our Board Secretary, and Karen Legault, who served on our board for 3 years. Thank you to each of you for your commitment to our communities, your dedication to serving those in crisis, and your leadership in our organization. We are better because of you! Thank you again, and we wish you the very best in your future endeavors.

With that, we do have a few openings on our board. We are looking for up and coming leaders who are looking to increase their leadership skills while making a significant impact on our community. We are accepting nominations through February. If you or someone you know would make a good candidate, please send them my way. My contact details are listed below.

It’s official, we ended campaign at 97% of our $800,000 goal, thank you!! Despite the challenges, we came together and made sure that at a minimum we could keep our 2021 financial commitments to our Partner Agencies. On behalf of the agencies and United Way, thank you for your support! Typically, we would have had a Celebration Dinner in January; however, like many things we have had to adjust to the current environment. We are making plans with our 2020 Corporate Campaign Leader Wenger Corporation to have a slightly larger, more inclusive event early this summer. Watch for more details.

Thank you again for all that you do and your continued support!! Stay warm, stay safe, and Live United!

Annette Duncan is president of United Way of Steele County. Reached her at 507-455-1180 or president@unitedwaysteelecounty.org.

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