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The community has spent the last three months as part of a widespread effort to help Change the Story for our neighbors. We’ve met Chelsi and Sandy, who represent more than twenty thousand people helped annually because of your support of United Way.

As the New Year gets underway, the community has generously and selflessly contributed more than $261,000 to help others in 2016. This number is a reflection of the generosity of our community, who recognizes the continued needs within the community. United Way aims to raise enough funds to reach last year’s campaign total of $289,000, which will allow the organization to continue funding its agencies at the same level.

“Giving to the United Way’s annual campaign fund provides the greatest return on investment and is the most efficient way to invest in your community because results are measured and reported back to the community,” said Peter Birkey, United Way board of director’s Vice President. “Through generous support, United Way is able to invest dollars where they will have the greatest impact and return on investment. It also supports community-wide initiatives such as the Itasca Area Student Success.” Birkey states, “In addition, the fund helps to meet needs such as overflow shelter during brutal winter nights, or food for pantries to ensure kids will go to bed with full stomachs.”

Approximately 1-in-3 Itascans rely on help from more than 30 programs across 24 agency partners funded by United Way of 1000 Lakes, be it for skill-building courses, mental health and recovery support; or childcare scholarships, among a bevy of other needs. United Way also leverages Federal and State dollars by acting as a local match for programs. In addition, the organization facilitates the local Emergency Food and Shelter program and secures other grants, sponsorships and partnerships to support collaborative projects such as Itasca Area Student Success, Day of Action and United Way 2-1-1 to connect residents to information and referral. 

The United Way is governed by a volunteer Board of Directors consisting of 12 local leaders. Funds raised in the campaign stay in the community to support local programming in the areas of Education, Income and Health. Every two years, local organizations applying for funding are evaluated for fiscal responsibility and program impact to the community. The allocation teams provide commendations to the agencies and make recommendations they would like to see implemented by either the agency or their local board. 

As its 2015-16 fundraising campaign comes to a close in March, United Way is making a final push for donations. Results will be announced at an upcoming Community Celebration on March 24th from 4:40 to 6:30 p.m. at the Timberlake Lodge in Grand Rapids. Attendees will be treated to music, light appetizers and refreshments. Keynote will be presented by Alan R. Hodnik, ALLETE Chairman, President & CEO. The event will again showcase the United Way Best of Awards. The awards recognize individuals and organizations for their commitment to community and creating conditions for change.

If you have made a donation already, thank you. If you have not, now’s the time. There are many ways you can help:

  • Wear Plaid with Purpose! Host a United Way Plaid Day at your workplace. Wear plaid for a donation to United Way! Download toolkit here:
  • Roll up your sleeves! Help to make a difference in our community through volunteering. See a current list of opportunities here.
  • Give to United Way! Help support year-round efforts. A tax-deductible donation can be made through a one-time or recurring gift of cash or check; credit card; payroll deduction; bill-me; and stocks. Call 218-999-7570 or visit for more details. 
  • Run a Workplace Campaign! Does your workplace currently run a workplace campaign? You can give your gift conveniently through payroll system at work. Call 999-7570 to find out more.
  • Start a Personal Fundraising Campaign! Let your family and friends know how much you support your community through United Way. Start a personal online fundraising page to share your enthusiasm and ask others to join the cause. Call 999-7570 to start today.
  • Sponsor our next event! Learn how businesses can partner with United Way through the sponsorship program. Call 999-7570 to find out more.
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