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Seasons of Caring: United Way’s latest campaign a real family affair

Photos courtesy United Way of Dane County

(page 1 of 2)

The Madison Mallard’s Duck Pond once again will be the venue for the annual United Way of Dane County Seasons of Caring Community Kickoff event, but the campaign itself has a different focus heading into 2019. The kickoff, set for Tuesday, Aug. 21, from 4 to 6:30 p.m., will reflect the United Way’s intent to steer its investment approach toward family stability, especially economically disadvantaged families with young children.

On that day, the UWDC will invite people to the Duck Pond at Warner Park to take part in what is expected to be the largest volunteer project in Dane County, complete with several onsite volunteer projects and family-friendly activities. Whereas last year the focus was on boosting employee engagement in volunteerism, this time the United Way will place a special emphasis on helping struggling families. An estimated 64,000 Dane County residents live in poverty, including 15,000 children, so the need is greater than some would expect in a community with low unemployment.

United Way executives are quick to note the organization will continue to support established programs, but there will be a special emphasis on helping families improve their circumstances and create more contributing members of society. Family stability metrics targeted for improvement include: education, including preparing children to learn with a literacy focus; financial stability, or putting people on a pathway out of poverty; and overall health to ensure that any issues are identified and treated early on and that seniors and people with disabilities can remain in their homes.

“We want to move more families from crisis to stability,” states United Way President and CEO Renee Moe, who notes several “aha” moments uncovered during the United Way’s recent Year of Transformation initiative. “We’re investing more in that stability and using that as a launching point to self-sufficiency.”

As was the case last year, a key volunteer component will be the Dane County workforce, which has indicated a preference for more paid time off for community volunteerism. The Aug. 21 event will demonstrate how the business community can get its employees involved by giving them an up close look at the volunteer work being done in the community.

Those who attend can take part in on-site volunteer projects, including two Habitat for Humanity “frame-ups,” plus yard games for children and dinner.

Through the end of last week, 650 people have volunteered for the Seasons of Caring kickoff, but the United Way still holds out hope of attracting up to 1,000 volunteers by next Tuesday.

They will have an opportunity to witness the launch of Dane Changers, a new, digital-engagement game in which players learn how to address unmet needs in various Dane County communities. While it’s designed for a younger generation of volunteers, anyone interested in volunteerism can play the game to gain a better understanding of local needs.

“We think it’s a way to engage people who might not relate to the corporate, United Way feel,” states Moe.

Dane Changers is sponsored by business collaborators Total Administrative Services Corp., Alliant Energy, Madison College, and Madison Gas & Electric in partnership with Acme Nerd Games.

Those who attend also will learn how affinity groups can drive volunteerism, which is just fine with 2018 Campaign Chair Corey Chambas, president and CEO of First Business Financial Services. He stresses the importance of expanding local affinity groups to move away from a top-down approach and toward more of a small-group approach that strengthens employee engagement. A volunteer affinity group is much the same concept as a corporate “AG” that’s established for the purpose of driving diversity, equity, and inclusion, only in this case it unleashes a torrent of volunteer talent to tackle community issues related housing, poverty, and educational attainment.

Chambas cited the UWDC’s Rosenberry Society as an example of a close-knit volunteer and social organization that’s “more relatable” for people who want to get involved, and he notes that people employed at First Business companies also gain leadership skills through their involvement.


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