More than just a fun fundraiser, it’s our opportunity to be awesome–together.

Every Day You Are Making a Difference

See the impact you made in 2013. Clients from United Way partner agencies shared their stories and thanked us for turning their story around. Thank you for your support and we look forward to a great 2014!

Meet Sandra

To help her family stay healthy, Sandra relies on the caring staff at the Community-University Health Care Center (CUHCC), a United Way partner. For more than a year, the family has come here for regular medical and dental care.

Located in south Minneapolis, the clinic provides services to diverse and underserved populations, with an emphasis on delivering high-quality, culturally-competent care. This type of care is exactly what Sandra received, and it’s the reason she keeps coming back.

Thanks to United Way partners and donors, Sandra has finally found a clinic she can depend on to keep her family healthy.

During times without health insurance, Sandra found it difficult to find an accessible clinic that met her family’s health needs including regular check-ups and access to medication.

Though she always managed to obtain health care for her children, it wasn’t until she came to CUHCC that Sandra started to address her own health as well. “Before I started coming here I never went to a doctor or a dentist,” she said.

Upon coming to the clinic, Sandra met an attentive physician who helped her look at her own overall health. Sandra said she immediately felt cared for and listened to. Over time, the two have established a genuine patient-doctor bond. “I feel like she really cares about my family,” Sandra said.

This care is expressed not only during office visits, but also through follow-up calls to discuss test results, recent visits and other concerns. Sandra explains that she appreciates all forms of follow-up—even frequent phone calls. “It’s good, it means that we are important to them,” she said.

At her doctor’s urging, Sandra adopted a healthier lifestyle. She changed her diet and has incorporated physical activity into her routine, which includes regular visits to the gym with her daughter, Jennifer. Over the last year, these changes helped Sandra address her high cholesterol and drop nearly nine dress sizes.

What’s more, her healthy lifestyle has been adopted by the whole family, with Sandra leading by example.

Meet Tristan

Each morning, 4-year-old Tristan hugs his parents Jilayna and Davis good-bye and sprints to catch his school bus, bound for his pre-K class. He’ll arrive at a Head Start classroom offered through the Scott-Carver-Dakota CAP Agency, a United Way partner.

“He gets really excited about coming to school,” Jilayna explains.

When he was very young, Tristan and two of his siblings were adopted by the family after it was discovered that they needed a stable home. Although he has cognitive and developmental delays that make it difficult to maintain focus and express himself, Tristan is thriving and on-track to be ready for kindergarten.

Over the past six months Tristan has made tremendous strides in his learning. When he first came to the classroom, he could only count to two, and had trouble with his fine motor skills. Today he can count to 20, sing his ABCs and write his name.

“He has a little notebook and he just sits there and writes his name over and over,” Jilayna said.

His parents couldn’t be happier with Tristan’s progress. “He loves it, he counts on it every day,” Jilayna said. “The routine that is in place at Head Start is exactly what he needs.”

The program is important for Tristan, but also for the family as a whole. All of Tristan’s older siblings went through the same program, providing an equalized experience for each child. Jilayna said this has helped the siblings bond and feel connected.

In addition to the classroom experiences, the family also feels strengthened by the program through ongoing staff support. In particular, their family coordinator, who has been a constant presence – making home visits and understanding the struggles and successes of each child.

“It’s been really great having someone to advocate for us in that way,” Jilayna said.

Without the program, Jilayna said it would be difficult to find a high-quality preschool that the family could afford and that would meet Tristan’s learning needs. And Jilayna recognizes that her family is not alone in their struggle.

“I know we’re not the only ones whose children have special needs who want an educational opportunity for their children, but can’t afford to send them to private preschool,” she said. Therefore, Jilayna views support for these programs as an important investment in the lives of children.

As she looks to the future, Jilayna is confident that with his strong educational foundation and love of learning, Tristan will be able to reach his fullest potential.

Meet Shanice

Nearly two years ago when Shanice, 21, found herself without a stable living situation, her life quickly became clouded by stress and uncertainty. But with the help of United Way donors and partners, Shanice found a home of her own and a path to self-sufficiency.

Through a friend she discovered YouthLink, a United Way partner that specializes in helping youth (ages 16 to 23) who experience or who are at risk of homelessness. It was here that Shanice found the resources she needed.

“I got into a shelter right away and then after that housing was right around the corner,” Shanice said, crediting her case worker for helping her feel comfortable and forthright. “I was just so open with her, and from that day forward everything just started falling into place.”

Today, Shanice has a place of her own and recently completed an internship as a youth ambassador, helping others who experience homelessness. Shanice said that one of her favorite parts of the job was checking the mail for youth awaiting their vital records. Documents like birth certificates and social security cards enable a person to find employment, obtain housing and enroll in school.

Shanice said she’d share in their joy when those documents arrived. “When people call for their vital records and they’re here and they get excited—it’s like ‘I feel you, I’ve been there,’” she said.

The reasons why youth face homelessness are many—some are driven out of their homes due to parental substance use, abuse or mental health issues. Others lack support and acceptance when identifying as LGBTQ. Some “age out” of institutional care or federally funded family housing—among many other reasons.

Shanice explains that the issue is complex, and that appearances can be misleading. “Homelessness doesn’t have a look,” she said.

Out of her own experience, Shanice offers important insight, including what’s misunderstood, and how to help. For youth who are homeless, Shanice sees emotional support and encouragement as essential.

“They just need a chance and validation—sometimes that is a huge part of something that they’re missing. Just being told ‘you did a good job, I’m proud of you,’” she said.

As for living on her own, Shanice said she’s learned a lot of life skills, and a lot about herself.

Beyond helping other youth out of homelessness, Shanice is also passionate about music, dance and lyricism. When she talks about her future she is optimistic and has big dreams of performing on stage. “I know that my future is bright,” she said. “I believe in me now.”