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Meet Charity

Hello! My name is Charity Givesalot, and I’m the newest member of Great Rivers United Way’s fundraising team. I came to GRUW from the North Pole, where I worked as a Scout Elf (aka an Elf on the Shelf). I’m very curious and love to learn. There’s nothing I like more than helping!

 

15 Questions for Charity

  1. What are you most excited about in your new position? I look forward to learning more about our communities’ needs and the many ways GRUW and its partner agencies are meeting them.
  2. Favorite color? Red.
  3. Number of children? None, but I really like kids!
  4. Least favorite household chore? Cleaning up after myself.
  5. Latest tidbit you’ve learned about United Way? Great Rivers United Way funds 51 programs offered by 27 agency partners. I hope to visit them all soon!
  6. Favorite recreational activity? Travel.
  7. Genre of music? Holiday.
  8. Most likely to order on a menu? Dessert! I have a sweet tooth.
  9. Favorite movie? Elf starring Will Ferrell (even though it’s not very realistic).
  10. Most looking forward to in your first United Way campaign? I get to lead this year’s Giving Tuesday efforts! You can learn more at www.gruw.org/givingtuesday!
  11. Role model? Santa – he’s the most giving person I know.
  12. Favorite place to visit? Home! The North Pole.
  13. Guilty pleasure? Getting into mischief.
  14. Memorable moment in the new job thus far? My colleagues gifted me an XXXXXS LIVE UNITED t-shirt on my first day. I love it!
  15. Favorite thing about our community? I like how generous people are. When they learn about an issue, they don’t hesitate to help solve it with gifts of time and treasure!

Carolyn’s Story

Carolyn and her adoptive parents moved to La Crosse from California when she was in elementary school. Her father’s job kept him away from home for long periods of time, leaving Carolyn alone with her mother, who lived with untreated mental health issues.

Carolyn experienced things no child should. When her mother invited strangers into their home, Carolyn put herself in harm’s way to protect her little sister, who was born when Carolyn was nine. Many years passed before Carolyn disclosed the sexual abuse she endured at the hands of these predators.

When Carolyn got pregnant at age 19, she felt societal pressures to get married even though the relationship was abusive. After a routine screening for risk factors at a prenatal appointment, Carolyn was referred to United Way funded program Healthy Families.

Carolyn was assigned a Healthy Families social worker, and soon they were preparing her to be the best mother possible. For once, Carolyn, who grew up equating love to self sacrifice, was on the receiving end of help.

Carolyn found the courage to leave her husband when her daughter was 13 months old. Her social worker connected Carolyn with resources, several of which were United Way funded programs. She and her daughter ate at The Salvation Army, received clothing from New Horizons’ boutique, and moved into subsidized housing.

With her social worker’s help and a lot of grit, Carolyn created a one-year plan that included insurance, employment, and going to college. She accomplished all of this and more thanks to the foundation provided by United Way funded programs.

Twenty-ish years later, Carolyn has two degrees with a PhD in progress, two more beautiful children, and a career focused on uplifting and empowering women with stories like hers. Among her projects is Fierce Foundation, a self-sufficiency initiative she hopes one day can become a United Way program, bringing her journey full circle.

Imagine a Coulee Region where Carolyn and women like her are not defined by past traumas, but rather the perseverance it takes to overcome. It’s possible with a gift to Great Rivers United Way.

Meet Chris

My name is Chris Burks. I am passionate about making an impact on the youth and families in our community, whether it was volunteering with Big Brothers, Big Sisters when I was in college; to coaching youth athletes; to becoming a foster parent – all of which led me to becoming a Community Health Worker (CHW) for the La Crosse Area Family YMCA. It was one of the most life-changing experiences I’ve had. Helping our most vulnerable community members overcome barriers of health is extremely rewarding. This passion led me to the Great Rivers HUB, where I believe I can have a bigger impact on our community and spread the CHW workforce through out the state.

15 Questions for Chris

  1. What are you most excited about in your new position? Being able to help impact the CHW workforce in our community and the state.
  2. Favorite color? Carolina Blue
  3. Number of children? 4 – ages 12, 4, 3, and 6 months old. They definitely keep me on my toes with very little quite time.
  4. Least favorite household chore? Mowing the lawn and shoveling snow are a tie.
  5. Latest tidbit you’ve learned about United Way? I have been amazed with all the neat programs we offer.
  6. Favorite recreational activity? Sports (Hockey) and playing music (drums)
  7. Genre of music? I have a very wide range of musical tastes – my favorites are rock, hip hop, and musicals.
  8. Most likely to order on a menu? Cheese curds – I always order them when available.
  9. Favorite movie? Any of the Harry Potter movies.
  10. Most looking forward to in the first United Way campaign? Just seeing our community come together to support each other.
  11. Role model? My Grandpa – he set an amazing example of how to support and love your family.
  12. Favorite place to visit? Anna Maria Island – we went there as a family for Christmas last year.
  13. Guilty pleasure? Musical soundtracks
  14. Memorable moment in the new job thus far? Getting to hear Community Health Workers share their stories of all the amazing work they’re doing in the community.
  15. Favorite thing about our community? The way we come together to try and help others in our community.

Compass 2021: Taking a deeper look at Mental Health

Throughout the counties covered in the 2021 Compass Now Report (Buffalo, La Crosse, Monroe, Trempealeau, and Vernon in Wisconsin and Houston in Minnesota), mental health was voted as the #1 or #2 top need by community stakeholders. In the consideration of top needs, mental health was identified separate from substance use disorders. Though many people suffer with both, mental health is recognized as something that affects all community members.

Compass Now uses two survey methods to gather data. A survey was sent to random households throughout the region. We refer to this as the Random Household Survey (RHS) or Random Sample. The same survey was made available for any community member to respond. We refer to this as the Convenience Survey (CS) or Convenience Sample. The two sets of responses are analyzed separately due to the different collection methods.

Demographic differences exist between the Random Sample and the Convenience Sample: the Convenience Sample was younger, more female, more racially and ethnically diverse, and included more people who rent than the Random Sample.

Consistently throughout each county in the report, Random Household Survey participants rated their overall mental health as good or excellent (85-92% of respondents). However, Convenience Sample participants rated their overall mental health lower in each county, with 54-68% rating their overall mental health as good or excellent. The same pattern exists for access to mental health care and affordability of mental health care. Random Household Survey respondents rated their access and ability to pay for mental health care better. Both groups rated the ability to pay for mental health care lower than the ability to access care.

The survey also asked about the level to which respondents cared about the issues of mental health and mental health stigma. Overall, Convenience Survey respondents had a higher level of concern about the issues of mental health and mental health stigma. See Figure 1.

Figure 1: RHS and CS Response Comparison of Survey Questions Involving Mental Health

Secondary data trends were analyzed alongside the Compass survey results to get a better understanding of what is happening in the community. In our region, the average number of mentally unhealthy days experienced by adults has risen, as well as the percentage of adults reporting frequent mental distress. In 2018, the most recent year of data, the average number of mentally unhealthy days in the past month for adults ranged from 3.6 to 4.5. The range in 2014 was 2.8 to 3.5. Additionally, between 12% and 15% of adults in the region experienced 14 or more days of poor mental health per month in 2018. The range in 2014 was 8% to 11%.

Mental health has been identified as a top need in the region for several iterations of Compass. It has proven to be a complex problem with no easy solutions.

At Great Rivers United Way we fund programs that help support resilience and mental wellness as well as programs that help support those suffering with mental illness. Additionally, we are involved in community coalitions and efforts to raise awareness of mental health and develop solutions and strategies for the community.

What can businesses do? All people have mental health and encouraging mental wellness is one role that employers can do to help support employees. Offering an Employee Assistance Program as a benefit is one formal way to support employee mental health. Another way employers can support employees is to recognize mental health similar to physical health. Normalize using sick leave for mental health and work with employees to accommodate mental illness through flexible hours, remote work, or other solutions that will help the employee complete work.

What can you do? Normalize talking about mental health. We all have mental health and we need to eliminate any shame associated with mental illness. Learn the signs of suffering. The Campaign to Change Direction lists the signs of suffering as: personality change, agitated,  withdrawn, poor self-care, and hopelessness. If you see these signs – reach out. In fact, keeping in touch with friends and family in general is something that everyone can do to support mental health and reduce isolation – for yourself and for those you care about. Everyone likes to know that someone is thinking of them and you will feel good in doing so.

Our challenge to you: give someone a call to check in. You’ll be glad you did.

Learn more about the mental health data in Compass Now at www.compassnow.org.

If you or someone you know are in need of mental health resources, call 211. If someone is in crisis, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255 or text HOPELINE to 741741.

Meet Anne

Anne Paape is new to Great Rivers United Way, but she is very familiar with the inspiring success stories of volunteers at work in our area communities. Anne was the News Director at WKBT News 8 Now for 30 years, in addition to anchoring newscasts and reporting earlier in her career at both WKBT and WXOW. She’s planned local news coverage for everything from Presidential visits to flooding clean-up efforts and school fundraisers. For some, she’s simply known as the “Pet of the Week lady” because of the hundreds of feature stories she’s done on animals at the Coulee Region Humane Society in need of a new home.

As the Community Engagement Coordinator here at Great Rivers United Way, she’s excited about the opportunity to help support community programs that help make this area a great place to live, work, and call home.

15 Questions for Anne

  1. What are you most excited about in your new position? I’m really excited to grow the Read to Success program so we can recruit more volunteers to work with more third grade readers in area schools. It’s a tremendous program!
  2. Favorite color? Blue.
  3. Number of children? One son, Josh. He’s getting married in August and we’re thrilled to add fiancé Erin to our family.
  4. Least favorite household chore? Vacuuming the dog hair off the stairs. Ugh.
  5. Latest tidbit you’ve learned about United Way? We get to share our office building with an adorable sheepadoodle puppy who loves visitors. I’m a regular!
  6. Favorite recreational activity? I love to garden and grow both vegetables and flowers.
  7. Genre of music? Not really a genre, but I’m a big U2 fan and really miss Tom Petty.
  8. Most likely to order on a menu? Anything with blue cheese.
  9. Favorite movie? The African Queen. Katharine Hepburn was fierce.
  10. Most looking forward to in the first United Way campaign? Being part of a team focused on problem solving.
  11. Role model? My grandmother. She was the most accepting and kindest person I’ve ever known.
  12. Favorite place to visit? Italy. I’ve been lucky enough to visit there twice and look forward to a return trip at some point.
  13. Guilty pleasure? Going back to sleep on weekends after getting up to feed the dogs. For the record it’s a rare guilty pleasure.
  14. Memorable moment in the new job thus far? I got to sit in on a Read to Success tutoring session and experience the strong connection between one of our tutoring volunteers and a third grade reader. It made my heart happy.
  15. Favorite thing about our community? I’m continually amazed by how willing people are to help when they know there’s a need. It’s something very special about this area.

United We Stand, 20 years later

On the morning of September 11, 2001, a dozen or so volunteers gathered in our basement. They were at our office in Onalaska learning the ins and outs of Great Rivers United Way – knowledge they would share while making campaign presentations on our behalf.

Upstairs, the radio was on. Music and the morning news were playing in the background when suddenly, regularly scheduled programming was interrupted by a DJ saying that something had happened in New York City. Staff turned on an office TV just as the second plane hit.

Our annual Campaign Kick-Off Breakfast was set to take place on September 12. We considered cancelling, but ultimately decided that this event was a much-needed opportunity for our community to come together during this difficult time. What is typically a celebratory event was transformed into a much more somber affair, complete with red, white, and blue table cloths and napkins.

We began with a moment of silence. Then, a heartfelt invocation honored those who had lost their lives. In an unplanned act of patriotism, 2001-02 Campaign Chair Dave Trapp stood up and led the whole room in the singing of “God Bless America,” a spontaneous moment that remains etched in the hearts of the staff who were there.

Like others in our community, our country, and across the world, Great Rivers United Way staff felt a mix of emotions, including anger and fear. We questioned why this had happened, and from 1,071 miles away, we wondered what we could do to help while simultaneously feeling very helpless.

Our office started receiving phone calls right away. People wanted to help, and they saw us a resource for doing so. We knew, at a minimum, that our United Way had the capacity to serve as a clearing house for donations, just as we have more recently for flood and COVID-19 relief. The local media knew this, too, and they reached out to partner with us.

“United We Stand,” a September 11 Fund donation drive, took place on October 11, 2001. For 13 hours on a warm and sunny fall day, WKBT-TV, WXOW-TV, WLAX-TV, KQEG-TV, La Crosse Radio Group, Family Radio Group, the La Crosse Tribune, and Charter Communications – with help from Community Credit Union, Collins Sign Company, and CenturyTel – pooled their collective power with a unified message.

With collection sites at the La Crosse Center and the Onalaska Omni Center, the public came out all day long to participate in the event. Both radio groups had live remotes from the sites all day, and the television stations conducted interviews for their newscasts. The Tribune promoted and covered the event.

Local response to help those in need was overwhelming. Children who had been saving for a special purchase brought coins in baggies. The student senate at one of our middle schools donated $500 from its school enhancement fund. An area bank pledged $1 for every guestbook signature they received, and $5,000 was raised.

Nearly $33,000 was raised during the one-day event. In total, Coulee Region residents donated $44,478.39 to the Fund. In addition, hundreds of messages of encouragement, sympathy, and patriotism were sent from the Coulee Region out East.

To say that a lot has changed in 20 years is an understatement. We will never forget September 11, 2001. We will never forget how our community came together following that tragedy – and others since it – and we are thankful that Great Rivers United Way continues to be looked at as a source of hope and help.

Stabilizing household economic situations

June 2021

In 2018 when the last ALICE study was completed, it found that one out of every three households in our region struggles to make ends meet. ALICE stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. This was pre-pandemic. When the pandemic hit and schools and businesses had to shut down, these households were disproportionately impacted due to losing childcare, having to home school, the lack of savings, and either losing wages from job loss or being at increased risk of infection from being an essential worker.

At Great Rivers United Way, we have long been involved in working for financial stability in the communities we serve. One of our three strategic objectives is to stabilize household economic situations so people experience thriving lives.

To help accomplish this objective, we provide Community Investment Grant funding to programs that help people get back on their feet after an economic crisis; learn about their finances; improve their financial position; and gain education, skills, and tools for increasing income.

Homelessness is a devastating experience for individuals and families. Last month we talked about supporting emergency shelter programs for people experiencing homelessness. In addition to emergency shelter we also support a broad spectrum of programming from preventing homelessness to providing case management and support once housed.

Housing programs through Independent Living Resources, Couleecap, Families First of Monroe County, Bluff Country Family Resources, and YWCA La Crosse work with people where they are at to develop goals and connect to community resources to help households gain stability and self-sufficiency. Through a mixture of interventions like rental assistance, rent subsidies, budget counseling, and case management, households are able to work on plans that they direct and develop.

One unique approach helping people who are homeless and have a disabling condition is Couleecap’s Social Security Outreach, Access, and Recovery (SOAR) program. SOAR uses a proven model that increases the initial approval of Social Security and Disability applications, helping individuals gain access to financial and health benefits quicker than if they did not have assistance. The program also connects people with primary healthcare, treatment, job training, and housing. It is a life-changing program for households in severe need.

Great Rivers United Way also supports Consumer Credit Counseling Service of La Crosse in their work to improve financial stability of individuals and families. With grant funding, Consumer Credit Counseling Service provides one-on-one credit counseling, budget counseling, and credit repair services to help folks in the area increase their savings and reduce debt.

Access to decent-paying jobs is another focus within our strategic objective to stabilize household economic situations so people experience thriving lives. GRUW provides Community Investment funds to the Supported Employment Program at Family & Children’s Center to help people struggling with mental health issues gain competitive employment. Program staff support folks in finding and maintaining jobs that are fulfilling and competitive, counsel on how a job may impact Social Security benefits, provide support in maintaining mental health treatment, and connect to other community resources. Program staff also build relationships with employers in order to build a community of employers supportive of hiring folks in the program.

Another way that GRUW is increasing financial stability is by supporting programs that help people gain education, skills, and tools that lead to obtaining and keeping good-paying jobs or opening a small business. Western Dairyland Economic Opportunity Council provides Skills Enhancement, Work-n-Wheels, and Jobs and Business Development programs in Buffalo and Trempealeau counties with help from Community Investment funds. These programs help people obtain skills needed for high-demand jobs; open or expand small businesses providing not only individual income, but also new jobs in the community; and have reliable transportation to be able to get to work.

Beyond grant funds, GRUW supports other efforts to increase financial stability through advocacy and collaborations. One important collaboration is the Coulee Region Tax Assistance project that helps low-income folks access free tax submission so they can maximize their tax returns. This project has put hundreds of thousands of dollars back into the pockets of our community members.

When a problem is as complex as poverty, the best solution is a multifaceted approach that addresses individual needs. GRUW’s funding, advocacy, and collaborations put financial stability within reach for local people experiencing financial hardship. Our work (and your support of it) moves all households toward a more equitable economy, and ensure that no one is left behind during difficult times.

To learn more about the United Way-funded programs that stabilize household economic situations so people experience thriving lives, visit www.gruw.org/june. Learn more about the ALICE Report at: www.unitedforalice.org/wisconsin.

Supporting a healthy and socially-connected community

May 2021

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. We thought the timing was right to talk about the community programs we invest in under one of our strategic objectives: support a healthy, socially-connected community. As you will learn, supporting mental health and wellness is a large part of this work.

At Great Rivers United Way (GRUW), we think about health holistically. Everyone needs their basic needs for food, shelter, and safety met to be healthy.

That is why we support programs like emergency shelter at The Salvation Army, New Horizons, Western Dairyland, and Ruth House at YWCA; food programs like the WAFER food pantry in La Crosse, Couleecap’s food pantry in Monroe County, Mobile Meals in La Crosse, and the Hunger Task Force’s food bank and Kane Street Community Garden programs; and domestic violence programs like those at Bluff Country Family Resources, New Horizons, and Family and Children’s Center.

We support people staying safe at home and recovering from disaster by supporting the American Red Cross in their efforts to help families recover after disaster and help families be prepared in case of fire; Couleecap’s Healthy Homes program that helps low-income families have safe drinking water and lead-free homes; and Neighbors in Action that helps seniors in La Crescent and Caledonia to safely age in place.

Physical health is also an important aspect of our strategic objective. Our Great Rivers HUB is helping people manage heart disease and diabetes as well as helping women give birth to healthy babies.

We support youth fitness through the Boys and Girls Clubs of West Central Wisconsin’s Healthy Lifestyle program which encourages kids to stay active and eat healthy. We also support education on healthy meals through WAFER’s Nutrition Education and tools program. Finally, we help increase access to physical health services by investing in the Help Program at Scenic Bluffs which helps people enroll in health insurance plans and connect to other resources to get and stay healthy.

GRUW supports Mental Health and mental wellness through both formal and informal supports, as well as through opportunities for social connection. We invest in direct supports by funding Outpatient Counseling at Family and Children’s Center that helps people work through emotional, behavioral, and mental health problems and Helping Youth Who Need Us Most at Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater La Crosse providing mental and behavioral supports for youth in need.

For folks struggling with addiction, we support Coulee Recovery Center’s substance-free space to gather and find community with peers who have been down the same path. Independent Living Resources RAVE* Recovery Avenue and Family and Children’s Center’s The Other Door programs provide drop-in space and peer support for mental health.

An important aspect of mental wellness is doing enjoyable activities. We’re investing in Western Dairyland’s Retired Senior Volunteer Program and the Kane Street Community Garden where folks have opportunities to volunteer to enjoy activities and connect with others.

Finally, to pull all of this work together, Great Rivers United Way invests in Great Rivers 211. 211 provides information and referral to community resources and is an addiction crisis resource. There is always someone available to help 24/7.

Mental health is how we think, feel, and act. Recently, in partnership with the Better Together project, GRUW designed and distributed door hangers that gave tips on how to stay mentally healthy:

  • Connect with others
  • Be aware of how you feel
  • Take care of your body with movement, fuel, and rest
  • Do something you enjoy
  • Set healthy boundaries
  • Ask for help when you need it

As you can see, Great Rivers United Way invests in programs that help people throughout our region with resources to be healthy and socially connected.  Everyone has mental health, and we strive to help all community members be the healthiest we can be.

To learn more about the programs that support a health and socially-connected community, visit www.gruw.org/may. Next month, we’ll cover the partners who are meeting our last, and equally important, strategic objective.

Positively impacting our youngest community members

April 2021

Great Rivers United Way (GRUW) currently funds 52 programs offered at 26 partner agencies located throughout our seven-county service region. You may have heard that we recently wrapped up our 2021 fundraising campaign. What you might not know is that we began using that money this month!

To be eligible to receive funding, agencies must first apply for certification. Following that, any certified agency program that is working toward one or more of the three objectives in GRUW’s strategic plan may apply for a grant.

One of those objectives is positively impact our youngest community members. GRUW funds a spectrum of services that help area children grow up resilient and successful.

Starting early on in a child’s life – even before birth – GRUW funding helps families. Our Great Rivers HUB initiative works to bring healthy babies into the world by providing support and services to pregnant women considered high risk for poor health outcomes.

The Healthy Families Program at Family and Children’s Center is a home visiting program offered to parents-to-be and parents of infants to help provide parenting support that is proven to reduce child abuse. At The Parenting Place, GRUW funds provide parents one-on-one and group support to help build protective factors that lead to positive youth outcomes.

As children get older, they have opportunities to participate in some well-known programming funded by GRUW. Boys & Girls Clubs, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, and Big Brothers Big Sisters offer out-of-school opportunities and activities that build skills and meaningful relationships.

We also fund lesser-known programs. The Restorative Justice program at the YWCA helps middle-school youth resolve conflicts and promotes social-emotional growth by teaching students how to lead peers in Justice Circles. Justice Circles are formed with students and staff when conflicts arise. A student Circle Keeper facilitates the group, and ensures everyone involved has a voice and is heard.

Boosting reading skills is important. Funds raised also support GRUW’s own Read to Success program. Read to Success pairs volunteers with third graders who need extra help. Focus is on third grade because that is the point where students transition from learning to read to reading to learn.

Other school-aged programming funded by GRUW is geared toward safety and prevention. The Pillowcase Project through the American Red Cross help children learn about fire safety. Coulee Council on Addictions offers programs that help prevent kids from using drugs and alcohol. She Hlub, a program at Cia Siab, Inc., helps Hmoob youth create healthy relationships with elders, heal from trauma, and celebrate Hmoob culture.

Some programs that GRUW funds tackle tough problems that we hope no child ever encounters, like child abuse, healing from abuse, providing testimony of abuse, and witnessing domestic violence. Programs like Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for Kids at the YWCA and Stepping Stones at Family and Children’s Center provide advocacy and support to children when courts are involved.

Programs through New Horizons and Bluff Country Family Resources help those who have experienced domestic violence to heal and find resources to help live safer lives. These include working with children exposed to violence.

As we near the end of April, Child Abuse Prevention Month, we want to thank all our partners for the work they are doing to prevent abuse and help children and youth heal. We’re also thankful for the community support that helps fund this important work.

To learn more about the programs helping impact the youngest community members, visit www.gruw.org/april. In the coming months, we’ll introduce you to additional partners who are meeting equally important needs.

Compass Report sets direction for community investment

March 2021

In order to find solutions, one must first understand problems. At Great Rivers United Way, we have a process for understanding problems that allows us to fund solutions. It’s called the Compass Now Report.

The Compass Now Report is a joint effort of Great Rivers United Way, area healthcare organizations, and county health departments. The report is meant to provide an updated assessment of community needs that can be used to inform community action strategies by stakeholders across the region. It focuses on six counties within Great Rivers United Way’s service region: Buffalo, La Crosse, Monroe, Trempealeau, and Vernon counties in Wisconsin, and Houston County in Minnesota.

The soon-to-be-released Compass Now 2021 Report is the latest in a series of needs assessments published since 1995. Great Rivers United Way has focused its funding system to more closely reflect identified community needs in response to these reports. In addition, a wide array of community organizations have used Compass findings to shape their own priorities and support grant requests.

A large component of assessing the needs of the community is asking the folks who live and work here about their perception of various aspects of life in the region. Compass gathers community insight through surveying community members on topics like education, childcare, transportation, jobs, basic needs, recreation, environment, and societal problems. Over the summer and fall of 2020, Compass sent surveys to 6,000 random households in the region. Then the survey was distributed through local nonprofit and business partners to anyone in the community willing to respond concentrating on populations that were under-represented in the random household results.

Besides the survey, Compass also collects secondary data to help round out the view of community health and wellness. These data cover topics of length and quality of life; health behaviors; health care; social and economic factors; and environment and safety factors. The secondary data and the community insight together provide a broad overview of life in the region – what is going well and what needs improvement.

The next step of Compass was to discuss the community insights and secondary data with community stakeholders. Stakeholder meetings were held in each county to talk over the data collected, and identify and prioritize the most pressing needs of the county. Folks attending the meetings represented a wide range of sectors in the community: business, education, faith, healthcare, government, law enforcement, nonprofit, and social services.

Across the region, some preliminary issues rose to the top. They are big, persistent problems that have no easy solutions: mental health needs, alcohol and substance abuse, safe and affordable housing, poverty and livable wage jobs. At Great Rivers United Way, we know that big problems call for multi-faceted solutions – helping folks now and preventing problems in the future. The Compass Now results will help inform our Board of Directors and staff as we strategize and make funding decisions.

Acknowledging problems makes it easier to see our region’s strengths. We know from the survey data that community members feel positively about their community as a place to live and feel that community safety is good.

The final Compass Now 2021 Report will be available later this spring. We plan to address some of the top issues in a more in-depth way in future articles. Stay tuned.

Open Your Heart.

Lend Your Muscle.

Join The Movement.