United Way Changes (and Continuity…)

As I prepared to write my thoughts this month I found myself reflecting on how the work of United Way has changed and evolved in my 20 year tenure with the organization. United Ways have gone from being strictly a funder of local agencies to thinking strategically about the impact we can have on three critical areas – the education, income & health of people in our communities. Does that mean investments in agencies have gone away? No – we are still assessing local groups, convening volunteer Board members, and making informed decisions annually about the best way funds can be put to use to support our local area. What we have done differently, however, is thinking about how we might be address those needs at a level that impacts a broader audience – from providing tools and mechanisms to talk about the importance of educating young children, to hosting sessions on how to improve financial stability across age groups, to more directly connecting people to services to meet their needs through our 211 resource and referral line. To capture the heart of this vision, I could try to restate what our United Way Worldwide CEO, Brian Gallagher, has said — but I think I’ll let his words speak to the transition:

“United Way has evolved from its roots as a fundraising organization to a critical community convener that mobilizes local partners, including businesses, community leaders, public officials and community residents, to expand opportunities for people to succeed. We focus on three key building blocks: a quality education that leads to a stable job, enough income to support a family through retirement, and good health. Now all of us (local United Way chapters and stakeholders) must do what it takes to meet the goals we’ve set to advance the common good.

Of course, United Ways can’t do it alone. We must work with our community partners. Together we must tap into people’s aspirations, focus on issues and underlying conditions for change, and bring people and organizations together to create collective impact. What United Ways do well is recruit people with passion, expertise and resources to make a difference. But that’s not enough. We should aspire to drive collaborative community change. That means we – and our partners – must facilitate a shared community vision and coordinated action across a diverse coalition, along with mutual accountability, sustained effort and measured results. It means working collaboratively on communitywide and community-based strategies that can drive real change.

And it means bringing people from all walks of life together to work in meaningful ways – not just giving, but also advocating and volunteering – to advance these community strategies. We should spark new ways of working, even if we aren’t always in the forefront. Community partnerships should (work together to) plan and chart a path forward to improve education, income and health. The real work starts now, in – and with – our communities.

~ Brian A. Gallagher, President & CEO United Way Worldwide”

To that end, United Way has changed in many ways. We have thought differently over the years about how we can best do our work, giving people opportunities up and out of poverty, hopelessness or lack of direction toward a path to their best selves. On the other hand, has United Way really changed? Not at the core. We remain a strong and vital presence in local communities. We start or participate in conversations on how to lift up people who are struggling. We help to solve systemic issues, and continue to be at the table with other partners invested in the very same goal.  We challenge ourselves and others each and every day to LIVE UNITED – to work toward and embody the positive changes we want to see in the world. Changes – yep, there have been a few. But, as I see it, each one has been a step toward a better version of ourselves AND our work.

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Keep Kids Learning this Summer!

Inspired by a recent article on reducing summer ‘brain drain’*, I thought I would offer tips and tricks to keeping young children and teens engaged in being creative and continuing to learn during the summer months when they have time away from a traditional school setting. To highlight the importance of staying engaged, I’ll throw out a few stats to bring the point home for you. It takes teachers an average of 3 weeks to re-teach lessons from the previous year when school starts up again in the fall. Students lose an average of 2 months of math skills over the summer session. And, for kids in grades 2-9, summer learning loss is 25%-30% of their overall content from the previous year. Luckily, there are MANY resources to combat this backsliding. Included in the tips below are places locally where you can get involved and connected to continuous learning opportunities.

Join a Summer Reading program

There are a wealth of resources at the DeKalb Public Library and the Sycamore Public Library, as well as at the smaller libraries in the County. Libraries offer great public spaces and creative resources to keep kids reading and getting involved in activities throughout the sunny days of summer, leading to improved test scores overall as school resumes. Click here for online summer reading lists and activities.

Cook or Bake together

Food is great at bringing people together, and reading recipes and calculating measurements helps with math skills and teaches valuable life skills. Northwestern Medicine has a ‘Kids Can Cook’ program teaching cooking classes. The DeKalb Farmers Market is a great place to visit to purchase fresh ingredients and cook a family meal.

Visit a Museum or Zoo

Our county has a wealth of attractions to engage young minds. The Midwest Museum of Natural History is an animal-lovers treasure right in our own backyard. The newly formed DeKalb County History Center at 1730 N. Main Street in Sycamore offers Garden Story Time weekly with programs like “Ladybugs on the Loose” and “Birds in our World” for ages 3-5 and their siblings.

Plant a Garden

Opportunities for hands-on science exist when kids are able to roll up their sleeves and plant a garden. From picking our seeds, to learning about the plant nutrition to harvesting the fruits (and vegetables) of their labor, gardening is good fun! DeKalb County Community Gardens have great tips for families, as well as opportunities to volunteer to help with planting & harvests.

Get Moving

Encouraging kids to keep active can have a positive effect on their health and their learning. With tools like pedometers or smart phone apps, kids can set fitness goals and track their progress. Many entities offer recreation programs – from the YMCA to the DeKalb and Sycamore Park Districts to KSRA for kids with special needs, among others.

I hope these resources help families get inspired to get out and about, and check out the valuable resources that are in our own backyard. Family time is so important for many reasons. Hop on a bike or in the car and visit these organizations and sign up to learn a new skill or two. Stay active, have fun, and keep learning & growing!

                   * ”Stop Summer Brain Drain” by Margaret Poe, Thrivent Magazine, June 2018

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Born Learning (and Serving!)

When my Dad got ready to retire several years back after a lifetime of hard work and dedication, I wondered what the heck he would do with himself with his newfound freedom and spare time. Dad is a hard worker– he always has been – from his days working in newspaper publishing to his adventure with Mom in starting a sign business from the ground up that they ran together for over 20 years. If you don’t know, small business ownership is hard. If you don’t wake up on time, the shop does not open. If you don’t finish a job, no one is there to pick up the slack and take over. So, after a lifetime of this solid work ethic, I wondered what would lie in store for him in his days as an official retiree. Well, I soon found out. He was born to continue learning, doing, and serving – just like he had throughout his professional life. He now serves his local hospital as a volunteer. He serves his local opera house as house manager and all around go-to guy. He serves his church in many roles. And he serves (sometime to his chagrin) alongside Mom at her varied Arts Council activities.

And, let me tell you, Mom is not far behind. She’s alongside him at the hospital. She’s in choir and in assistance in several roles at their church. And she is instrumental in a campus ministry organization that welcomes students sometimes on the fringe with warm soup and warm smiles. So why the title Born Learning & Serving? Because, oftentimes, I see bits of myself in my parents. Longtime PTA service. Service to DeKalb High School Music Programs. Friend of Children’s Learning Center, paying back in some small way the staff that helped me raise my son from infant to school aged superstar. Was I born with a desire to learn and grow? Are we innately called to be of service to others? I don’t know. What I do know is that I watched my parents serve others throughout their lives, and that has influenced both the person I am and the person I want to be.

Born Learning is also that name of United Way’s first national public engagement campaign which shares public service advertising, parent materials, online tips, tools and templates to help advance early childhood impact strategies. Today, United Way Born Learning manifests itself in products that foster parent education and help to teach early learners basic skills though playful design and bold colors. We are excited to announce that, thanks to our local Target Distribution Center, the DeKalb Park District and 4-C, we will be constructing a Born Learning Trail in DeKalb. The “Trail” is a series of 10 interactive signs that offer fun, active learning stations in a local parkway for young children and their families. It will help parents, caregivers and communities create quality engagement opportunities when out on a stroll or visiting a local playground.

So – are we born learning and born serving? I don’t know. What I know as a United Way professional and member of a robust nonprofit community, is that IF we have tools — materials, toys, teachers, safe spaces, and areas to grow, learn and play — we learn faster. IF we have role models that show us a path of service and altruism, we become outward-facing people and we serve others better. We hope that you join us soon as we embark on our annual Day of Caring on June 14th where we always learn a little, grow a little and serve a LOT. C’mon along – you were ‘born’ to join us! 🙂


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What the ‘Give Local’ Day means to United Way

Fast approaching is Give DeKalb County, an online giving day in DeKalb County hosted by the DeKalb County Nonprofit Partnership, of which Kishwaukee United Way is a proud standing steering committee member and contributor on multiple committees. J  Give DeKalb County is a unique event, which offers a chance for caring citizens and organizations to support nonprofit organizations in a meaningful way but making a donation on one specific day each year – this year being May 3rd, 2018. Why only on May 3rd? The answer, my friends is leverage! (BTW, Leverage is a great vintage show that is off the air but you can catch reruns on Ion television…but, alas, I am off topic…)

Why is Give DeKalb only on one day…Leverage! Dozens of organizations driving people to give online that one day AND caring corporations and philanthropists who have given dollars to a matching pool to leverage (there’s that word again) dollars toward gifts given that day. The result is a win-win for all of the organizations involved.  Exposure is increased for the groups participating, we all share information about the day in advance and on May 3, and the possibility that local nonprofit meet their target fundraising goals for the day are increased. Hooray! And, hopefully, we all get a few additional resources to do our jobs just a little bit better.

Kishwaukee United Way, as many know, has a traditional campaign structure where we collaborate with businesses, employees and individuals (primarily in the Fall), through workplaces or via direct mail or special events to raise funds to support local human service agencies and initiatives. So why give to United Way on Give DeKalb Day as well? Well – let me tell you…Kishwaukee United Way today is much MORE than funding local agencies, although the agencies (and our Board and Staff) would argue that this support is vital to core programming, leveraging matching funds and helping enable them to provide the best services they can for those who need them in our area. IN addition to this valuable support however, we have our own initiatives that continue to grow, thrive and need ongoing support.

Here is what YOUR gift can do, if you choose Kishwaukee United Way on Give DeKalb County Day:

  1. You can help support the 2-1-1 Information and Referral line we launched in June in conjunction with other local partners. You can assist in the distribution of valuable 2-1-1 data to providers.
  2. You can help sustain our support of programs like VITA Free Tax Preparation for seniors and org which enable low income tax filers to save money by filing online for free.
  3. You can enrich our Money Smart Week annual initiative in late April offering DOZENS of FREE financial wellness sessions to the community, from kids to seniors and everyone in-between!
  4. You can champion local volunteerism as we host our annual Day of Caring event again this June 14th, engaging people in service to others and helping to strengthen nonprofit partners via project support.
  5. And, YES, your gift supports 23 local partner agencies providing quality child care, summer food programs, meals on wheels, elder care services, youth mentoring, counseling and mental health supports, abuse prevention, and much more.

We invite you to log in on May 3 at:  https://www.givedekalbcounty.org/organizations/kishwaukee-united-way  and make a gift that truly matters – to us, and to so many more!

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Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket

We have all heard this saying, and it is particularly fitting as we find ourselves in the midst of Easter festivities. Buying jellybeans, chocolate eggs and other basket goodies; baking or buying lamb or bunny cakes, and shopping for dinner fixings including calculating how many pounds of ham per person is needed for Easter dinner (true story – my brother asked me that yesterday… click here for your own ham calculations.) All of these things require planning and forethought. What baskets do I need to fill? What does my son like for treats these days? (Flamin’ Hot Cheetos tops the list, by the way.) Who is coming to dinner? What do I need to buy or bring?

For charities and nonprofits, planning ahead to find and maintain sources of funding can be the most difficult and time-consuming task of all. This constant search for money exhausts resources that could be better spent elsewhere. And, as the economy fluctuates, so do gifts to nonprofits.

The website Planned Giving.com has this to say on the topic:

If your nonprofit is relying solely on annual giving and individual gifts, you are essentially putting all your eggs in one basket. And if that funding basket gets dropped, it will be hard — perhaps impossible — to recover from the mess. A comprehensive, planned giving strategy can guide your nonprofit through the rough waters. It can be a life preserver for times when sources of one-time charitable gifts are sinking. Planned giving can ensure a consistent, long-term source of funding, and maintaining focus on that revenue stream can help smooth the waves in the future.”

And so, as I juggle the writing of this blog, pulling together resources for a corporate grant due Friday, interviewing a candidate for a Fall internship, getting out an agenda for a Money Smart meeting tomorrow, and acclimating a one-time volunteer to a service project, I am mindful of the many things that fill up our days as nonprofit staff. Often times, it is difficult to think longer term – hard to see past the giant to-do list on your desk. I am grateful to partnerships like the one we have with the DeKalb County Community Foundation, where we are fortunate enough to have an endowment that helps us to sustain our core programming and backroom efforts so we can focus on program goals. I am mindful, too, of our responsibility to continue to grow that endowment, and educate our donors about the choice they have in philanthropic giving – not only in sustaining our annual campaign investments, event sponsorships or initiative investments, but thinking longer term to consider leaving a legacy that will impact our work long after I am involved in the organization.

We are thankful, too, for the upcoming Give DeKalb County online giving day, as it positions our organization in front of potential donors where we can talk about our annual needs and our ongoing strategies for building and sustaining a strong community. Do we have work to do around planned giving? Absolutely. I would venture a guess that most nonprofits do. We will keep our focus ahead on quality improvements, however, and make a commitment to build relationships with key donors and help to plant the seed with a few of them about remembering Kishwaukee United Way in their estate or long term giving legacy. We will push onward toward the goal of the diversification of our revenue “eggs” into multiple baskets. Happy Spring season, all!

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Do you have ‘Smart Money’ Moves?

Although we are still in the throes of the winter season, and we have yet to see the green grasses of spring, it is time to turn our attention to another kind of green – money! Financial Wellness is one of our pillars, an important component of strong and healthy families. In the coming months, we will focus on helping people to be well informed about their financial resources, to be ‘smart’ with their money and help them to build or maintain a strong economic position. We are in the heart of tax time, and United Way is proud to offer supports on how to  get taxes prepared, filed and how to maximize dedications. Our local AARP volunteers are busy staffing multiple sites to help provide tax preparation assistance for low-income individuals, families and seniors. Click here for the full schedule. In partnership with United Way Worldwide, MyFreeTaxes.com offers free online tax preparation for families with income under $66,000 annually. United Way also has worked this last year to advocate for higher tax credits for the Earned Income Tax Credit, ensuring that hardworking folks can have a little more money in their pockets after tax time.  To understand and access all of the resources of the EITC and other tax credits, click here.

The concept of starting early with money management and good habits has come to the forefront in my life in the last several weeks as my 16 year old son secured his first part time job. Along with the new responsibilities came a brand new debit card, a walk-through of responsibilities associated with that at our local bank, and a tutorial from mom on the importance of socking away at least some of his newfound resources for the future. J So far so good – the transfers money to his savings account from each check he receives are the first ‘payments’ he makes toward his future. Giving my son the foundation he needs to be mindful of money, earnings, and saving for the future is important to my husband and myself. Some of the best advice I got early in my career was to save even a little – $25 a paycheck to stat, and build toward stability for my family and myself.

To this end, financial stability is an impact area that Kishwaukee United Way is proud to dedicate resources to in our area. Similar to teaching my son the basics of money management, I am lucky enough to be able to create programs that do the same for others in our community – on a wide variety of topics.  We will embark on this work in April via Money Smart Week DeKalb, Lee & LaSalle Counties programming. We are working now on a robust, totally FREE program scheduled for the last week in April supplemented by programming in schools, on campuses and in the general community. Sessions planned already for the week of April 21-28, 2018 include credit card management, estate planning, healthy eating on a budget, teen programs, kids read programs, webinars, radio programs and many other opportunities. The full schedule for Money Smart Week locally will be printed in a special insert in the Daily Chronicle in April, and will be listed at www.moneymartweek.niu.edu Money Smart Week depends solely on volunteer session presenters, so we are continually seeking professionals who have skill, talents and knowledge to offer community members. We are lucky to have a planning team of local professional representing financial institutions, NIU, Kishwaukee Colleges, out local libraries, EconIL and other entities. They are working hard as a team to being these great sessions to you all. We invite you to join us for one or more session during Money Smart Week – I promise, you will learn a things or tow, and maybe keep a little more ‘green’ in your pocket or purse!

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A Heapful of Ways to be Healthy

When we think of being healthier, the typical scenarios come to mind — getting back to the gym after the holiday season; eating a few more salads and not so many sugary treats as a part of resolutions in the new year; and generally taking care of our overall physical health. These things are very important. Health and wellness are components of caring for our physical selves. Other components of health which may not jump to mind immediately are mental and emotional health. The way that we deal with anxiety, crisis, depression and a host of other potential symptoms is important as well. If these symptoms lie unaddressed, they can be an unhealthy and challenging presence in our lives. I would also put forth a few more subtle ‘healthy’ behaviors I believe to be an integral part of the overall equation, as well — healthy relationships, fulfilling roles and a sense of purpose and belonging in life.

I am proud to say that through the many partners and programs Kishwaukee United Way supports, all aspects of how ‘health’ is defined are being addressed day in and day out in our community.  Fostering physical health and wellness is one of the main components of the YMCA, one of our funded partners. Epilepsy Resources educates community groups, schools and classrooms about the many facets of seizure disorders and how to take action in a variety of circumstances. Voluntary Action Center teaches classes to seniors addressing nutrition, diabetes education and fall prevention. A facet of early childhood education centers like The Growing Place and Children’s Learning Center is the balance of physical play with early learning —developing motor skills and physical strength alongside intellectual learning and development.

Addressing the emotional health realm, many of our agencies offer counseling, support groups and interventions that address topics across a wide variety of circumstances and situations. Northwestern Medicine Behavioral Health’s Ben Gordon Center addresses issues of substance abuse and psychiatric supports for local patients. Family Service Agency’s counseling staff offers resources in many areas of general counseling from divorce mediation and senior interventions to the delicate care of trauma victims seen through the Children’s Advocacy Center. Agencies like Youth Service Bureau and Youth Outlook provide a framework of tools and support for youth and teenagers dealing with issues at home, anger management, coping techniques, and gender identity issues, to name a few. Crisis support is offered through Safe Passage where clients are dealing with having been survivors of violence, working on strategies to live stronger lives with new coping tools and strategies for success.

In addition to supporting the parter agencies I spoke about (23 in total) Kishwaukee United Way addresses community health in several ways through our specific programming and the initiative work that we do. Our 211 information and referral system is a mechanism connecting vital services to the people in our community that need them, simply by calling 2-1-1 and asking for help. We address the financial health and stability of residents by offering tax preparation support programs for low income and senior residents through AARP/VITA tax sites and myfreetaxes.com as well programming a robust series of free workshops on money management topics during Money Smart Week each April. I would submit that we offer the chance for purpose, engagement and a sense of community through our many volunteer opportunities. Our annual Day of Caring, the Target MLK Volunteer Days that took place this past week, and the myriad of opportunities we have on the Board and Committee level for volunteers contributes to civic and community engagement and a connection to service in our local area. These roles — helping to lead our organization, supporting our projects and helping us program activities all help to sustain our important work and bring folks together in a meaningful way.

So my shout out to you all this month is this…get on out there and get healthier! If it is putting down the donut and dropping in to a fitness class, so be it. If it is talking to someone about the dark times that seem to taking over the bright times, find a capable, listening ear. If it is about connecting to service opportunities that will lend richness not only to YOUR life but to the world and to somebody else, let us help you find an opportunity to connect in this way.

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Resource Rich for the Holiday!

As the winds turn colder, and the hats & mittens are unearthed from the linen closet, holiday hoopla is in full swing! Many of us are dashing our way to the grocery store (again) for the grocery item we forgot yesterday, and dancing our way through the aisles at the store to find the perfect item for the office holiday party.  Between batches of cookies this weekend, as I was re-checking my family holiday gift list, I realized that amid the times of holiday chaos — putting up the Christmas tree, decorating the house,  running my son holiday events — there was one thing that I did not have to worry about. Having enough. Enough time? Well, we always feel like there is not enough of that, but, no…invariably things get done in the end. I did not have to worry about having enough resources. I didn’t have to worry about having enough money to pay for the forgotten grocery item. I didn’t have to worry about my car having enough gas to get me there. I didn’t have to worry about having enough extra in the bank to purchase gifts for my son this year. We are resource rich. We are blessed enough to have been able to ‘adopt’ a family in need for the holidays, as well. It gave me great joy to have been able to support a family of five with comfort items like blankets, socks, hats, mitten and a few treats and sweets. Not everyone in our community has the stability that we as a family sometime take for granted. There are folks that do not have access to the basic needs that sustain, support and nurture them. This is where organizations like Kishwaukee United Way enters the picture. We are proud to have launched the 211 resource and referral helpline earlier this year. Calling 211 is a way for families that might not have what they need, to find it – holiday help, utility assistance, or a referral for a struggling family member. When a person calls 211, they are connected to a friendly voice — one that has a database of resources in DeKalb County at their fingertips, and a compassionate ear for service. There are numerous nonprofit agencies helping families at the holiday time – and year round. United Way is proud to support their work as well – be it through interventions for teens struggling at home through Youth Service Bureau, to a hot meal delivered to a senior through VAC’s Meals on Wheels, to the shelter and support provided to victims of violence at Safe Passage…and many, many more.  So are you resource rich? Do you have enough? If so, we invite you to make a gift to Kishwaukee United Way this season, so that we may continue to lift up others, giving them a hand up, not a hand out – so that we all have enough for ourselves and our families. Happy Holidays to you all!

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As the fall and winter holiday displays start to arrive in stores, and we tune our playlists to the first sounds of the season, I am reminded of all of the things that we have to DO around the holidays. Grocery shopping, menu planning, housecleaning, and (of course) starting to think about shopping for items on our loved ones wish lists. We give a lot of ourselves at this time of year. I am also reminded of much we, as a community, give to others at this time of year. No — not to just friends, family members, or even colleagues, clients and acquaintances. I am speaking about giving to help those whose faces we will never see; those whose names we will never know. We add a dollar to our total at the grocery store to help feed hungry families; We pull an ornament from a giving tree to buy a toy for a child who would otherwise go without; We drop coins in buckets, kettles and jars, knowing our small change can make a REAL change for others. We also sift through dozens of year-end appeals deciding what type of charitable gift we may want to make via our annual gift. United Way is one of hundreds of local charities – and thousands of national charities across the country to choose from when considering holiday giving.

Why do we want you to consider a gift to Kishwaukee United Way? Well, we like to think of ourselves as a one-stop shop where your generosity can do the most good locally for the broadest base of people. Our Board members spend hours vetting the 24 agencies that benefit from donated dollars – elder care agencies, childcare agencies, and dozens of services that help to lift up our most vulnerable citizens, right here in DeKalb County.

Our United Way also invests in larger causes and initiatives…Our 211 information and referral line, where people seeking help are just a phone call away from supportive services…Our FamilyWize prescription discount program where families can save money on medicines, and not have to make tough choices when money is tight…Our annual Money Smart initiative– coordinating over 100 free programs that help teach people – from kids to retirees– ways to save, invest and be ‘smarter’ with their money…and our new Born Learning Program where we plan to build an interactive play and learn trail along a parkway this spring, to bring awareness to the importance of early learning and skill building in young children.

So, as much as the Thanksgiving season evokes images of turkeys, pumpkin pies, family and friends (…and Black Friday steals!), it also evokes a feeling of thankfulness for all of our donors. From the employee that deducts a dollar of two from his weekly paycheck, to our local businesses who match their employee gifts annually and sponsor events, to our Leadership Donors who give generously of their resources so that we may sustain and grow our work each year.

Happy Thanksgiving and THANKS (for) GIVING – each and every one of you!

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Forward to Fall!

The cold weather has been a bit slow in coming this year, and thus, I am anxiously awaiting cooler days that signal the twist from sunny summer fun into autumn friendly activities. My boys and I have already made a trek to Jonomac orchards (you HAVE to visit when the Honeycrisp apples are ready…) and sampled apples, caramel apples and cider donuts. The sweatshirts have come out of storage, and my husband and I are strategizing how to fit 14+ people into our home for a sit down turkey-day dinner. I am envisioning a series of card tables and creative seating – we’ll make it work. As long as there is space for the bird, smashed potatoes and assorted pies, we will be good to go.  I have not yet sampled a Pumpkin Latte, but have settled into baking glorious treats on the weekends, my fall hobby and an activity that takes me to a happy place.

As far as Kishwaukee United Way is concerned, we are heading into an event-focused season, as we host a series of Dine-Out days at local restaurant venues, help to spread the word about the DeKalb Elks Craft Fair (whose vendor fees support United Way), and gear up for our annual signature event, Taste. Traditionally, our November shindig has been called Taste of the Vine, but this year we are shaking things up with a bit of a re-brand and a new look and feel. Taste: Bottles & Brews will be Thursday, November 9th at St. Mary’s. We will feature not only wonderful wine selections but also craft beers and microbrew tastings. We think this will enhance an already great event, bringing not only connoisseurs of the fruits of vine but also heartfelt fans of hops & suds. We will feature the fabulous food samplings of Premier Catering (A shout out to Kate, our culinary creator!) and enjoy the sounds of Jazz in Progress. Guest can take a chance on our 50/50 raffle or make a Case for the Cause by participating in a drawing to win a half case of wine or a half case of microbrew beers.  Have we forgotten our glorious gift basket auction? I think not! Prizes are drifting in ready to be assembled into a silent auction extravaganza! Favorite eateries and events will be featured thanks to generous local businesses, and we will have artwork, sport tickets, experiences, and more! You won’t want to miss this pre-holiday shopping experience in support of our core community initiatives. (If you see me stalking a particular auction item, be nice — My birthday is on November 10th J)

Why do we spend hours designing tablescapes, soliciting sponsorship, selling raffle tickets, asking for auction prizes and decorating dozens of delightful items? Because it matters to people in our community who need help. The people who are hurting, hungry, and need a hand up, not a handout. We do it because our efforts contribute to our ability to support our partners – feeding seniors, caring for children, sheltering and sustaining those who are vulnerable. Our neighbors. Our friends. Someone who needs a bit of assistance so that they can stand tall and walk toward a better tomorrow. Is it a lot of work? Yep. Is it worth it? You bet. We are proud to host an event that brings joy to our guests AND makes a marked difference in our world. Join us! Call 815.756.7522 for tickets, and enjoy a glass of wine or beer, but more importantly, know that you are contributing toward positive community change. Yea, you!

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