April showers may bring May flowers, but April also brings to fruition one of our largest initiatives – Money Smart Week! Money Smart efforts are a tangible community wide-effort supported by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago which brings local consumers dozens (almost 100) FREE financial literacy sessions the last week in April each year — programs that help local residents be smart with their money in different ways. Partnering with libraries, financial planners, banks, colleges & universities and nonprofits, we help to coordinate local sessions ranging from credit card management to estate planning, how to pay for college, kids reads at libraries, how to protect yourself again financial exploitation, and much more. In the end, help with financial stability, one of our United Way impact pillars. Speaking of finances — this is the time of year where we reach out to our agency partners and obtain their respective grant requests for the upcoming year. Financial reviews are one component of the process, as is allocation review meeting sin person with staff, program descriptions and statistic and site visits. After a rigorous process, and armed with rubrics scoring all of our groups, the Board heads into a determination meeting, and decides where best funds need to be allocated for this program year. We were thrilled to be able to allocate MORE than we did last year, and continue to be committed to grow our campaign revenue, and investing in vital programs that fortify and serve families in our service footprint. As we finished with annual allocations, we were pleased conclude the hiring process for – NEW staff! (Yea us!) Our team now includes Gretchen Sprinkle, new mom and fabulous Finance Assistant; Marketing talent and Sycamore native Tammy Newquist as our Community Engagement Coordinator and our University of Phoenix Intern Karleen Lindsey, hailing form the Kirkland area. Our new team in training, and ready to engage in all levels of our work, we collectively moved forward with a project than began last year – bringing a 2-1-1 information & Referral System for DeKalb County. After months of community meetings, outreach to potential funders, recruitment of volunteer champions and getting the mechanics in place we were proud to host the launch of 2-1-1 in DeKalb County! Celebrated by a crowd of 60+ stakeholders, we thanked the folks that made the information service possible, and headed into our public PR phase of the effort. As we speak, plans exist to distribute business cards, speak to local groups, and staff vendor fairs to let residents know that calling 2-1-1 is a great first step to finding services in the County. Jason Leverton, Chair of our local 911 Board remarked, “If you need a responder, call 911 – if you need a response, call 211.” On the heels of the successful launch, we put the final pieces in place for our Annual Day of Caring volunteer day June 22. One of our projects that day (conveniently) was the hanging of 211 door hangers in various neighborhoods spreading the work about our new resource. In addition to that, we (collectively) painted, baked, cleaned, organized, alphabetized books, stocked pantries, gardened, and weeded our way across the county from Sycamore to Shabbona, with 75+ volunteers and over 20 sites. With that, I am off for a long weekend in MO for the 4th with friends & family. Keep cool, and LIVE UNITED, my friends!
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