Live United 2020 Changing Odds for the Next Generation

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Chicago Daily Herald
April 1, 2013

In the midst of a four-year economic depression, at a time when foreclosures, high school dropouts and layoffs have become a societal norm, United Way of Metropolitan Chicago stands at the intersection of hope and our region's most under-resourced communities.

While United Way's presence in Chicagoland has spanned nearly 80 years, their reinvention as a community-impact organization started only four years ago. In 2009, the organization and its stakeholders took a step back to assess how they could harness their resources to address the alarmingly elevated number of families in need of help. How could United Way make a difference in Illinois' failing support system? What evolved was a community-impact plan known as Live United 2020: a concentrated effort to truly move the needle on what this region really needs -- the building blocks to a good quality of life; education, income and health.

Laser-focused on channeling resources narrow and deep into more than 40 communities of greatest need, United Way is now supporting networks of education nonprofits working within middle school and early childhood centers, with the plan in place to progressively integrate income and health social service programs to provide a myriad support for children and families.

United Way is striving toward true transformational change by 2020. They aim to help an additional 50,000 underperforming middle school kids enter high school ready to succeed, advance economic stability for 100,000 households, connect 200,000 people with available preventative health services, and answer the immediate crisis needs of 1 million people yearly. To achieve these goals, United Way counts on the leveraged support of more than 1,300 of Chicagoland's top corporations, 4,000 volunteers and the support of like-minded government and civic leaders.

United Way believes the key to this transformation is to support integrated community school and center-based education, income and health programs leveraged through their network of community partners working in tandem. At the very root of this model is education, the first focus of Live United 2020.

"Without an education, everything is harder. It's not a critical goal; it's the critical goal. People are far more likely to experience economic stress and poor health outcomes without a good education and that's why it's at the very center of our focus," said Wendy DuBoe, president and chief executive officer of United Way of Metropolitan Chicago.

By focusing on high-quality preschool, home visitation services and mentoring/tutoring programs, United Way aims to ensure our kids start school with the tools they need to succeed and stay on track for graduation.

With a quality education, our future workforce will be stronger, keeping Chicagoland competitive both nationally and globally, and positioning our region as a commerce destination. United Way's income focus on job training and placement, savings and asset building and financial literacy will ensure Chicagoland is the best place to live, work and do business.

And for people who are hungry or homeless, or simply without access to health services, United Way provides emergency support, shelter and connections to comprehensive medical care and screenings.

Advancing Live United 2020 rests on United Way's ability to reach and rally thousands of volunteers, donors, in-kind supporters, strong nonprofit partners, corporate leaders, local legislators and advocacy champions working in concert to help forge this united network of resources.

A United Way income partner, Ladder Up, sees the direct benefits of working with such a strong network. "Because of the support of United Way, in 2012, we returned over $14.6 million in tax refunds by completing more than 8,200 tax returns," said Christine Cheng, director of Ladder Up.

"We are greatly appreciative of all our corporate partners such as Northern Trust, ITW, Bank of America, AT&T and BMO Financial Corp., who are leaders in supporting Live United 2020 through their financial investments and volunteer efforts," said Andrea Bazan, senior vice president of resource development at United Way of Metropolitan Chicago.

More and more donors are beginning to identify the natural alignment of their philanthropic goals with United Way's mission.

With increased funding support and a concerted effort to recruit volunteers, Live United 2020 hopes to change the odds for kids and families in greatest need across the region.

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This page contains a single entry by CFED published on April 2, 2013 4:05 PM.

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