These are real stories from Central Minnesotans facing challenges they did not expect to encounter. They all need emergency help from agencies in which United Way of Central Minnesota (UWCM) invests.
An 84-year-old woman undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer is also caring for her husband, Harold, who has had a stroke. Cooking has become challenging for Marge, as she tires easily. She turns to Catholic Charities Senior Dining to give them access to nutritious, prepared meals that help her better manage their daily needs and care.
A single parent reaches out to Lutheran Social Services Crisis Nursery and is able to enroll her school-aged children in the Boys and Girls Club and secure childcare for her youngest daughter. She retains full-time employment and gains peace of mind, knowing her kids are safe and engaged in high-quality, affordable care while she works.
A man amidst separation from his spouse is without a place to stay. His situation has forced him to close his auto repair shop and use all of his savings on hotel rooms over several weeks. When he runs out of money, he begins sleeping in his car and hasn’t eaten for several days. He doesn’t know where to get food, so he attempts to steal a sandwich from inside a local store and quickly gets caught by a store employee. Instead of calling law enforcement and reporting him, the store employee pays for the sandwich and tells him about the Salvation Army Emergency Shelter. The man accesses temporary housing there and receives regular meals during his stay. He works with Salvation Army staff to design a workable plan that allows him to eventually leave the shelter and rent an apartment with space for his children to visit. He is also able to reopen his auto repair shop and rebuild his financial foundation.
Safety Net Resources Offer Hope for Better Days Ahead
Community partners like Catholic Charities of St. Cloud, Lutheran Social Services, St. Cloud Salvation Army (and many more) offer friends, relatives, neighbors and coworkers help and hope for better days ahead. Community members who receive assistance from the direct service providers funded by United Way Safety Net get basic needs met during times of emergency. They gain a foothold on the slippery ground of crisis and can secure the necessary stability to move forward.
The United Way Safety Net is a vital component of more extensive work that removes barriers that keep community members from reaching their greatest potential. UWCM is a hub for these resources, connecting the community to collective services and funds that help them during times of challenge.
United Way links short-term safety net support to programs and initiatives that build Central Minnesota’s well-being over the long term. Safety net resources work with other community investments to boost the overall financial stability, health and educational success found in our area.
Life is Unpredictable
Life is unpredictable, so Central Minnesota needs safety net support. Seventy percent of Americans use safety net resources at some point. In 2019, well before the COVID-19 pandemic caused worldwide disruption, nearly three in 10 U.S. citizens and almost half of U.S. children benefitted from some safety net resources.
The Safety Net has always been an essential element in how United Way works to address local needs. The United Fund, as United Way was initially known, was established here in 1967. Chairman Dr. Edward Henry and board president Eldon Siehl led the initial United Fund campaign. With many volunteers, they raised $208,779.55 for 15 charter agencies.
Some of the organizations the United Fund invested in continue to be recognized today as they address the community’s most urgent needs. St. Cloud Salvation Army, Catholic Charities of St. Cloud and American Red Cross Minnesota, to name only a few, made up UWCM’s first roster of direct service provider investments.
A History of Coordinated, Collective Investments
The United Fund’s coordinated, collective investments gave many area direct service providers the extra support they needed to operate and expand in the region. A 1960's brochure spells out why investing in resources known as “Special Services,” or the Safety Net, was necessary for the community: “[These funds] are developed as needed to deal with emergency situations or changes affecting large numbers of [United Fund] members.”
Just one example of how United Way of Central Minnesota has funded safety net services for the Central Minnesota community occurred in 1978. The St. Cloud Daily Times reported that United Way gave the American Red Cross an extra $1,575 to help local flood victims that year. United Way allocated these funds above and beyond their annual investment of $45,000 to the direct service provider.
As in the past, UWCM continues to invest in safety net resources so that area direct service providers may best assist community members during times of emergency need. UWCM is committed to eliminating the obstacles that keep Central Minnesotans from reaching their greatest potential, and the Safety Net is a component of overall efforts to give local people the stability they need, when they need it most.
The Stearns History Museum archives provided historical information about the United Way of Central Minnesota.