Grand Forks area United Way on track to raise more than $1 million to fight poverty

Though down slightly from last year's campaign, the Grand Forks area United Way raised more than $1 million for its efforts to fight poverty.

United Way of Grand Forks, East Grand Forks and Area is projected to end its 2017 campaign—it started in October and ends in March—with a total of $1,034,500, President and CEO Pat Berger said. The funds is almost 1 percent less than last year's campaign, but Berger said she was pleased with the funds raised this year.

That was a sentiment shared Wednesday, when accomplishments and volunteers of the organization were recognized at the Ramada Grand Forks. Most of the funds—68 percent—will go toward grants for local nonprofits and programs, including Dolly Parton's Imagination Library so area children who qualify for the program receive a book each month in the mail.

The remaining money will go toward staffing expenses—the Grand Forks area chapter has one part-time and five full-time employees.

This is the first campaign United Way in Grand Forks has not had a monetary goal and has geared its efforts toward reducing poverty. The organization chose the topic because Grand Forks had the highest poverty rate of all of the major cities in North Dakota.

Overall, poverty has decreased by about 1 percent over the last year, though Berger said she couldn't attribute that to United Way's efforts.

"I would give it about five years" to see significant impact, Berger said.

Jennifer Modeen, a social worker with Grand Forks Public Schools who was the luncheon guest speaker, used a greeting—"And how are the children?"—from the Masai people of Africa to inspire the crowd. She said she has a lot of experience handling both the good and dark sides children of poverty face.

"What might be possible if every adult among us—both parent and nonparent alike—shared responsibility for the daily care and protection of all of the children in our community, in our country?" she asked, adding the region faces challenges every day when it comes to poverty.

She said she was not there to talk about the challenges, adding the people in the crowd wouldn't be at the luncheon if they weren't aware of those issues. She said there is hope because the community can use education, tools and research to help those in need.

The organization has rallied around the words "turning poverty into possibilities," focusing on larger-scale events and having discussions on poverty with the community, Campaign Chairwoman Tammy Peterson said.

"Together, we have made tremendous impacts in our community," she said, adding volunteer efforts are strong in the area. "Let's continue to draw on this momentum."


Source: April Baumgarten (GF Herald online, 1/18/17)

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