Help for families when they need it most

As originally published in the State Journal-Register

This past month, United Way of Central Illinois kicked off its annual campaign in which our community unites in support of the local programs working toward a more hopeful future for our community. As the co-chair of the 2021 United Way Campaign, I am honored to lead this community-wide effort alongside District 186 Superintendent Jennifer Gill.

As an educator, I know that success in school requires both support in the classroom and a strong support system outside of the classroom. This is why I first volunteered for United Way and why I’m such an outspoken advocate of their work today.

Our local United Way fights for the basic needs, education, financial stability and health of every person in our community. They work with the community to identify our greatest challenges and tackle our biggest problems. Whether it’s making sure that emergency food and shelter are available to those in need, providing work skills support, or supporting families to give every child the opportunity to succeed in school and in life, United Way is there to help.

Over the years, I’ve worked with families who have accessed United Way and its partners services in our community. While some of these families found themselves in heartbreaking situations, most were families who simply needed a hand up. They may have been a family with a child needing extra academic support outside the classroom, a family with a member dealing with a mental health issue, or a family living paycheck-to-paycheck facing an unexpected challenge.

Like all educators, I’ve always sought to offer support to our school’s families because a child’s environment at home directly affects their performance in school. I remember a few years ago while volunteering at the St. John’s Breadline, I had the heart-wrenching experience of having one of my young students come through the line with their family. In the case of this student, I had no idea that their family was facing these challenges and at the time felt somewhat ashamed that I had not been there to offer help. But as I thought about the situation more, I realized that despite our best efforts, we may never know the challenges some families face; and I was thankful that because of United Way, programs such as the breadline were available in our community.

For nearly 100 years, United Way has been the one organization in our community dedicated to supporting local services. Our local United Way is an independent organization completely overseen by local volunteers and supporting services in our community. During times of crisis, such as last year’s period of economic upheaval, United Way has responded to provide critical funding where it was needed the most.

Today, United Way is a driving force behind positive change – surrounding our community’s most critical problems and works together with their partners to develop results-driven solutions to those challenges. The work of United Way and its partners benefit everyone in our community by advancing solutions that lead to a more educated and skilled workforce; provides families with the tools and resources to lead financially stable lives; and assures programs exist to help keep children off the streets and in the classroom.

As we start this year’s campaign, I’m asking for you to consider a gift to United Way. For nearly 100 years, this wonderful organization has been there for our families and now it’s up to us to be there for United Way.

Having served on both United Way’s Board of Directors and its Basic Needs Vision Council, I firmly believe that it’s Community Fund provides the most effective way to support the many needs of our community. Moreover, when you support our United Way, every penny of your investment goes directly to local program services.

As a community, we are Better Together, and working together we can all build a Better Tomorrow. I encourage you to visit www.springfieldunitedway.org to learn more about their work and to pledge your support.

Terrance Jordan is the Director of School Leadership and Family and Community Engagement at Springfield Public Schools, and the Co-Chair of the 2021 United Way campaign. Visit www.springfieldunitedway.org to learn more.

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