SJ-R Column – United Way Invests in Community Needs

As originally published in the The State Journal Register.

Each year, United Way of Central Illinois invests in services to help meet the needs of our community. For the 2019-2020 year, beginning in July, United Way of Central Illinois will invest over $1.4 million in local programs through its Community Fund and Red Feather Grants. These programs help strengthen neighborhoods, provide services vital to the immediate Basic Needs of the most vulnerable members of our community; while making long-term investments in Education, Financial Stability and Health, the building blocks for a good quality of life. Of the approved allocations, 23% of the total investment will be going to Basic Needs programs, 15% will be going to Financial Stability programs, 47% will be going to Education programs and 14% will be going to Health programs.

To ensure funds are going to programs that are needed most, United Way of Central Illinois utilizes Vision Councils made up of local community volunteers. When evaluating the grant applications, Vision Councils are responsible for making sure programs fall within one of the United Way’s community identified issue areas. These Vision Councils also evaluate program data quarterly to confirm community priorities and strategies are being addressed, in order to make sound recommendations to the United Way Board of Directors.

Investments in United Way’s Annual Campaign are essential. Without these investments, many non-profits would not be able to accomplish the outstanding work they do in our community. Organizations like Senior Services of Central Illinois’ Daily Bread Home Delivered Meals program, help over 500 seniors each year by delivering nutritious meals. For one local resident, Mary, having these meals delivered to her and her husband who suffered from dementia, meant being able to spend and cherish more time together without the stress of having to go grocery shopping and finding the time to cook.

The East Springfield Health Connection program (ESHC) from SIU Center for Family Medicine also receives funds from United Way. The ESHC Program is a network of nine organizations that work to address the health of individuals who live in East Springfield. James is a divorced father of two older teens with asthma and before finding ESHC he struggled with finding adequate care outside of the emergency room when his children’s asthma symptoms fared up. With the support and assistance from the ESHC, James now has his children’s asthma under control which has decreased their need for emergency care visits and has improved the lives of the whole family. Overall, 678 clients have been served by community health access programs like ESHC.

Along with investments in United Way’s four issue areas, the local United Way Board of Directors also approved an additional $39,000 to fund Red Feather grants to the America Red Cross to support disaster services and M.E.R.C.Y Communities’ Homeless Management Information System that provides critical data to our community to identify service needs or barriers to accessing services. Red Feather grants support programs the Board of Directors determine to be unique and necessary for our community, but do not fit directly within one of United Way’s four issue areas.

This year’s investment in our community is only possible because of the generosity of the more than 6,000 people who donated to United Way last year. Due to local companies who continue to underwrite administrative and fundraising expenses, each donor has the secured confidence that 100% of their gift goes to support the programs and services that are funded locally.

United Way currently supports 38 local programs across one of their four issue areas and Red Feather Grant. United Way invests in solutions that work to create a change that will last. A full list of this year’s community investments, along with a copy of United Way’s 2019 community report, is available on at

John Kelker is the president at United Way of Central Illinois. Look for United Way columns weekly in Our Towns.