In the Aberdeen region, United Way (UW) is most known for their annual fall fundraiser. Every year, they facilitate a massive community-driven campaign which raises funds for over 30 local health/human service programs in Northeastern South Dakota. Each year, over half a million dollars raised goes out to ensure services have the stability they need to carry out their missions. However, what does an organization do when there is a need that doesn’t fit in their regular budget? That is where the United Way Foundation comes in.
The UW Foundation is separate from the traditional agency. Donations that are contributed to the Foundation are managed by a separate Board of Directors. Over the last 12 years, the Foundation has awarded more than $500,000 in grants to United Way supported programs. Grants are typically for program enhancements, one-time expenses, or other ideas that don’t fit within a particular program. The broad qualifications of the grants are deliberate. It has allowed member agencies to imagine progression and take steps to make that growth a reality. Items such as instruments for the music room at the YAPAtorium and exercise equipment for the Aberdeen Area Senior Center offers valuable benefits to their members. Other grants have tremendously helped ease persistent issues in our community, such as transportation. Funds have been used to help sponsor vans at the Boys and Girls Club, which transport kids from school to their Club for after-school care. A grant was also the initial funding to start the summer Feed the Kids Program at the Salvation Army. The program tackles both transportation and hunger by bring lunches to the children in parks across Aberdeen over the summer months, offering a free sack lunch.
On the more business end of needs, grants have been used to fund numerous technology upgrades for Safe Harbor, New Beginnings Center, Cornerstones Career Learning Center, and many more agencies. Perhaps the most unique item on the list was helping purchase ‘Cheyanne,’ a specially trained horse for SPURS, who could even smile on command.
UW Foundation Board President Nathan Golz sums up the strategic purpose of the Foundation best. “When you allow space for experiment and creativity within the non-profit sector, while viewing through the broad lens of community development, growth is inevitable. Having the opportunity to foster this growth is what excites me most as Board Chair. It’s moving beyond ways to simply ‘keep the lights on.’ It’s taking a deserving cause and helping make it an exceptional service.” //