Have you ever noticed how many quotes there are about teamwork? “Many hands make light work.” “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” “Individually we are one drop. Together we are an ocean.”
I think the reason this is such a popular theme is because it’s so true.
It’s really what’s meant by all those LIVE UNITED T-shirts you see around town. It’s not just a slogan or tagline. It’s a credo — a call to action.
Serving as chair of the 2013 United Way/Red Cross Campaign here in Summit County, I’ve seen this concept proved again and again. Most obviously, in the fundraising drive itself. Tens of thousands of men and women joining their philanthropic efforts, each offering a sacrificial gift of their time, talent and treasure that together make a real impact in our community.
Our goal is to create real social change that leads to improved lives for individuals and families right here in Summit County. United Way focuses on programs and initiatives that form the foundation of a stronger community — education, income stability and health — to ensure all of our neighbors learn well, earn well and live well.
The benefits of collaboration are also recognizable in the work being accomplished by the nonprofit and governmental agencies throughout Summit County. The women and men employed at these organizations have a remarkable dedication and passion for their respective missions.
But most of the time, kids don’t drop out of school for just one reason. And there are usually a number of factors that cause a family to be in poverty. So, it stands to reason that the greatest likelihood of success for addressing these societal problems will occur when collaboration transpires.
That’s why United Way of Summit County is leading the charge and providing critical and backbone support to some of this community’s most important and successful collaborations.
Initiatives such as Cradle to Career, which seeks to improve student outcomes by coordinating educational efforts around the key transition points during school identified by the experts at the Summit Education Initiative. Our goal is to support efforts that lead toward academic success of our children and an educated work force for Summit County. We believe the most effective way to move the needle in that direction is to fund programs and initiatives that align with the goals of the countywide Cradle to Career framework for educational success.
Another initiative United Way of Summit County supports is the Summit County Reentry Network, which is working to help adult felony ex-offenders overcome the many challenges to their success. Our collaborative efforts reduce the rate of recidivism, increase community safety, help reunite families and make the local economy stronger.
Bridges Out of Poverty is a framework that engages all sectors of our community to understand and address the dynamics that cause and perpetuate poverty. Thousands of people are utilizing the tools available through the Bridges collaboration and are learning how to get ahead.
United Way of Summit County has been a champion of the Bridges concept and remains committed to making ours a “Bridges Community, where all sectors, races, political persuasions, and individuals come together to stabilize the Summit County community.”
When the first unified fundraising campaign in Summit County was held in 1918, the original concept for United Way funding was to help close nonprofit agency budget deficits. Through the years, United Way allocations have shifted from agency funding and specific program funding to being based on program outcomes and today’s model of “collective impact” — that is, the commitment of a group of organizations and individuals from different sectors to a common agenda for solving a complex social problem.
At United Way of Summit County, we talk about “mobilizing community resources,” and “advancing the common good,” but it all really comes down to just one person at a time — being given the tools and the knowledge to improve his or her own life. That’s how we can make Summit County a better place for all of us.
Last year’s campaign raised the highest total ever here in Summit County — $11,827,000. And this year, we’re determined to do even better. Our goal for this year is $12,300,000, and with your help, we can surpass that goal and improve more lives in our community.
A strong United Way campaign means a strong Summit County. We all win when children succeed in school, when our neighbors can cover today’s expenses and save for tomorrow, and healthy individuals are productive at work. Please join me in making a generous gift to United Way; collectively, we can make this happen. Visit our website at www.uwsummit.org for more information.
Merklin is partner-in-charge of Assurance Services in the accounting and business advisory firm Bober Markey Fedorovich and the 2013 United Way/Red Cross campaign chair.