United Way highlights successes of 2017-18

MANISTEE COUNTY — The United Way of Manistee County reflected on its recent successes and shifted focus to future goals at its annual business meeting on Wednesday, held at Manistee Golf & Country Club.

“We had a lot of fun and a lot of success this year,” said Bill Tod, board president of the local chapter. “We expect this year to have its own challenges, but we intend to rise to the occasion and get things done to help people.”

The general mission of the United Way of Manistee County is to improve lives by mobilizing the caring power of the community and connecting those in need with the plethora of helpful resources available to them.

Corey Van Fleet, the local United Way’s executive director, told those attending the meeting/lunch that the organization raised $116,000 in fiscal year 2017-18, through its annual fundraising campaign.

“All over the country, right now, the not-for-profits are working very hard to stay afloat cash-wise,” he said. “Our campaign will start again this summer, and we’ll try desperately to raise more money. We say that each year, and, actually, the last two or three (our fundraising) has gotten a lot better.”

Van Fleet cited various collaborations in which the United Way is involved, namely to deal with issues concerning domestic violence, early childhood education and college-bound high school seniors.

He noted that the organization recently took Project Read Northwest under its wing, which is a longstanding program that offers free and confidential one-on-one tutoring for adults in reading, writing, English as a second language, citizenship, GED preparation and math.

“Over the last year, we took on the responsibility of breathing new life into Project Read, and we’re in the process of doing that now,” Van Fleet said. “(Program coordinator and United Way board member) Sue Wilson is working very hard to make sure that it’s up and running, and even broadening that program.”

Van Fleet said United Way’s flagship program continues to be 2-1-1, the health and human service equivalent of 9-1-1 that offers information and referrals for food, utilities, veterans’ help, employment services, disaster assistance, volunteer opportunities and thousands of other resources to more than 24,000 Manistee County residents.

“All over the state of Michigan — almost every county now — has 2-1-1,” he said, “and we were kind of the lead organization at the forefront of that.”

Van Fleet also touched on the latest Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed (ALICE) report, which was released in 2017 by the Michigan Association of United Ways (MAUW).

ALICE is a label given to households that earn more than the Federal Poverty Level, but less than the basic cost of living for the county. United Way’s study of the condition of Michigan’s working families is conducted every three years and the latest results reflect 2015.

The comprehensive report showed the median household income of Manistee County’s 10,142 total households is $41,395 a year, nearly $10,000 below the state’s average of $51,084. The report also showed that the county’s unemployment rate is at 11.5 percent, compared to the state average of 7.2 percent.

The majority of jobs in the county are reported to pay less than $20 an hour and many of those pay less than $15.

The report also showed that while 14 percent of Manistee County households are considered living in poverty, 25 percent are classified as ALICE households. The combined 39 percent is just one percentage point below the state average.

“Every place we look, there is room for us to move forward,” Van Fleet said. “While (the United Way) can’t fund everything, we want to be at the table to make sure to get the right people together, and between all of us we’ll figure out ways to get work done.”

The United Way has also made strides to improve its volunteer base, Van Fleet said.

“We’ve established a database to manage our contributions, which has made a big difference, and we also put a database in to manage our volunteer population in Manistee County, and that has helped too,” he said. “Our website and Facebook page are up and functioning, so we think we’re poised to move forward.”

Following tradition, the United Way awarded a local organization the Volunteer Choice Award — as well as a $500 donation — at Wednesday’s meeting. By a random draw, this year’s recipient was the Manistee County Senior Center.

For more information on the United Way, call (231) 723-2331 or visit www.uwmanistee.org. Its office hours are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. The United Way of Manistee County can also be found on Facebook and Instagram.

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Posted by Dylan Savela

Dylan is the county reporter for the News Advocate, he also is in charge of the Small Town Life, religion and senior pages. He can be reached at (231) 398-3111 or dsavela@pioneergroup.com.

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