The challenges facing our community are increasingly complex and require evidence-based solutions to provide real, long-lasting change. United Way of Story County is a strategic leader in building county-wide partnerships. The relationships we have with partner agencies, businesses, community members and experts outside of the area means United Way of Story County is in a unique position to identify needs and to develop, support and evaluate effective human services. This calls for a focus in three key areas: education, income and health
INCOME: How United Way of Story County Helps
Creating the strongest community possible requires individuals and families in need to have their basic needs met. This includes a safe place to live and access to food. Sadly, these are not realities for all of our neighbors. United Way of Story County funds programs and organizes projects that meet these needs like homelessness prevention, healthy food vouchers, and emergency rent and utility programs. Our Women with Initiative program also helps move women and families to self-sufficiency by focusing on the basics of financial education.
Feeding Kids Outside of School
Story County’s Free and Reduced Lunch rates have increased in recent history; county-wide, it translates to one in four students. What does that mean when those kids aren’t receiving food at school? To feed at-risk students over the weekend, United Way of Story County started the BackPack Program™. This program sends a backpack full of food home with a student over the weekend and extended school breaks. This program has been expanded after the benefits were reported by teachers and is now operated in three Ames elementary schools, Ballard and Nevada. More than 100 kids participate each week.
Over the summer, food insecurity for families trends upward and traffic at food pantries increases. United Way of Story County created the LIVE UNITED Food Drive in 2009 to help meet this need. Running in May, right before schools are released for the summer, this drive helps stock the food pantries before their increased circulation. Read more about the drive here.
United Way of Story County is doing even more to help meet the summer demand by coming together with other community organizations to run summer food programs in Ames and Nevada. Read more on the Summer Learning page.
Fighting Hunger by Collaboration
UWSC's efforts to address hunger in Story County don't include the many programs and services available through other organizations. Despite our efforts to address the problem, we know that the number of people in our county who go to bed hungry at night is much higher than most of our general population recognizes. Because of that, we developed a Hunger Collaboration to work with others in our community to create a plan that educates our communities that there is a need and to work together to significantly reduce the incidence of hunger in our community.
It's important that we understand the "why" of hunger so that we can create a community-wide action plan that not only addresses the immediate needs, but works on developing solutions that can be identified and acted upon. To learn more or join the Hunger Collaboration, email Shannon Bardole.
Identifying and Meeting Transportation Needs
Human service providers identify lack of transportation as one of the leading barriers countywide in their clients' ability to overcome challenges.
United Way of Story County is collaborating with local community partners on programs that address the transportation barrier. United Way of Story County supports Heart of Iowa Regional Transit Agency (HIRTA), Central Iowa Retired and Senior Volunteer Program's (RSVP) Volunteer Transportation program and Good Neighbor Emergency Assistance's gas voucher program.
United Way of Story County has also partnered on programs in the past include bus passes for qualifying families, repairs for donated vehicles, bus education, car maintenance and insurance education and car seat donations to qualifying families. A Transportation Collaboration, facilitated by United Way of Story County, meets monthly to discuss progress on these issues.
In 2015, the City of Ames and Story County held discussions through a transportation task force to assess transportation issues. UWSC and members of the Transportation Collaboration were critical partners in the discussion. The final report includes insights, committee activities, and recommendations from the task force. View the report.
For more information about transportation options, view the Story County Transportation brochure.
Ames Ford Lincoln has partnered with United Way of Story County to bring Wheels for Work to Story County. Ames Ford Lincoln accepts donated vehicles into the program to be given a safety inspection and repaired to donate to a family in need of a vehicle. Find out how to donate or apply to receive a vehicle.
Women with Initiative
Our Women with Initiative program is important in our education portfolio as well. Visit the Women with Initiative Web page to learn more about the work we're doing to build financial skills for at-risk women. The program utilizes leadership-level donations from women to help other women achieve self-sufficiency and confidence through financial education.
Partners in income: American Red Cross - Lincoln Way Chapter, ACPC, Assault Care Center (ACCESS), Central Iowa Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), ChildServe, Emergency Residence Project (ERP), Food Pantry Collaboration, Good Neighbor Emergency Assistance, Inc., Heart of Iowa Regional Transit Agency (HIRTA), Heartland Senior Services (HSS), HOMEWARD and HOMEWARD Hospice, Hunger Collaboration, Legal Aid Society of Story County, Lutheran Services in Iowa, Mid-Iowa Community Action, Inc., Story Time Child Care Center, The Salvation Army, Transportation Collaboration, University Community Childcare (UCC), Youth & Shelter Services, Inc. (YSS)