December 15, 2017:
Interlakes Area United Way (IAUW) shared highlights from the past year and recognized donors during their recent annual meeting, held December 5. The annual event culminates another successful year for IAUW, which awarded over $120,000 to 43 agencies and programs in 2017.
"We have had a tremendous year, and it began with our announcement of funding in January," said IAUW President Lori Gustaf. "The number of programs backed by our organization is growing, but the outpouring of support from corporate partners, donors, volunteers and people in our region helps answer the call."
Gustaf kicked off the program with a recap of 2017, noting several annual commitments of the organization.
"Once again, we partnered with the High Plains Alternative School in Chester to serve at The Gathering in April, which is always a rewarding experience," she said. "We also sponsored the Dolly Parton Imagination Library for our three counties, and brought in the Delta Dental / Dakota Smiles bus."
According to Gustaf, the Dolly Parton Imagination Library provided 5,303 books to babies and young children in Lake, Miner and Moody Counties in 2017. The Delta Dental / Dakota Smiles bus provided $40,679 in dental care to 52 children and young adults in one week in July.
IAUW also helped kickstart several projects completed by participants in Leadership Madison, sponsored by the Greater Madison Area Chamber of Commerce. In 2017, leadership groups launched the Bright Red Bookshelf program, hosted a 5K Heat the Streets for utility bill assistance, and painted faded Madison fire hydrants through a Paint the Town Red event.
"We are often short on time or other resources, so it was great to partner with Leadership Madison to see these projects to fruition," said Gustaf.
Representatives from several local organizations and partner agencies provided testimony on behalf of IAUW, including Lake County Emergency Management Director Doug Huntrods, who gave an update on the Lake County 2-1-1 program.
2-1-1 is a free and confidential service that helps people find local resources concerning health, housing and utilities, jobs and support, and more. Huntrods said his office has received fewer calls since Lake County 2-1-1 began operation in July, which means the service is working.
He also noted its importance in relation to the safety and well-being of area residents.
"The largest percentage of calls in Lake County have been related to mental health and addictions, including 13 calls involving crisis intervention," said Huntrods. "In fact, one week after going live, an individual considering suicide called 2-1-1. Operators were able to keep that person on the line and reach out to local officials, and that life was saved."
Other speakers included Cotton Koch, representing the Madison Middle School Snack Program, Lindsey Karlson, representing the Children's Care Corner, and Bette Poppen, representing Girl Scouts-Dakota Horizons.
Madison Middle School Snack Program provides apples to hungry middle school students for two weeks in April and May. IAUW funding helps purchase the apples, which are provided in conjunction with a Brain Break program that lets students take a ten-minute break to finish the school day strong.
Children's Care Corner is a non-profit daycare center in Howard, SD that serves 45 children. IAUW funding helps maintain the facility and provide necessary updates, such as new appliances and expanded storage.
Girl Scouts-Dakota Horizons mentors and provides leadership training to over 75 girls in Madison, Chester, Howard, Colman and Flandreau. One in three girls needs some sort of financial assistance, ranging from membership dues to program fees, and IAUW funding helps cover those costs.
Following the highlights, the IAUW board recognized people who help make the success stories possible.
Madison businesses Mustang Seeds, Montgomery's and B&G Transportation were honored as outstanding supporters.
"These three businesses provided unique and important support," said Gustaf. "Mustang Seeds contributed toward the success of our WIN BIG Raffle through ticket sales and promotion assistance. Montgomery's sponsored our 15x15 campaign promotion, and B&G Transportation is a long-time supporter that always has outstanding employee contribution, and generously matches funds."
Gustaf also named the winner of the 15x15 contest, held as part of IAUW's 2018 campaign drive. Individuals who pledged at least $15 a month in 2018 and turned in their pledge form by November 15, 2017 were eligible to win a $500 gift card to Montgomery's. Shelli Peterson, store manager, presented the award to winner Randy Cundy.
Finally, Gustaf called attention to IAUW's Heart Club, which consists of donors who give $500 or more annually. Sixty corporations and individuals were named Heart Club members in 2017.
Gustaf hopes to build on this year's accomplishments in order to position the organization for greater success moving forward.
For example, the one-day fundraiser Dine Out to Donate, held in October, was such a hit, Gustaf hopes to make it an annual event.
"We had fifteen dining establishments sign up this year, and it raised $2,000," she said. "We couldn't be more thrilled with the results, and look forward to making it bigger and better next year."
Similarly, the cooperation with Leadership Madison has led to another project partnership. A group in this year's class hopes to improve awareness of the 2-1-1 program.
Looking forward, the IAUW board first needs to wrap up their 2018 campaign drive.
"In terms of pledges, we are about half-way to what we received last year, so we still have a hill to climb," Gustaf said. "Even more program and agencies applied for funding in 2018, and there are many programs and projects already in the works, so it will be crucial for us to reach our contribution goal."
Gustaf believes the staffing addition of Emily Pieper as outreach coordinator will help develop understanding and increase engagement and giving in the three counties. A Flandreau native, Pieper joined IAUW in June to replace long-time executive director Lois Niedert, who will retire at the end of 2017.
"As we heard tonight, there are real people sharing real stories and making a big difference in the lives of their neighbors and friends," Pieper said. "Fantastic things are happening in our region, but there are gaps yet to be filled. At the same time, there are a lot of people who love their community and want to create impact, but aren't sure how. I'm excited to help bring it all together and bridge that gap."
For more pictures from the event, view the Photo Album on our Facebook page.