United Way Invests in Education

At the beginning of September, students across the Itasca area returned to school for another year of learning, socialization, and personal growth. School is an important piece of a child’s development – but time in the classroom isn’t the only thing students need to succeed. That’s where United Way of 1000 Lakes, and the nonprofit network it supports, comes in. 

Each year, United Way provides funding to over 20 nonprofit programs that provide much-needed resources to local families and individuals. Among these programs are those that support the education and growth of children and youth, reaching children at all stages of their journey to adulthood. 

“United Way] really understands the importance of community, and what we do,” says Kayleen Monacelli, Unit Director of the Deer River Boys & Girls Club, a nonprofit that receives funding from United Way. “[Grant funds] go towards all types of kids, in all situations…we don’t always know the situation they come from, but we know they need us – and we’re here for them.”

Some programs, such as the Boys & Girls Clubs and Youth for Christ, give students a safe place to spend the time they’re not in school. At one of these programs, a young person might spend their afternoon receiving help with their homework, building relationships with their peers, or trying out a new activity such as a science or art project. Programs like Project READ, which distributes free books to children and youth, reach young people at home, and aim to give families the tools to raise strong readers. The Itasca County Family YMCA’s childcare program, which United Way funds provide scholarships for, gives its young learners a strong educational foundation and makes childcare accessible for low-income families.

“We love that with United Way’s help we are able to bring our children to the [YMCA’s] Wee Folks Program,” says Connie Bluntach, a parent who receives childcare through the YMCA. “We know that they are well cared for and loved. It makes having to leave them to go to work a little easier knowing they are being taken care of and learning so much.”

In addition to addressing the educational needs of the region, United Way also funds programs that address mental and physical health, help people meet their food, shelter, and safety needs, and build financial stability in Itasca-area communities. Partner organizations go through a rigorous selection process to receive grants, with funding decisions being made by a group of volunteers from the community in alignment with the organization’s impact goals. 

“Our community investment process is holistic,” says United Way Executive Director Kim Brink Smith. “Rather than addressing a single issue, we try to meet the varied, overlapping needs of each individual.” 

Over the past three months, United Way infused a total of $40,075 into the region’s nonprofit network, with $15,500 going to education programs. These community investments, made possible through the organization’s annual fundraising campaign, equip the region’s nonprofits to continue providing services to those who most need them. 

Programs like the Deer River Boys & Girls Club give children and youth the chance to learn, grown, and develop leadership skills.


For more on United Way’s work, impact, and how you can play your part, visit uwlakes.org.