United Way of 1000 Lakes to Move Forward with Annual Day of Action

At the beginning of the year, United Way of 1000 Lakes was laying the groundwork for an exciting new project for its eighth annual Day of Action, scheduled for June 19.

In late February, United Way began meeting with Sarah Carling of Community and Economic Development Associates (CEDA). Carling works with governments and organizations in rural Itasca County cities to collect ideas and identify development opportunities. One of the entities she was working with was the City of Coleraine, who, along with residents, identified revitalization of the downtown area along Roosevelt Avenue as a top priority. The organizations soon found connections between their work and began setting a plan into motion.

Building off of last year’s United Way Day of Action in the Oakland Addition neighborhood of Grand Rapids, volunteers would gather to help paint, landscape, and complete minor repairs on homes, public spaces, and small businesses in the area.

Given the nature of the project, Itasca County Habitat for Humanity was called to lend support through their Home Preservation program, which helps homeowners preserve and repair their homes, allowing them to live independently in their communities long term. In addition to bringing construction expertise, Habitat for Humanity can also connect homeowners to assistance programs that help with project materials and other related expenses.

Over the next month, a plan was formed, and Coleraine City Council members backed the project.

“We were excited about the possibilities – the area in Coleraine we selected encompasses schools, homes, and businesses – so we can do projects that impact both homeowners and public spaces,” said Sarah Carling, CEDA. “The City of Coleraine agreed to get in on the action, helping select and sponsor projects.”

As stay-at-home measures recede, Day of Action projects are scheduled to kick off on June 19th with a blood drive and deliveries of care packages to residents. However, in-person projects will shift to a multi-day format that allows for physical distancing, allowing projects to continue while prioritizing safety. This new format will offer a broader range of projects, both virtual and in-person, as well as different time commitments. Opportunities will be updated regularly on the United Way website, uwlakes.org, where volunteers can sign up for projects.

“We’ve renamed our event ‘Days of Action,’” said Kim Brink Smith, executive director for United Way. “While Day of Action may look a bit different this year, the focus remains the same. It serves as a connector, builds community, and allows community members to see the direct impact of their contributions.”

United Way also expanded their Days of Action effort to include further outreach and support to residents, especially aging adults isolated during the pandemic. Through a series of canvassing activities, residents will get connected to local resources, like First Call 2-1-1 and ElderCircle, who can help residents access resources like grocery and prescription delivery services.

Over the summer, United Way and its partners will be matching volunteer interests and skills to a variety of projects, which may include anything from helping an older adult plant flowers to cleaning up a community park. Community members can express interest in having a project done at their home or business or nominate a project recipient at uwlakes.org or by calling 218-999-7570.