Since 1963, United Way of 1000 Lakes has played a part in improving lives in the northland. Every day, United Way staff, board, and volunteers forge partnerships, convene community members, and engage in conversation to learn how we can best support our region’s ever-changing needs. We work with the support and guidance of our neighbors to create lasting change for children and adults.

As the Helping Here campaign gets underway, we want to take this opportunity to express our appreciation to all United Way’s supporters – donors, volunteers, grantees, and partners – for joining us in the pursuit of a community where everyone has what they need to thrive. Whether it’s immediate needs, such as food, shelter, and safety; or long-term support, such as childcare, education, and mental health outreach; United Way remains committed to investing in and supporting a strong safety net.

Annually we invest in 20 small- and mid-sized agencies, all located in the Itasca area, that help families and individuals meet their basic needs, achieve financial stability and independence, reach educational goals, and live healthy lives. These grants investments are made with dollars resulting from the annual campaign. Grants are awarded through an open, competitive, and peer-reviewed process with funding decisions made by local leaders, volunteers, and subject matter experts.

In addition to grants, United Way manages several programs and initiatives that reach across all impact areas, such as Bonfire, the region’s online volunteer portal, Stuff the Bus School Supplies Drive, and Day of Action.

The nonprofit network United Way supports allows our neighbors reach for their fullest potential. To build on and strengthen this work, a committee made up of cross-sector community leaders began mapping the most pressing needs for people living and working in Itasca-area communities. We’re in the process of gathering community input to ensure that we direct our energy and resources where they’re needed most. Our refreshed funding priorities will roll out in 2022.

We are asking you to support United Way. With every person who steps up to make a difference with us, we’re tearing down one more barrier to success for another and building a stronger Itasca area for all of us—one person, one family, one neighborhood at a time.

Join us in helping here.

Alie McInerney
Board of Directors Past President

Kimberly Brink Smith
Executive Director



Building Educational Success

When children thrive, our whole community thrives. United Way’s Education pathway strategically builds a child’s chances for educational success and combats the challenges that impede progress. Through our partner programs and initiatives, we’re supporting parents and providing safe and nurturing environments that help bolster academics, build leadership skills, and promote social well-being. Learn more

As a child, Chelsi grew up in a home where poverty, drug abuse and violence were almost unavoidable. Her mom was a single parent and was working here and there to make ends meet. One constant in her life was the support she and her family received from United Way funded programs. Read Chelsi’s Story

Boys and Girls Clubs: Deer River, Grand Rapids, and Greenway
Itasca County YMCA: Early Child and Youth Education scholarships
Project READ
Youth For Christ: Campus Life

Americorps Promise Fellow Program
Bonfire: Volunteer Platform
First Call: United Way 2-1-1
Day of Action
Nonprofit Resource Library
Stuff The Bus: School Supplies Drive



Improving Health & Well-being

Being healthy is vital for children to grow and develop and for adults to live a full, productive life. United Way’s Health pathway strategically provides resources for individuals and families to live healthy lives. Through our partner programs and services, we’re helping individuals with health conditions, disabilities, dependency, and mental illness. Learn more

After financial hardship devastated Travis and Suli’s home, the couple turned to drugs for the answer. As their lives continued to unravel, Suli sought guidance and support from United Way funded programs to keep her family together and re-establish their once happy home. Read Suli’s Story

Bigfork Valley: Transportation Program
Eldercircle: Adult Day Respite, Assisted Transportation, In-Home CARE Services, RSVP Volunteer Programs, and Home Visitor Program
Itasca County YMCA: Active Living Center
Itasca Wellness Court
Kiesler Wellness Center
Project Care Free Clinic

Bonfire: Volunteer Platform
First Call: United Way 2-1-1
Day of Action
Nonprofit Resource Library
 5-2-1-0 Playstations



Achieving Financial Stability

Caring for neighbors is key to a strong community. United Way’s Income and Basic Needs pathway strategically empowers people to solve their problems and work toward financial independence. Through our partner programs and services, we position people for a better, brighter tomorrow by helping with emergency and transitional housing, transportation, and basic needs — food, shelter, and safety. Learn more

Entering adulthood without stable housing puts homeless youth, like Kayla, at increased risk for food insecurity, untreated mental health issues, and substance abuse. Luckily, she had a network of nonprofits, some of them United Way partners, available to connect her with resources that offered stability during the difficult transition out of her toxic family environment. Read Kayla’s Story

Advocates For Family Peace
Bigfork Food Shelf
Deer River Food Shelf
Grace House Homeless Shelter
Habitat For Humanity: Home Preservation Program
KOOTASCA: Homeless Prevention Program
Support Within Reach

Bonfire: Volunteer Platform
First Call: United Way 2-1-1
Day of Action
Health & Hygiene Drive
Nonprofit Resource Library
Summer Meal Meet-Ups