This year has been a year like no other. We’re facing a pandemic health crisis, financial instability, and the continued realities of injustice and inequity. Yet every day, we are amazed at how our community is pulling together to lift up neighbors, friends and family.

At United Way, our commitment to creating lasting change and helping all children and adults succeed, regardless of their circumstances, holds steady during this time. As these forces continue to impact our community, United Way remains steadfast on ensuring our community’s most vulnerable populations have what they need during and after this crisis.

As the 2020 Stronger United campaign gets underway, we want to take this opportunity to express our appreciation to all of United Way of 1000 Lakes’ supporters – donors, volunteers, grantees, and partners – for collaborating with us to ensure our neighbors will have a better life.

United Way works every day – forging partnerships, convening key players, actively engaged in conversations to learn how we can best support the ever-changing needs of our community, during this crisis and beyond. Our strength lies in our ability to unite partners from all sectors around a common purpose – to help make our community a better place to live for everyone.

Investing and supporting in a strong safety net remains at the center of United Way’s mission. Whether it’s immediate needs, such as food, shelter, and safety, or long-term support, such as childcare, education, and mental health outreach, each service provides another thread to the safety net. Before recent events, over 5,800 of our citizens live in poverty. Another 4,964 are working, but due to child care costs, transportation challenges, and a high cost of living, so many more are living paycheck to paycheck. Many of these hardworking families are one crisis away from falling into poverty.

United Way invests in 20 small- and mid-sized agencies, all located in the Itasca area, that help families and individuals in our community meet their basic needs, achieve financial stability and independence, meet educational goals, and live healthy lives. In addition to grants, United Way manages a number of programs and initiatives that reach across all impact areas to help the community, such as the community volunteer portal, Bonfire, Stuff the Bus School Supplies Drive, and Day of Action.

The grants investments are made with dollars resulting from the annual United Way campaign. Grants are awarded through an open, competitive, and peer-reviewed process with funding decisions made by community leaders, volunteers and subject matter experts.

For a half a century, United Way of 1000 Lakes has fought for the education, health and financial stability of everyone in the Itasca area because of our donors’ generosity and backing. Whenever we have been faced with challenges and opportunities as a community, United Way has stepped up to help.

It is now, in these extraordinary times, that we need an extraordinary approach. 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, and one community at a time.

Join us because we are stronger united.

Alie McInerney
Board of Directors 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


young people were provided with educational support and enrichment opportunities.

Boys and Girls Clubs: Deer River, Grand Rapids, and Greenway

Itasca County Family 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


individuals were provided with tools and resources to improve their health and well-being.

Bigfork Valley: Transportation Program

Eldercircle: Adult Day Respite, Assisted Transportation, In-Home CARE Services, RSVP Volunteer Programs, and Home Visitor Program

Itasca County Family 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


children and adults had their basic needs met — food, shelter, and safety.

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