Looking Back, Moving Forward

by Jennifer Zammuto, Heart of Illinois United Way

Transitioning from a United Way board member and allocation volunteer into my new position as president of the Heart of Illinois United Way has been a rewarding experience. As we move forward with the hustle and bustle of campaigns and special events over the next few months, this is a great opportunity for our organization to look back at past accomplishments and look for ways to encourage deeper collaborations in our community across the nonprofit, public, labor, government and corporate sectors.

We often mention our United Way is the largest non-governmental funder of health and human care programs in central Illinois through our Community Impact Fund grants. What is probably even more important is the fact that our organization makes the largest charitable investments in the education, financial stability and health needs of our community. Just as we depend on a broker for expertise in navigating the daily ups and downs of the stock market, the Heart of Illinois United Way is constantly evaluating data and collaborating with community partners to ensure your personal and corporate contributions are making the greatest impact on people in Peoria, Tazewell, Woodford, Marshall, Stark and Putnam counties. 

In addition to providing education, financial stability and health grants, our Community Impact Fund addresses specific health and human care needs through three initiatives: 

  • Success By 6 is an early childhood education initiative that provides knowledge about opportunities for early learning and pre-literacy skill development. In 2018, Success By 6 is celebrating 10 years of providing more than 300,000 books to local preschool children. 
  • Supporting Student Success (S3) offers in-school social services focused on prevention, intervention and case management to local students and their families. In the 2017-2018 school year, participating schools experienced a 57-percent or higher decrease in the number of discipline referrals. 
  • The Heart of Illinois 2-1-1 information and referral service provides critical access to health and human care programs throughout our six-county region. Free, confidential and available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, HOI 2-1-1 receives approximately 10,000 calls annually, primarily related to housing and utility assistance.

Of course, none of this would be possible without our reliance on volunteers, who are not only instrumental in our fundraising efforts, but in every aspect of our organization—from deciding how dollars should be invested through the Community Impact Fund to the PNC volunteers who deliver Success By 6 books and materials to our
preschool partners. 

Fall is an exciting time of year at the Heart of Illinois United Way as we kick off our campaign and celebrate what it means to Live United as a community. To date, this year’s summer Pacesetter campaigns have contributed more than $1.4 million to the 2018 Campaign. This fall, as we continue to expand our base of support, more than 250 companies and organizations will host campaigns. These dollars are critical to helping those in need in our community. 

Most importantly, whether we are making a donation or volunteering our time and talents, we constantly need to remember that at the end of all of these efforts are real people living in challenging situations who need the support of our partner agencies and schools to make positive change in their lives.

The model the Heart of Illinois United Way uses to invest community dollars efficiently and effectively to impact lives in our region is truly remarkable. I am honored to be a small part of this team of employees, hundreds of volunteers, and partner agencies that make such a difference in the lives of those in our community. iBi

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