What were the results of the research?

Why did the Board choose poverty as the issue? UWSJC believes that poverty (self-sufficiency and family economic security) is a serious epidemic that demands collective action. The condition of poverty is linked with quality education. Children living in poverty are more likely not to be prepared for or succeed in school, and less likely to complete or further their education.  (Alliance for Excellent Education; American Graduate.)

Summary: Donor survey and key leader interview results showed that poverty/economic self-sufficiency and education are perceived as the primary social problems for our community. Interviewees endorsed the “issue focus” model. They also supported UWSJC’s role as a leader to address a key issue. Most respondents of the donor survey indicated that they would continue to donate and volunteer (or would increase their participation) if either poverty or education were selected as the focus. 

New Model: Board members decided that the community and UWSJC would not be well-served by continuing the traditional fundraising focus. To make a long-lasting impact in our community, Board members voted to adopt a “laser focus” on a key community issue.

Poverty defined: “Poverty for a family of four is demonstrated by an annual income of $23,050 or less.”  (2012: The Department of Health and Human Services) “Families and their children experience poverty when they are unable to achieve a minimum, decent standard of living that allows them to participate fully in mainstream society.” (The National Center for Children in Poverty at Columbia University.)

The epidemic of poverty right here at home: The poverty rate in St. Joseph County is 20%, 5% higher than the Indiana poverty rate. 53,000 children, women and men live in poverty. Nearly 20,000 children live in poverty or 1 out of every 3 children under the age of 18. In Indiana, our county has the 7th highest poverty rate, the 4th highest number of children who qualify for Free and Reduced Lunch and 4th highest number of people qualified for Food Stamps. (2011, U. S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, U. S. Census Bureau, Indiana Family and Social Services, Indiana Dept. of Education, Indiana Business Research Center)

Many services and programs in our community address poverty or its effects.  However, in the absence of focused, collective action, the UWSJC Board is concerned that the number of people in poverty will continue to grow.

Next Steps: Board members, current and new public and private partners, as well as staff  will develop and implement a strategic plan. The plan will align programs and services with this issue. Measures for success and resources to address the issue will be identified and pursued.  The move to an issue focus will impact UWSJC’s organizational structure, allocation investment process and initiatives/services, marketing communications, development resources and governance practices.

Click here to download full report.


SOUTH BEND, Ind. – The United Way of St. Joseph County welcomes new staff members Cory Hankins and Dennis Kaplan to its Mission Advancement Team.

Cory Hankins joins United Way as the resident Art Director. He brings with him a full repertoire of design, marketing, public affairs, advertising, photography and print production experience and holds a BFA in Visual Communication and minors in Marketing and Spanish from Ball State University. While living in Chicago, Cory served as Graphic Designer for ComPsych Corporation, Communications Designer/Production Supervisor for The American Bar Endowment and Associate Art Director for Lou Beres & Associates, Inc. Having recently moved back to the Michiana area, Cory and his family live in Mishawaka.

Dennis Kaplan joins United Way as the Government and Foundation Relationship Manager. Dennis has significant expertise in proposal research and writing; grant administration and reporting; strategic planning, budget and program evaluation; community and donor relations; and agency collaboration and partnership cultivation. He has served in a similar capacity for the Franciscan Alliance, Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, Family & Children’s Center, WNIT Public Television, and The Center for the Homeless. Dennis studied Journalism and American History at Indiana University and currently resides in South Bend with his wife.

Celebrating its 100th Anniversary, United Way of St. Joseph County is a nonprofit organization whose newly-revised mission statement is the following: To mobilize the community to collectively reduce poverty. The organization works in conjunction with 23 local agency partners and 53 programs to address key priorities in St. Joseph County.


SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Celebrating its 100th Anniversary, the United Way of St. Joseph County also announces the appointment of its new board members for the 2013-2014 year. Just as they have in the past, United Way board members serve an integral role by helping the organization make decisions, overcome challenges and achieve goals. Without their wholehearted efforts, United Way would be unable to make the difference it has today and cast a vision for the future of the community.

United Way of St. Joseph County welcomes the following new board members to their roles: Joseph T. Barkman, Chief Financial Officer, Oaklawn Psychiatric Center, Inc.; Kurt A. Meyer, Chief Human Resource Officer and VP of Support Services, Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center; and Aaron Perri, Executive Director, Downtown South Bend, Inc. Aforementioned board members will be joining the Finance, Administration and Facilities; Governance and Personnel; and Community Investment committees, respectively.

Meeting five times a year, the board currently includes 33 members and represents a diverse array of businesses and organizations across St. Joseph County. To view a complete list of the volunteer United Way of St. Joseph County Board of Directors, please visit www.uwsjc.org/about/board/board-members.html.

A very sincere thank you goes out to all past and present United Way of St. Joseph County board members, officers, committee chairs, and campaign co-chairs for committing their valuable time and continual support of the United Way mission.

Celebrating its 100th Anniversary, United Way of St. Joseph County is a nonprofit organization whose newly-revised mission statement is the following: To mobilize the community to collectively reduce poverty. The organization works in conjunction with 23 local agency partners and 53 programs to address key priorities in St. Joseph County.

St. Joseph County to Participate in Regional STEM Education Initiative
K-12 Districts can apply for program funding

PLTWSouth Bend, Ind. (March 1, 2014) – United Way of St. Joseph County and the St. Joseph County Chamber of Commerce announced that all K-12 schools in St. Joseph County are eligible to participate in the regional STEM Education Initiative announced Saturday morning by Project Lead The Way (PLTW), the nation’s leading provider of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programs, and the Corporate Partnership for Economic Growth (CPEG) at a STEM teacher training program held at the University of Notre Dame.

PLTW announced that Northern Indiana was selected to become a model region for PLTW, providing all K-12 schools, both public and private, in a five-county area with the opportunity to implement PLTW’s rigorous, world-class STEM programs in engineering, biomedical science, and computer science. The partnership creates a $4.4 million matching grant pilot program to offset startup costs associated with teacher training, participation fees, and required equipment and will be available to schools beginning with the 2014-15 school year and continuing through 2016. Schools in the five-county area of Elkhart, Fulton, Kosciusko, Marshall, and St. Joseph may begin applying for grant funds immediately. Applications for the 2014-15 academic year are due March 31, and schools will be accepted and notified in April.

In St. Joseph County, PLTW programs are currently being utilized at Mishawaka High School, Penn High School, Riley High School and South Bend Career Academy. In addition, Kennedy Primary Academy in South Bend is participating as a pilot site for a new program, PLTW LaunchTM, during the 2013-14 school year. The leaders of these schools have voiced support for expanding PLTW and providing these learning opportunities to a greater number of students in the coming years. “The most immediate impact of PLTW will be specialized training and support for teachers and the opportunity to engage students in new ways,” says Larry Garatoni, local business leader and co-founder of The South Bend Career Academy and Magnet Investors. “The long-term impact will be a more productive, innovative and entrepreneurial workforce and a more vibrant local economy. This is an investment in our future.”

To be selected as a model region, each participating county had to raise a percentage of the matching funds, based on the number of schools in their county. In St. Joseph County, the United Way of St. Joseph County, with support from the St. Joseph County Chamber of Commerce and community leaders, secured over $800,000 in financial commitments for St. Joseph County schools to participate. The funding to support implementation in St. Joseph County schools was generously provided by a combination of business and industry, private and community foundations, colleges and universities and individual philanthropists. “United Way of St. Joseph County is proud to play a role in bringing Project Lead The Way to our schools,” said Kay Ball, President/CEO of United Way of St. Joseph County. “Our engagement with PLTW is one component of United Way’s commitment to a comprehensive vision for sustainable, transformative education reform and equal access for all students.”

In addition to providing every student with access to PLTW, the regional partnership with PLTW engages the local community, business and industry and will help develop a robust talent pipeline for those businesses and industries. Jeff Rea, President and CEO of the St. Joseph County Chamber of Commerce states, “Recent studies indicate that there are more than 300 vacant STEM jobs in our region and more coming in the future.  These are jobs that typically produce incomes that pay and grow above the national average. Implementing PLTW programs can play a key role in helping to prepare our students for these career opportunities.”  The other counties participating in this regional initiative with St. Joseph County are Elkhart, Fulton, Kosciusko and Marshall.

PLTW is a national nonprofit organization headquartered in Indianapolis, providing STEM programs and high-quality teacher professional development to more than 5,000 schools across the United States, including 345 schools in Indiana. PLTW’s five programs include PLTW LaunchTM for grades K-5, PLTW GatewayTM for students in grades 6-8, and PLTW EngineeringTM, PLTW Biomedical ScienceTM, and PLTW Computer ScienceTM for high school students. By aligning with PLTW, CPEG and its member organizations are able to offer more students access to the rigorous STEM programs that will prepare Northern Indiana students for the global economy.

STEM jobs are growing at a rate of 18 percent, nearly twice the rate of other fields. By 2018, the U.S. Department of Commerce estimates 1.2 million unfilled jobs in STEM fields due to a widening skills gap. In Indiana, 123,000 new STEM jobs will exist by 2018, the majority of which will be computer and mathematical scientists, engineers, and engineering technicians. STEM jobs are among the country’s highest paying jobs.

Click here to read the January/February 2014 PLTW Newsletter

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