For Kathy DeLong, a human resources pro at BKD, the idea that Friday the 13th is an unlucky day couldn't be further from the truth. Because on Friday, January 13, Kathy's name was drawn from 4,651 slips of paper to win two tickets to this year's Super Bowl. The giving incentive was provided by the Indianapolis Colts.
"I am over-the-top-excited about going to my first Super Bowl," Kathy said."I support United Way because of the great work you do in our community, not to get something in return. To me, the incentive to give is seeing the good work that gets done. So winning these tickets feels like a windfall! It’s SUPER exciting...a once-in-a-lifetime experience!"
Kathy said her company is "very community minded," investing both money and volunteers through United Way. In the past, she's been involved in helping set a direction for the company's campaign, so Kathy feels like she'll be representing her co-workers, her city and United Way at the big game.
Congratulations, Kathy! And thanks again to the Colts for their generosity in providing the prize!
—Mary Kinney, media/public relations director, United Way of Central Indiana
The 2012 session of the Indiana General Assembly is off to a busy start. United Way of Central Indiana supports several bills introduced related to early learning. House Bill (HB) 1323 was heard in a House Education Committee hearing this morning. United Way supported this bill in its original form, which would have put in place additional standards – including those related to health, safety and sanitation – for Indiana child care providers that receive government dollars for their care. However, neither the bill nor a proposed amendment, which would have changed the intent of the bill, was voted on by the Committee, and the bill is not likely move any further during this legislative session. United Way continues to support standardizing health and safety requirements for Indiana child care providers, which is crucial to higher quality child care and school readiness. United Way is grateful to Representative Robert Behning for authoring HB 1323, and we are encouraged that the House Education Committee is putting an emphasis on the importance of early childhood education, including higher quality child care.
Other bills that United Way supports include HB 1136 which will formally recognize the Registered Ministry Advisory Council and Senate Bill (SB) 268 which will establish an early learning advisory committee of the Indiana Education Roundtable. The Indiana Association of United Ways testified in support of SB 268 at a January 18 committee hearing. Both bills passed out of their committees and are being considered by the full House and Senate, respectively.
At the local level, in early January, United Way of Central Indiana announced its support for comprehensive smoke-free air policies. A smoke-free air proposal is currently being considered by the Marion County City-County Council, which is expected to be voted on at the Council's January 30 meeting.
United Way of Central Indiana continues to monitor many other bills currently before the General Assembly, both on our own and as members of the Children's Coalition of Indiana and the Indiana Coalition for Human Services (ICHS). Go here to see some of the bills ICHS is supporting, opposing and/or monitoring. I'll continue to post periodic updates, and as a reminder, you can go here to view United Way's 2012 public policy agenda and here to look up a specific bill on Indiana General Assembly's website.
--Laura Smoots, director, public policy, United Way of Central Indiana
When I bought my Sunrise Cookbook before Christmas, I understood that my $10 purchase was quite a deal. I was getting wonderful, healthy recipes to try out on my family. (I'm still working my way through last year's recipes!) And, because the sales benefit United Christmas Service, I was helping families that would not otherwise share in the holiday spirit.
But what I never thought about until today was how my small purchase, when combined with those of people I don't even know, could become so significant to thousands of families in need.
This morning, all the people who helped make the Sunrise Cookbook possible at Marsh, at WTHR-TV and at United Way, got together to celebrate that the 2011 cookbook raised $83,464.67 for United Christmas Service!
To put that in context, the cookbook project has generated approximately $615,000 in the past five years! That is almost the same amount of assistance United Way provided this season to help more than 5,600 families.
I already thought my $10 purchase was a great value. Now, seeing that big ceremonial check and knowing what it meant to thousands of struggling neighbors, that feeling is even stronger. When I think about it, it's what United Way does all year round – gives us all, no matter what amount we can contribute – the power to magnify our giving by joining one another.
Sunrise cookbook partners who joined in the celebration are: (from front left) Bruce Kopp, Eyewitness News; Joe Kelley, president, CEO/chairman, Marsh, Ron Pearson, United Christmas Service volunteer chair; Mary Jones, United Way's community projects director; Angela Cain, WTHR's community affairs director; and, Mimi Pearce, Eyewitness News.(Back, left to right): David Williamson and Connie Gardner, Marsh, Julia Moffitt, Eyewitness News; John Cardenas, WTHR vice president & general manager, WTHR; and, Chuck Lofton, Eyewitness News.
Thanks for a great idea, a great cookbook, and continuing a caring tradition that matters!
--Mary Kinney, public/media relations director, United Way of Central Indiana
It was a perfect 25th anniversary celebration for Indiana Youth Group (IYG) after approval for their first specialty license plate. IYG is the first organization serving gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth in the country, to release the specialty license plate. "We’ve been working on this for 4 years! It makes a huge statement to the wider community and will hopefully let many more youth know that IYG exists," said Mary Byrne, executive director at IYG.
IYG works with over 1,300 youth a year throughout Indiana. They operate an activity center, build capacity and help form Gay Straight Alliances in high schools throughout the state, and assist other communities in providing their own youth services. The license plates will be sold for $40 with a $25 contribution going toward IYG, and growing their programs and services.
"We are totally excited and hope that our community supports IYG and buys the specialty license plate," said Byrne.
The IYG license plate will be available for purchase in February. Support community youth and look for IYG's new rainbow logo on license plates driving your way!
--Katie Rethlake, communications intern, United Way of Central Indiana
For the past four years, help with utility bills has remained the most sought-after need of callers to Connect2Help’s 2-1-1. In response, The City of Indianapolis and United Way of Central Indiana continued their collaboration of nearly three decades by launching the Winter Assistance Fund recently at an event at Southeast Community Services. The partners accepted almost $270,000 in contributions from five local funders.
Participating in the news conference where start-ups funds were contributed were: Indianapolis Deputy Mayor Olgen Williams (left to right) United Way’s Director of Agency Services, Christie Gillespie; Greg Sawyer, Citizens Energy Group; Greg Fennig, Indianapolis Power and Light Company; Angela Carr Klitzsch, The Indianapolis Foundation, a CICF affiliate; and, Michael Twyman, Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust. If you’d like to help a Marion County neighbor stay warm, you can give at uwci.org/waf or mail a check to Winter Assistance Fund, P.O. Box 660054, Indianapolis, IN 46266-0054. People who need help should call 2-1-1.
--Mary Kinney, public/media relations director, United Way of Central Indiana
It was an event with great food, games and prizes with a wild western twist! On Dec. 2, 2011, employees from Federal Home Loan Bank of Indianapolis and United Way of Central Indiana showed off their boots and spurs for a silent auction. Donations from the event were given to support United Way.
Walking up to the porch to meet Viontae for the first time, I remember being uncharacteristically nervous. It didn’t help that it was summer time, and his entire family was out on the front porch waiting to meet me.
After meeting his mother, three brothers, grandma, and numerous cousins, I headed out on my first excursion with Viontae. The conversation was mostly one-sided as you can imagine, but over time he warmed up to me.
That was the pattern for the first few months of our relationship – slow-starting but strong finishing. Each visit ended with discussion of the next time we would get together and have fun. As a big brother, that’s a good sign that things are going well.
Viontae and I were great together, but what wasn’t great was the stability of his home and school life. In the two years that I have been his big brother, Viontae has lived in six different homes and attended five different schools.
Within those moves, communication between us has been a major issue. On multiple occasions, I have shown up to an empty home where Viontae had recently moved from without telling me.
Without a consistent working phone or internet source, our communication was sporadic at best. Out of the blue, I would receive a phone call from a mystery number with Viontae on the other end telling me his new address. This was obviously not his fault, but it was affecting his grades and behavior in school.
With all of this unpredictability in his life during such a critical growth period for a middle-school boy, I knew that I had to stick with him and try to bring some consistency to his life. As challenging as it was at times, I made sure that I got to hang out with him a few times each month. If I couldn’t reach him on the phone, I drove to his house. If he wasn’t home, I drove to wherever he was just to say hi and plan our next day out.
Over the past six months, Viontae and his family have been living in the same home and he has attended the same school. He is continuously showing signs of maturity and growth both in and out of school.
It would be impossible to know how much impact I have had, but I can tell you that there is no better feeling than seeing him happy. Progress is not seen overnight, but being a steady presence over the past two years has improved both of our lives.
With the new year here, I encourage anyone that really wants to make a difference in a child’s life to become a mentor. Having a consistent, positive role model can make differences beyond what you may expect.
--Brad Shupe, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Indiana mentor, and clinic director, ATI Physical Therapy
Editor's note: Through agencies like Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Indiana and others, your undesignated gifts to United Way helps match mentors like Brad with young people to help them become the next generation of caring, confident and competent adults.
As part of my involvement in the community, I participate in many professional organizations and volunteer activities. I find that of all the events I attend and activities I help facilitate, none is as much fun as the annual Oscar Night® America gala, hosted by United Way of Central Indiana and presented by Citizens Energy Group.
Oscar Night is a festive celebration where attendees have an opportunity to watch the annual Academy Awards on a jumbo screen; all while raising money for a good cause. Oscar Night started for me four years ago when a friend of mine on the planning committee invited me to attend my first event. I’ve been every year since, and it an evening I always look forward to.
This year, my friend and colleague, Lisa Tellus, and I have taken on a larger role. We are co-chairing the Décor Committee. It’s been fantastic planning the fun event and helping bring to life this year’s Brazilian, Rio Carnaval theme. We’ve picked out beautiful centerpieces flanked with peacock feathers, a stage garnished with life-size carnival masks and a VIP lounge aimed to impress with soft shades representing the seduction of Brazil’s annual Rio Carnaval parades.
Not to mention, all the work we’re putting in is helping United Way of Central Indiana further its mission of sustaining vital human services for those in need, while reducing such needs for future generations.
What does this mean? United Way will use this year’s Oscar Night proceeds to help underprivileged families become financially stable, at-risk youth continue on a path of education through after-school and education programs, and most of all it will help improve the lives of people in our community.
So if I can volunteer a small amount of my time to give back to someone in my community, I’m happy to do it. And, it’s fun!
Don’t miss out on your chance to attend this year’s Oscar Night event, Rio Carnaval. Tickets are on sale now at uwci.org/oscars. I know you’ll love the décor Lisa and I picked out. See you there!
--Margaux Childers, account director, Borshoff, and United Way volunteer
Each month, we'll post updates about United Way and our agencies. There's (nearly) always something going on!
United Way news
- Sam Perry, director, strategic marketing and communications, is leaving to join the marketing team at Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana Inc.
- Jill Troha, area director, Boone County, is moving to a new position as coordinator, Youth and Family Volunteer Engagement, Hamilton County.