This time of year, a common question I hear about public policy is: what goes on at the Statehouse when the General Assembly isn't in session? The answer is: a lot! While the General Assembly meets every year to consider and pass laws - usually during January - March or April depending on the year - each summer and fall interim study committees of the General Assembly meet to "study" various issues identified by the legislature. Some groups are only established for a specific period of time, while other are standing committees that meet every year and/or are established in statute. Certain committees are made up of only state legislators while others are comprised of legislators and other community members and leaders. These committees not only allow members to better understand certain issues or discuss issues that the legislature may have run out of time to address during session, but often legislation is drafted by these committees that ends up being introduced during the following legislative session.
United Way of Central Indiana follows these committees closely, especially the Committee on Child Care and the Interim Study Committee on Education Issues. In 2011 United Way provided testimony to both of these committees about our work in early childhood education - more specifically our work to improve child care quality as an essential component of early childhood education.
The Indiana Association of United Ways (IaUW) has drafted an initial list of study topics for 2012 which is available here. In addition to the committees mentioned above, United Way will be following a number of these issues this summer and fall, including: the Select Commission on Education, which will be studying several issues related to the new formula for grading public schools on a A-F scale, and; the Commission on State Tax and Financing Policy which will be looking at various state tax credits - including Indiana's Earned Income tax Credit and Neighborhood Assistance Program tax credits - over the next two years (2012 and 2013).
Go here to find a comprehensive list of these interim study committees - this information is generally updated for the current year by May or June. From here you can access each committee's website where you'll find a list of members, meeting agendas and meeting minutes.
In addition to attending these committee meetings (meeting dates are posted online and open to the public) the summer and fall are a great time to meet with your state legislators to educate them about your organization and public policy priorities and even to invite them to take a tour of your facility or organization. You can find your legislators here.
As a reminder about lobbying dos and don'ts, IaUW has put together the following document: lobbying rules for nonprofits. Keep in mind during this election year that while lobbying activity is permitted for nonprofits, political activity is not. Nonprofits cannot use organizational resources to support or oppose political candidates or parties. IaUW has also developed a document outlining election year do's and don'ts for nonprofits.
-- Laura Smoots, director, public policy, United Way of Central Indiana
Your gifts, Elmer and Carolyn’s story: PrimeLife helped them cope with sorrow, stress and transition
Elmer and Carolyn Olson have shared great joy and tragedy in their 59 year marriage. They danced, raised five wonderful children, were blessed by 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren — and lost one precious daughter.
Elmer and their daughter, Jenell, wrote a book together chronicling her unique breast cancer journey. Both Elmer, age 79, and Carolyn, age 78, are proud of the legacy Jenelle left for others, and speak with pride of her courage and determination to chart her own course.
Still healing from their loss, they are grateful that destiny brought them to Carmel where they can be close to their daughter, Julie, as she also experiences a serious illness. They count it a privilege to be able to help nurture and support Julie and her family at his difficult time.
Both Carolyn, a retired RN, and Elmer, a former elementary school principal, credit PrimeLife Enrichment with helping them to cope with their sorrow and stress —and enjoy their new life in Carmel.
A few years ago, their children bought them a condo in Carmel, hoping to coax their parents into moving from their home in Illinois. The children asked only that they spend six months a year in Carmel, which allowed Elmer and Carolyn the luxury of a gradual transition.
Still, the permanent move two years ago was jarring. Though happy to be near their loved ones — especially after Julie learned of her illness — they missed their old home. Opportunities to socialize with peers at PrimeLife Enrichment Center (PLE) have helped them make new friends and grow new roots.
Both exercise daily at PLE — participating in the Arthritis Land and Aquatics classes, using the walking track and visiting with new friends. Though they first resisted coming to PLE, they are so pleased that their daughter, Elaine, bought them a membership and said, "GO!"
Reluctantly, they did, and discovered that Elaine knew exactly what they needed. She understood that her parents, formerly devoted ballroom dancers, needed to be physically active and they needed to have fun!
Elmer has introduced the game, "Sequence" to PLE’s Men’s Activity Council, and is looking forward to a fishing trip with his new friends. Though physical impairments eliminated ball room dancing from their lives, PLE has replaced it with the less demanding Line Dancing. With a little help from friends and family, this loving couple has truly mastered the art of graceful aging.
Carolyn: "Exercising five days a week at PrimeLife has me moving and grooving again — and I’ve made new friends! We love our family dearly, but hadn’t realized how much we needed to be with people our own age."
Elmer: "I’ll never walk, or dance like I used to, but I’m able to enjoy line dancing, thanks to regular exercise in this well-equipped facility."
--Sandy Stewart, executive director, PrimeLife Enrichment
Editor's note: Undesignated gifts to United Way's annual campaign help ensure that people have the resources and supports for their health and well-being, including services for older adults. United Way now funds 22 agencies that provide center-based senior programming, either exclusively or as part of a broader scope of services. During the 2010/11 reporting year, more than 14,863 seniors participated in those center-based activities. United Way's total 2012/13 investment in all 22 agencies is $5.2 million.
Since 1981, UWCI has invested more than $4.8 million helping PrimeLife Enrichment, Inc.. This funding includes grants of more than $1.8 million for capital, maintenance and technology improvements from funds contributed specifically for such needs. The agency’s 2012/2013 Community Fund allocation is $131,871.
There’s a quote I keep on my desk and in my heart from Muhammad Ali. Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth. I promise I’ll get back to that.
I grew up in a rough area in South Central Los Angeles during the 1960s and '70s – a time when our nation experienced serious racial growing pains. While my parents had stable careers, my mother as a teacher and my father as an electrician, my uncle struggled. He worked as a longshoreman, loading and unloading ships without much opportunity to change his life.
Nonetheless, when he was 41, he embarked on his second career by attending medical school, supported entirely by my parents. When he graduated and became a doctor, he paid them back and began grooming me for what he hoped would be my career in medicine. My uncle and my parents had always planned that I would take over his practice when he retired.
It turned out, to the disappointment of all three of them, that I didn’t want to be a doctor.
I was interested in science, but passionate about business. So I began my professional life in pharmaceutical sales and progressed from there within the industry of healthcare.
As a United Way contributor and volunteer for more than 30 years, I recognize the deep need for United Way as a community aggregator uniquely positioned to address the most pressing needs of women, children and families. As a businessman, I know that this organization is the best choice to invest toward the most profound need as it changes.
While I am impressed by the work of the nearly 100 United Way agencies that work tirelessly every day to improve the lives of people in our community, I am particularly engaged in the work of the American Cancer Society, Great Lakes Division, Inc. – Central Indiana.
As the name suggests, this agency is focused on reducing the incidence of cancer and cancer deaths through advocacy, education, early detection screenings and research in addition to providing patients and caregivers with information, resources and support.
The uncle who I initially disappointed, but eventually made proud by my chosen career, passed away three years ago from metastatic bone cancer that originated with prostate cancer. While I didn’t become "Dr. Cotton," I did become Mr. Cotton, board member and passionate United Way advocate.
I work for Roche, a company dedicated to improving patient lives through personalized healthcare. Every day, I help customers put in place the diagnostic systems necessary to identify disease quickly and correctly, better informing treatment paths for each patient. I figured out a way to align my professional and philanthropic lives to reflect both what I was born into and what I chose.
That’s the great thing about United Way. You can channel your passions and priorities with like-minded people for the benefit of both the fragile and strong. United Way agencies touch us all, when you think of it.
How do I LIVE UNITED? I do it by using service and advocacy to "pay for my room here on Earth," as Muhammad Ali said. And I like to think I do it by becoming a "Mr. Cotton" that the uncle who inspired me would be proud of.
--Rod Cotton, senior vice president, Roche Diagnostics, and United Way of Central Indiana board member.
Each month, we'll post updates about United Way and our agencies. There's (nearly) always something going on!
United Way news
- Chris Herndon is United Way's new director of strategic marketing and communications.
- Marcus Holman is a new donor relations associate in resource development.
- Wendy Johnson is a new HoosierCorps manager in the Volunteer Center.
- Rick Tisdale is the new director, Human Resources and Diversity, filling the vacancy created by the promotion of Kennethe Vaughn.
- Steven Thompson is a diversity intern from Indiana University, Bloomington.
- Joni G. Collins is the new executive director at Martin Luther King Community Center.