Photos and vibrant colors of Crayola cover the walls. Remnants of yesterday’s English as a Second Language (ESL) class are sprinkled across the white boards in the classroom area. The exhaustive calendar of events can be found on the bulletin board just as you walk into the small apartment that serves as a hub of activity most hours of the waking day.
Hser Ner Moo is a Welcome Center located in the South Parc Townhomes apartment complex. Over 100 individuals frequent the Center each day, dispite the challenge of having limited space to meet the increasing demand of individuals interested in after-school programs, computer lab usage, college prep and ESL courses. The staff work magic in finding ways to serve every individual who comes to the Center for assistance. With a high concentration of refugees at the complex an din the surrounding area, Hser Ner Moo fills a much-needed gap by providing programs and support to assist with integration into the Salt Lake community.
Hser Ner Moo is one example of the positive effect a focus on Community Impact has on individuals, communities, and the larger society. Welcome Centers help build bridges among people, services and resources. Taking a single step into the small space that serves as a miniature cafeteria, instructional room, and activity center brimming full of individuals of all ages is evidence of its success and of the growing need for more Centers like Hser Ner Moo in our community.
This past week, United Way of Salt Lake was recognized for Business Excellence in Workplace Flexibility and received the Alfred P. Sloan Award. When you work for a flexible organization, like I do, you sometimes take for granted the fact that not everyone has the same experience at work. I live a good 40 minutes from my office. The poor little tires on my car get a workout. Thankfully, because UWSL is a flexible workplace, I can work a 9-80 schedule that allows me to work 9 hours every day and have every other Friday off. Hello skiing! Also on those snowy days where 40 miles to work would take hours I can telecommute from home. My co-workers with children find that flexible hours help them maintain their family priorities and still accomplish their work in the office.
UWSL might have won the Sloan Award, but every other Friday I feel like the winner!
I have a question: if you have a relative that is sick with a terrible disease (cancer, for example) would you share this information with your close friends – and maybe even not such close friends? My guess is yes, you would and so would I. Discussing illnesses is commonplace at home, work, and social gatherings.
Another question: if your family member is suffering, not from an illness, but because he/she is living in poverty would you discuss that with your friends? My guess is now, and I don’t think I would either. Why is it that we, as a society and community, cannot talk about money problems in people’s lives?
Maybe we can talk about how much we paid for a car and if we think we got a good deal or if we were taken advantage of. But what if our car is repossessed because we lost our job and couldn’t keep up with payments? These kinds of conversations typically don’t happen.
What if we could change that and start having these conversations? Would that help those that are struggling to make ends meet? My guess is yes, because the more an issue is in the public’s eye (i.e. has our attention) the more likely something will be done about it. While poverty issues are not easy to solve, and I don’t mean to suggest that they are, we at least need to start recognizing that these difficult issues continue to persist and are even growing. We should not be ashamed if we or people we know are suffering with financial difficulties anymore than we would not be ashamed if we or people we know are sick with an illness.
United Way recently secured funding for an early learning program in the Granite School District. The program produces amazing results and has a very promising funding model and, because of the work of United Way of Salt Lake, there are now more than 30 new students enrolled in a high quality early learning program that would have otherwise have been wait-listed. The real story of this grant is that UWSL wrote it for Granite School District and this is, in my opinion, what separates UWSL from other non-profits in the community. UWSL identified a promising program that was producing great results and was able to connect it to donors who would help it flourish. No other non-profit in the community would ever consider doing business this way. Is it wise to use our resources to write grants that ultimately assist other organizations? If it benefits the community… the answer is yes. This is the true success story of United Way because, at the end of the day, the success of our community is the only measure that matters.