"We've been able to rebuild who we were and regain who we are. Thank you," said a recent graduate of the Work Life program UWSEMO supports at One City.

House in a beautifully renovated white brick building with an eye-catching yellow door at 610 Independence in Cape, One City is a relatively new nonprofit of only two years. The building supports a dance class, occasional community events, and the Work Life program, which brings employment and dignity to its graduates.

On October 17th, One City held their Work Life Graduation and thanked United Way donors for contributing to the success of the Work Life program and, more importantly, to the success of its graduates. Christina Cheek started as the program coordinator in early August just as a new class of participants began their journey. The class met every Tuesday and Thursday from 9 AM –12 PM, frequently leaving with homework and accumulating 40+ hours of curriculum in six weeks. Participants cover a broad age span, and many have been unemployed for years.

What is extremely unique about Work Life is their curriculum; they do not start with interviews or resume building but something deeper. They begin with balance. They talk about what it takes to know who you are before you can go out and give others what you have to offer. Balance in life is compared to a house--there is a foundation with walls that hold you up as an individual. The foundation of the Work Life program is God, followed by your relationship with yourself, others, and your Work Life. If you can find a balance between these four relationships, then you are preparing yourself for greater success in life.

 Work Life students discuss how mistakes from their past have destroyed their house. In some cases, it was not even their own mistakes but the environment they were raised in or people they let into their lives. The students accept their mistakes as they embrace their self-worth and the gifts they have to offer. All of the graduates have found jobs and are proud of the work and talent they are able to contribute.

United Way of Southeast Missouri is proud to be part of a program that is lifting people up in such an amazing way. We believe in their mission and can’t wait to see what they and their graduates do next! 

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October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Are you aware that domestic abuse isn't always violent?
Many times, an abuser will take things that are essential to a woman's self-confidence and independence, like dentures or eyeglasses, and withhold them as punishment or to keep her from leaving the house. Many victims in this situation do not have a network of family members or friends or may be too embarrassed to ask for help. That is why United Way of Southeast Missouri supports two programs at Safe House for Women. One helps with immediate medical and health needs, and the second is an education prevention program to create long-term impact and lasting change.
“This year we were able to provide five clients with eyeglasses. Many times, clients come to us without their glasses because their abusers have either taken them or broken them through violence. Being able to provide eyeglasses to our clients is a great boost to their confidence and enables them to drive and to work.” - Safe House for Women Director, Jessica Hill  
By supporting both Safe House programs, UWSEMO helps to address the immediate need and works to eliminate the behavior creating the need. Last year Safe House helped 68 victims of domestic violence and educated 2,298 students throughout Southeast Missouri on healthy relationships and how to safely leave one that is unhealthy.  
“One of the students who participated in the program wrote our educator a letter in which she stated that she had been abused by her brother. She said the program helped her to address what had happened to her and make sense of her experience.” - Safe House for Women Violence Prevention Educator
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Touching an Elephant

By now most of us have heard the story based on a poem by John Godfrey Saxe of several blind men touching an elephant for the first time, each touching a different part. The man touching the tusk believes it is a spear; the man touching the leg calls it a tree, while the man holding the tail identifies it as a rope, etc. As I begin my fifth year with United Way of Southeast Missouri, I realize our organization is the elephant in the room. Most of our community sees United Way, yet each person identifies with us differently. Despite our best efforts, very few understand the full picture, which can seem vast and complex. 


On the surface, what we do is quite simple. We collect resources to share with other nonprofit agencies and programs in Southeast Missouri. Primarily, these are financial resources, and many people in our community still think of us as an organization that simply raises funds. Much of the general public remains unaware of all that we give to our partners, extending far beyond writing a quarterly check. Employees at businesses that do not run workplace campaigns are equally uninformed of our efforts to give back to our workplaces that invest in our organization and network.  


Partner Perspective  

Throughout the year UWSEMO works hard to: 

    • Recruit volunteers and even staff for our partners who need them
    •  Host and promote drives to provide food or hygiene products 
    •  Help our partners tell their stories through our marketing and advertising and when we speak to workplaces
    •  Bring people into their agencies with our Live United bus tours and via our monthly newsletter
    •  Promote partner events and fundraisers
    •  Offer training to help them grow, such as bringing a professional to a meeting last year to discuss board recruitment and responsibilities at no cost to our partners. 


Workplace Perspective 

Did you know that we also give back to our workplaces? Many area employers believe it is important to encourage philanthropy in their staff. This could be based on personal values, but it also influences the bottom line: 

    • A recent national survey showed when businesses give employees the opportunity to give of their time and treasure, 64% report their experience was “one of the most positive components” of their overall job satisfaction. 
    •  Additionally, 85% of Americans have a more positive image of a company that supports a cause they believe in, and
    •  79% would switch from one brand to another if the comparable brand were connected to a good cause. 

United Way delivers volunteer opportunities to our corporate partners for individuals, as well as entire workplaces. We always share them when we are invited to a workplace kickoff, and we update them in our monthly newsletter. We also will create customized opportunities based on the passion and interest of employees, and we are eager to provide a private Live United Tour for your team. Just say the word! 


The Complete Picture 

Our businesses depend on the programs and services delivered by the United Way network to build a capable workforce. And our funded partners depend on our workplaces to support their work. This year we offered Leadership United to our workplaces to nurture philanthropy in emerging leaders. The program teaches the unbreakable connection between a strong economy and a strong community through professional developmentLeadership United is free to participants, thanks to funding from Montgomery Bank. The first meeting was our Live United bus tour last month; the next meeting is October 17th. If you are an employee who wants to participate or a manager committed to developing employees who lead from the heart, contact Raechel ReinitzGet more information and the full schedule here. It is not too late to enroll, and it is never too late to kick off your workplace campaign and explore ways we can engage your employees in giving back. 

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For our 2019-2022 funding cycle, we have increased our number from previously supporting 24 partners and 34 programs to investing in 27 partners and 38 programs. These people and agencies provide services that join United Way’s fight for the health, education and financial stability of everyone in the communities we serve. United Way of Southeast Missouri serves the counties of Cape Girardeau, Bollinger, Perry, and northern Scott.

These partners and programs and the amount of United Way funding they will receive are determined by volunteers who represent our 4 counties, our three focus areas, our workplaces, and our donors. About 60-70 volunteers helped review more than 50 applications, conducted site visits, and listened to presentations. Then our Community Investment Committee had passionate discussion to determine where our donors’ dollars will have the greatest impact and provide recommendations to our board of directors.  

We are grateful for the commitment of these volunteers, not only for the help they give to our community, but for the very fact they alleviate my team and me from having to make these very difficult decisions. We truly wish we could give every worthwhile program every dollar they need to help the people of Southeast Missouri. But the requests for funding were twice the amount of funding we have.

Although United Way is a global organization, these decisions and these programs are local. They are based on where our donors’ gifts can do the greatest good right here in Southeast Missouri. It is important to remember that thanks to corporate investors, including Procter & Gamble, Mondi, Ameren Missouri and many more, 99 cents of every dollar given by individuals to United Way of Southeast Missouri stays right here and goes directly to programs and services that strengthen our community. 

United Way has a long history of giving help and hope. Many of the programs we support help people in dire situations. But the real power of the United Way network occurs when this collective group of partners tackles the issues that create the need in the first place. Rarely does one problem put a family in need of help, and rarely can just one organization return that family to stability and self-sufficiency. The collective power of the United Way network is what changes lives.

An example of this is with our education initiative. Ten years ago United Way of Southeast Missouri led an education coalition to address the graduation rate at our largest public high school. Through collaborative efforts of many community partners, the graduation rate has moved more than 20% points in the last decade and is on par with the rest of the state nearing 90%.

We will continue our focus on education by investing in previous partners with after-school tutoring at Cape Girardeau Public Schools and early literacy through Read to Succeed in Cape and Scott City. We will welcome our new partner in education, Meadow Heights Elementary, where we will support a backpack program like the one we invest in at Perry County Public Schools. Last year United Way invested in Emergency Student Funds in 15 public schools across our region to help students with glasses, prescriptions, dental work, and other obstacles to learning.  

We bolster our education focus through mentoring programs with returning partners: the Boys & Girls Club, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, and 4H, while welcoming EPIC Pals, which uses puppy dogs to teach behavior modification, and Tiger Lilies, a program that helps young girls blossom into young ladies.

In this three-year cycle we have increased our commitment to health, continuing to invest in the Jackson Senior Center, where we help provide meals to help senior citizens remain independent. And we welcome new partner, the Oral Health Coalition that delivers critical dental care to all ages.

Our Income focus continues to support previous partners helping those who struggle to make ends meet, through First Call for Help, the Community Partnership, and The Salvation Army. But for the next 3 years our Community Investment Committee also allocated more dollars to help our neighbors become and remain financially independent by investing in the Semo Alliance for Disability Independence, SADI, and One City, which returns individuals to the work force who have been unemployed for periods ranging from 6 months to 10 years.

In Perryville we are proud to partner with the New Life Mission Inn Warming Center. Their approach really appealed to our Community Investment Committee, because the warming shelter they provide comes with counseling to address the factors that created the need for temporary shelter in the first place.

These are just a few of the many programs we are proud to partner with for the next three years, but ALL of them are required to return Outcomes. Each year our funded partners provide progress reports to our Community Investment Committee to ensure the money is going where it is intended and that it is making a difference. We just received outcomes for the past year, and we look forward to sharing data and success stories of the people our network has helped and the lives we have changed.

You can find a complete list of Returning and New Funded Partners here.

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United Way of Southeast Missouri is going “Over the Edge” on May 17 for the area’s first ever urban rappelling event. The local nonprofit has set an ambitious goal, hoping the event will raise $50,000 to help the citizens of Southeast Missouri, while challenging new volunteers and donors to give or go.

In partnership with Southeast Missouri State University, United Way invites the community to watch thrill-seeking “Edgers” rappel down Towers South, a 147-foot residence hall located on the university’s campus. While the Edgers chase the adrenaline rush, spectators on the ground below can enjoy yard games, refreshments and music during this all-day community event.

Anyone interested in descending Towers South is encouraged to go Over the Edge; no previous experience is necessary. Requirements include weighing between 100-300 pounds, and a minimum age of 14 is recommended with a parent or guardian present. Each Edger must raise $1,000 by May 17 to rappel.  

Daring participants can register individually or by forming teams of 6 and raising a collective $6,000. Edgers jump-start their fundraising when they register via the Over the Edge online platform, which requires $85. Once registered, Edgers can create personal pages on the fundraising platform to help them raise the money they need to rappel. Over the Edge and United Way are providing numerous webinars, tips, ideas, and resources to help every Edger reach or exceed the minimum goal.

Elizabeth Shelton, Executive Director of United Way of Southeast Missouri, explains, “We have been looking for new ways to engage our community, and this has been a very successful event in other areas. Instead of asking people to pay to attend a gala or auction, we are asking them to pay for a once-in-a-lifetime experience, while raising funds for people in our community who literally are living on the edge, struggling every day not to fall under the weight of finances, health issues, unemployment, and many challenges the United Way network fights every day.”

Dr. Carlos Vargas, president of SEMO, plans to go Over the Edge, as will Shelton. ‘Celebrity’ Edgers and announcers from local media are being recruited to participate, including Kathy Sweeney from KFVS12. Special rigging can even accommodate Rowdy the Redhawk and other area mascots, as well as individuals with physical challenges.

The event offers area businesses and organizations a variety of ways to participate in this unique fundraiser. Drury Southwest and Procter & Gamble are sponsoring the Landing Zones, and sponsorships are still available for helmets and ropes. Chartwells is sponsoring the Chicken Coop, an observation area at the event that provides free food and beverages to anyone too chicken to go but willing to give $100 to a team or Edger.

One tactic generating a lot of buzz is the “Toss the Boss” event. Workplaces can raise $1,500 to toss their boss Over the Edge. Any reluctant boss can delegate going over to another employee by matching what the employees raise.

Those who would prefer to keep their feet on the ground are invited to help run the ground activities. Volunteers can operate refreshment tents, take photographs of Edgers, work logistics, or supervise lawn games.

A few brave volunteers need to be stationed on the rooftop of Towers South to assist Edgers and technicians. Ropes volunteers also are needed and will receive four hours of training before the event. All ropes volunteers get the opportunity to rappel without having to raise funds.

More than 56,000 people have safely gone Over the Edge of nearly 400 buildings during 800 events. Towers South had to pass a safety inspection before being approved for the event, and adherence to all OSHA laws and SPRAT procedures is enforced. Over the Edge provides professional rope handlers and technicians to safely see all rappellers Over the Edge.

More info here; Register here.

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We're Giving Away Money!

Thanks to generous donors and accountable partners, we had some extra funds to invest and had a great time surprising some of our partners with them. See for yourself!


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Welcome Board Members!

The United Way of Southeast Missouri is proud to announce changes to its Board of Directors and the introduction of a new Advisory Council.

Recently, the board voted to reduce the size of the board, which at one time was up to 25 directors, and allow many to move to a newly created Advisory Council. The Council is made up of 30 members of the four counties served by United Way of Southeast Missouri: Cape Girardeau, Scott, Perry, and Bollinger. The Advisory Council includes area superintendents, mayors, chamber presidents, social service providers, nonprofit leaders, health facility representatives, as well as other community members who work in fields related to United Way’s key focus areas: health, education, and financial stability.

The Board of Directors meets monthly, while the Advisory Council will meet quarterly. Many board members who moved had been on the UWSEMO board for many years as ex officio members with no term of expiration. According to Elizabeth Shelton, Executive Director of United Way of Southeast Missouri, “This provides an opportunity for them to remain engaged with less of a time commitment. We still need their expertise and guidance, but some had been on the board for ten years with no term limit. It also makes for a more manageable board size.” Shelton added both groups of volunteers will be instrumental in assisting United Way with the development of a new strategic plan currently in process.


The Executive Committee for the United Way of Southeast Missouri is led by board president, Timothy Woodard, SEMO Market President for Commerce Bank. Tim has a Bachelor of Science in Finance from Illinois State University as well as a Master of Business Administration from Bradley University. Tim is a retired US Navy Supply Corps Lieutenant.

Tim has been involved with United Way since his first professional position with Commercial National Bank of Peoria. Through the years, Tim has served as a Loaned Executive, an Allocations Committee Member, a Team Captain, and a Board Member. Tim is active in the Cape Girardeau community and currently serves as board president for SADI (Southeast Alliance for Disability Independence) and the Treasurer and President Elect for the Dalhousie Homeowners Association, as well as being active in the Rotary Club of Cape Girardeau.

Vice President, Brandy McIntire, Account Executive at FOX 23 KBSI. Brandy graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in Mass Communication. She been active as a United Way Campaign Ambassador from 2013 until 2017. As a constant advocate for United Way, she volunteers in many ways, and has been helpful in finding sponsors. Brandy served as Campaign Chair in 2014. Brandy has been a member of the United Way Board of Directors for three years.

Treasurer, Jane Myers, Investor’s Club Development Representative, with The Bank of Missouri. A graduate of Barret Graduate School of Banking. She has been involved with the United Way for more than five years, volunteering on committees including the Finance committee. In addition to representing United Way as our Perryville Liaison, she has been an active board member for over five years.

Secretary, Dr. Quantella Anderson-Noto, Assistant Professor and Director of Hospitality Management in the Harrison College of Business, at Southeast Missouri State University. Dr. Anderson-Noto earned a Bachelor of Science degree in hotel, restaurant and tourism management from East Stroudsburg University, a master of tourism administration from The George Washington University School of Business and a doctorate in educational leadership and policy analysis from the University of Missouri - Columbia.  As an active member of our community, she serves on the board of directors with the Cape Girardeau Convention and Visitors Bureau, KRCU Public Radio, Cape Girardeau Chamber of Commerce Women's Network.

New board members include Adrienne Henry and Adam Lorenz. Henry is the Real Estate Leasing & Development Manager for Drury Southwest, Inc. She has worked at Drury Southwest for 19 years after receiving her BS in Psychology from Southeast Missouri State University. She is the past treasurer and executive board member of the Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce and the current vice chairwoman of the Cape Girardeau Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Commission.

Lorenz is an area attorney and Founding Member of Lorenz & Lorenz, LLC.  He has been a member of the Missouri Bar for 16 years and a member of the Cape Girardeau County Bar Association for 5 years. In addition to providing advisory work for several local nonprofits, he sits on the Better Business Bureau Advisory Board and frequently lectures in the St. Louis area on real estate and land title issues.

Henry and Lorenz join remaining board members: Maureen Hodges, AT&T; Jack Geissinger, Plant Manager at Procter & Gamble; Phil Roop, Lead Pastor at Bethel Assembly of God; and Scott Meyer, City Manager for City of Cape Girardeau.
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Nearly 33,000 children, students, senior citizens and adults of all ages received help through United Way of Southeast Missouri during the organization’s 2017 campaign year of July 2017 through June 2018. According to Elizabeth Shelton, Executive Director, “We are preparing a comprehensive annual report, but as we begin our 2018 campaign we felt it was important to share early results with our donors and the rest of the community.”

United Way of Southeast Missouri (UWSEMO) fights for the health, education, and financial stability of everyone in Cape Girardeau, Jackson, Scott City, and Bollinger and Perry Counties. While the organization helps with emergency needs, their goal is to support programs that move individuals and families away from need toward independence and success in life.

Community volunteers that comprise the Community Investment Committee determine the programs UWSEMO will support and the percentage of funds each will receive. Annually, the group evaluates required outcomes from each program to ensure donor dollars are being used as intended. Recently, the group met to review outcomes from the 24 partner organizations that represent 30 programs and 6 Student Emergency Funds at public schools throughout United Way’s four-county footprint. Some of the results include:

  • 7,036 senior citizens remained healthier and in their own homes through support of older-adult programs from A.P.P.L.E, Hoover Center, Lutheran Family/Children Services, and the Jackson Senior Center
  • 288 students in Cape Girardeau and Scott City received literacy tutoring through Read to Succeed/Excel with most gaining a minimum of one reading level
  • 17,474 people were fed through Salvation Army’s Meals with Friends, Jackson Senior Center Meals on Wheels, and food pantries in Jackson, Scott City, and Bollinger County
  • More than 1500 individuals in the counties of Cape Girardeau, Bollinger, Scott and Perry received counseling from social workers helping to move them from poverty to financial stability.

Shelton explains that corporate sponsorships and a lean operating budget enable United Way of Southeast Missouri to invest $.99 of every $1.00 donated by individuals directly into the partners and programs working to change lives. Additionally, 99% of all funds collected remain in Southeast Missouri. The organization is required to send 1% to United Way Worldwide, which Shelton explains “provides global brand recognition, professional development, organizational training, and a peer network that is invaluable.”

United Way will submit a Request for Proposals (RFP) near the beginning of 2019 as the current three-year funding cycle will end next June. Organizations that desire funding and individuals interested in knowing more about United Way’s partners, programs, and results are encouraged to follow their social media and subscribe to the monthly newsletter via their website at www.unitedwayofsemo.org to receive the most current information and updates.
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This year’s campaign theme ‘UNITED WE FIGHT, UNITED WE WIN,’ created a lot of fun at our 2018 Campaign Kickoff luncheon, especially with Darren Burgfeld as our ‘ring announcer.’
Thanks to our Kickoff sponsor, Home State Health, our corporate investors, our workplace and individual donors, our 24 partners, and numerous volunteers, we raised $3,000 for mini grants, premiered the moving video KFVS12 generously helps us with every year, closed with some exciting news about a one-of-a-kind event coming in May (details on that in next month’s issue) and shared some powerful data on the collective impact of the United Way network.
Each year our partner agencies and programs must provide an Outcomes report of how they invested United Way funds and the impact they made. Our Community Investment Committee of volunteers from the region reviews these Outcomes. This same group will review the requests for funding when we begin that process again in 2019 and determine which programs we will invest in that support our fight for health, education, and financial security for everyone in the four counties we serve for 2019-21.
Here are some of the impressive results from our 2017-18:
  • Collectively, the 24 partners and 30 programs that comprise the network of United Way of Southeast Missouri touched 32,964 lives: infants, children, students, working parents, senior citizens, and struggling individuals of all ages.
  • We helped 17,474 people in Cape Girardeau, Jackson, Scott City, and Bollinger County by supporting Meals with Friends at the Salvation Army and food pantries with the Jackson Ministerial Alliance, the Scott City Ministerial Alliance, and Little Whitewater Baptist Church.
  • Our support of APPLE, the Hoover Center, Lutheran Family & Children’s Services, and the Jackson Senior Center helped more than 7,000 senior citizens remain healthier and in their own homes. 
  • Our collaborative education initiative involving numerous partners, community organizations, and businesses helped to increase the graduation rate at Central High School from 68% to 88.9% in 9 years, impressively near our 10-year goal of 90% by 2019.
  • Emergency Student Funds in public schools in Cape, Jackson, Scott City, Scott County, Perryville, Woodland R-IV, even Southeast Missouri State University enabled students in need to stay in school when financial emergencies like eyeglasses, prescriptions, a winter coat or dental care could have kept them home or caused them to drop out altogether.
  • Generous volunteers tutored 288 students in Cape and Scott City through Read to Succeed, enabling 70% to gain a minimum of one reading level, some significantly more, and most importantly, moving some students from reading many grade levels behind to reading on level with their peers.
As you can see, it doesn’t take a village. It takes everyone who fights with United Way: businesses, schools, churches, community groups, funded partners, and you. For every person in our community to be healthy, educated, and financially secure, it takes everyone to LIVE UNITED.
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We're Halfway There!

I’m continuously amazed by this community.

At last year’s kickoff event three partner agencies were chosen by volunteers to pitch mini-grant ideas to a room full of United Way donors. The introduction to this concept was a huge success, with 150 individuals contributing $2500 during lunch; so we decided to try it again in 2018.

The guidelines for the process are pretty simple: the maximum amount rewarded per project is $1,000 with the understanding the project would be an extension of or complement to the initiative United Way already funds. Additionally, last year’s recipients couldn’t apply for the same project.

Safe House for Women was this year’s first presenting partner. With their $1,000 grant, they’re hoping to provide “safe phones” to their shelter clients. The program is currently funded through Verizon, but is scheduled to end in December.

The Safe House clients utilize these phones to contact social service agencies, employers, and additional resources to help them through the process of transitioning out of the shelter.

Boy Scouts of America continues to collaborate with other organizations in Southeast Missouri. Their previous mini-grant launched a troop at Jefferson Elementary School. Now they’re hoping to collaborate with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Southeast Missouri to bring Scouting to their after-school and summer programs.

In addition to providing students with outdoors and service experiences, Scouts proudly incorporates various STEM activities into their curriculum. These skills and experiences are ones that many at-risk youth in our community are not otherwise provided.

Finally, First Call for Help and the Community Caring Council sought funding to aid families in our community who are going through difficult times.

The Family Transition Team consists of caseworkers from our partner organizations and others who come together when all other resource options have been explored. The group ensures that clients who may need a hand up, like steel-toed work boots to begin a new job or eyeglasses to complete an application, are able to resolve their issues without further stress.

Over the last year, United Way of Southeast Missouri has been able to touch the lives of nearly 33,000 individuals, children, and senior citizens in our community. But the need doesn’t end there. The mini-grant program is our way of helping partners get a jump start on new initiatives that can further their reach and go beyond the goals of their original programming guidelines.

At Thursday’s kickoff luncheon, we were able to raise half of the $3,000 needed to fund all three initiatives mentioned above. Will you join our fight by donating just $10? Click here to make your pledge now. Thank you for Living United.

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