How will you participate in #GivingTuesdayNow?

Nurses. Doctors. Grocery store employees. Delivery drivers. Warehouse workers. First responders. Truck drivers. Cleaners. There are so many people who are on the frontlines of the COVID-19 outbreak. They continue to help keep our community safe and the world running. To honor and celebrate their ongoing sacrifice, let’s say thank you! 


May 5: Say Thank You

Join United Way of Southeast Missouri on May 5 as we rally the entire community to say thank you to the essential workers who have tirelessly and bravely continued to do their jobs. Our effort will be one part of a bigger day of giving and unity called #GivingTuesdayNow. 

Every year people come together on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving for #GivingTuesday, a global generosity movement. As an emergency response to the unprecedented need caused by COVID-19, we are joining nonprofits and individual people around the world in a special #GivingTuesdayNow event. On May 5 people around the world will take action to collectively drive an influx of generosity, citizen engagement, business and philanthropy activation, and support for communities and nonprofits around the world.

We want to show the world that Southeast Missouri is United for frontline workers!

8 Ways to Say Thank You

There are many ways to say thank you. Below are some ideas our staff put together. Choose one – or more – so frontline workers can know how much our community appreciates them!

1. Donate a meal

Everyone loves a free meal. If you are thinking about donating a meal, be sure to coordinate with the location so your delivery can be done efficiently and safely. If you can’t make the delivery yourself, you can buy a meal instead. Many national and local businesses are delivering meals to support frontline workers. Find a list of restaurants and their options on the Keep Cape Strong website here:

 Remember meal donations can be a great way to thank hospital workers as well as the staff at your doctor’s office, EMTs, police officers, firefighters and grocery clerks.

2. Make a sign for your window or front yard

Make someone’s commute to work brighter by posting a sign in your window or front yard telling frontline workers how much they mean to our community. This is a great project for kids!

3. Be kind

Essential workers who are keeping grocery, convenience and pharmacy stores open see large groups of people every day. When you must shop at one of these stores, be respectful of the people working there. Tell them thank you, wear a protective mask, keep your distance from employees and be kind to team members and other customers. These small acts can help workers feel appreciated and safer at their jobs.

4. Share a message on social media

As we all keep our physical distance, connecting online has become even more important. Using social media is a great way to thank frontline workers. You can tag people you know or send a general message using the hashtags #FrontlineLove, #FrontlineHeroes, #COVIDHeroes or #InThisTogether. On May 5, you can also reshare posts from our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn channels.

5. Leave items for delivery workers

Delivery workers are putting in long hours and many find it hard to get to the store. Help them by leaving items such as water bottles, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, snacks and other essentials that will get them through their day or save them a trip to the store. Remember to sanitize the items as best as you can and leave instructions so the delivery people do the same. 

6. Email Congress 

Show frontline workers you appreciate their work by helping them get the support they need. During this time of uncertainty and economic crisis, many people, including those still working, need a boost to make ends meet. Vital services like 211, the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit, and SNAP can provide relief for frontline workers – and others – in need. You can ask your representative to increase funding for these services. Use this form to email your member of Congress.


7. Stay at home

The most important thing you can do to thank frontline workers is to stay home. When we all stay home, we limit the spread of COVID-19. So limit outings to essential trips to the grocery store, medical appointments, picking up prescriptions, walking pets and helping the vulnerable. When outside, use social distancing to stay at least six feet away from others.


8. Join our Give United Car Parade

On May 5th, starting at 9:00 AM at the Osage Center in Cape Girardeau, we will be touring around town thanking essential workers. Decorate signs as a family and join us as we make noise to show our appreciation. Even though we are apart, we can still be United. Let’s show frontline workers that we are in this together!

Want to Do More for Our Community? United Way of Southeast Missouri is supporting people in our community impacted by COVID-19. Your donation makes it easier to help more people. Donate Today:


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As our community adjusts daily, even hourly, to the effects of the Coronavirus, United Way of Southeast Missouri (UWSEMO), like many others in our community, has sprung into action to help, creating a COVID-19 fund.

While the hospitals and medical experts combat and prepare for illness, UWSEMO has established a COVID-19 fund specifically for our network partners and programs that directly help those in financial need. These include The Salvation Army, area food pantries, senior centers and programs, and Emergency Student Funds and backpack programs at area public schools. Although schools are closed, we believe the need will be great when classes resume and as working students and parents must remain at home. Funds also will be directed to the Family Transition Team consisting of social workers throughout the region who collectively respond to immediate need.

We have many hourly employees in this region who already live paycheck to paycheck. They will be hit especially hard by closings and social distancing as we all work together to stay healthy. With our existing network of donors and income-focused partners, United Way is the logical organization capable of bringing in funds to help them.

As most of our followers know, we receive the majority of our funding through annual workplace campaigns, which enable us to invest in 30 partners representing 40 programs throughout our four-county service area. Most of our stakeholders know we also have been preparing for Over the Edge scheduled for June 5th. Thus far 32 ‘Fearless Edgers’ have committed to raising $1,000 each for the thrill of rappelling 147 feet down Towers South on the campus of Southeast Missouri State University. Rather than asking donors to give both to Edgers and to the COVID-19 fund, Edger donations that are not for a specific UWSEMO partner can be earmarked to go to the COVID-19 fund. Currently, we are continuing as though Over the Edge will remain as scheduled, although this could change as the impact of the virus progresses.

Online donations can go to the Edger option or COVID-19 option. Donors also can give credit card donations over the phone at 573-334-9634 or by mailing a check to the UWSEMO office at 1417 D N. Mt. Auburn Road, Cape Girardeau, MO 63701. Donors should write the word COVID-19 and/or the name of the Edger the donor wants to support in the check memo. We encourage area businesses to support the COVID-19 fund. Hopefully, some of our corporate partners will want to match donations or create a solid foundation for the fund.

In addition to helping financially, we encourage the healthy members of our community to be of service to others. A page of current volunteer opportunities can be found on our website and a page of resources, such as food pantries, childcare information, and COVID-19 updates, all being maintained in real time as things change.

Every April during National Volunteer Month, United Way hosts a Community Celebration that is free to everyone. Like many other events, we anticipate this year’s Celebration scheduled for April 23rd at the VFW Hall in Cape probably will be canceled or postponed. We will continue to update our stakeholders on all of our community events, resources, and efforts to serve our friends and neighbors.

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Over the Edge is Back!

How much do you love your community? Are you willing to go Over the Edge for Southeast Missouri? If you missed this thrilling event in 2019, mark June 5 on your calendar! You will want to be a part of it, whether you watch from the safety of the Chartwells Chicken Coop or have the courage to rappell 147 feet down Towers South at Southeast Missouri State University.

Last year we raised $43,000 for our first OTE event. This year, as we celebrate 50 years of being a United Way, we hope to have 50 Edgers help raise $50,000. Will you Give or will you Go? Get all of your questions answered here

Over the Edge

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"The Salvation Army is a place of hope. When every other light is extinguished, and every other star has gone down, this one gleam shines steadily and clearly out in the darkened sky: ‘if I could only get to The Salvation Army, they will do something for me.'’ - William Booth

United Way of Southeast Missouri invests in The Salvation Army.

United Way of Southeast Missouri invests in three programs at TSA in Cape Girardeau. One provides a free meal to our neighbors in need; a second helps disaster victims in Southeast Missouri, and one cares for area youth after school. ‘The Army’ is similar to UWSEMO in that the large majority of their revenue goes directly to services that assist people in need, .82 of every dollar donated. 

“Doing The Most Good” is The Salvation Army’s national brand strategy and distinct identifiable message. Moreover, it is a promise the organization makes to its contributors, clients, associates, officers and employees. The Salvation Army pledges to Do The Most Good with your contributions of time, money and resources. 


United Way of Southeast Missouri’s support of The Salvation Army falls into our focus on income, although health and education certainly play a role in our collective efforts.


Meals with Friends  provides a free meal the last full week of every month except November and December to anyone in need. Lt. Matt DeGonia explains, “This lunch program allows us to meet the needs of those looking for a hot lunch and offers a place for the community to come and feel welcomed and loved. This program also allows for people to give back to the community, as volunteers are needed to help serve. Sign up yourself or your business by contacting The Salvation Army at 573-335-7000 or go to and in the search field type "Cape."


Emergency Disaster Services - while every disaster is unique and creates its own special needs, the core of The Salvation Army's disaster program consists of several basic services thats address many of the typical needs of a disaster survivor. Their services also can be adapted to the specific needs of individuals and communities and scaled to the magnitude of the disaster. When tragedy strikes in our community, The Salvation Army is on the scene, needing volunteers for behind-the-scenes and frontline work. Donations to UWSEMO enable Salvation Army personnel to assist disaster survivors right here in Southeast Missouri


Youth Ministries -Many participants in the after-school program supported by UWSEMO are able to experience opportunities they may not find anywhere else:  to play a musical instrument, create art, and play competitive games in a protected setting. The Salvation Army gives all youth a chance to experience educational enrichment, life skills development, and spiritual and physical wellness. Such experiences allow these at-risk children and adolescents to envision and pursue better futures. Salvation Army youth programs place special emphasis on activities that encourage character and life skills development. Through mentoring and education, disadvantaged children and teens are shown the possibility of a better life. It's often said that our youth are our leaders of tomorrow, we say that our youth are our leaders of today or there won't be a tomorrow.


The Salvation Army also helps with: 

Addiction Recovery 

Community Care Ministries 

Older Adult Ministries 

Missing Persons 

Salvation Army Camps 

Social Services 

Women's Ministries 

Youth Ministries 

Emergency Disaster Services 

Meals with Friends 

Family Store


During the holidays you most likely will see a red kettle and hear the ringing of a bell or two by a volunteer. This is one of The Salvation Army’s biggest fundraisers, and they need ringers! If your business is looking for something to do for the holidays as a group, adopt a kettle and ring the bell for Southeast Missouri 

If you don’t have two hours to ring a bell, set up an online red kettle and help them raise money from the comfort of your couch! 


We are proud to partner with an amazing organization doing great things for the less fortunate in our community. We hope when budgeting your donations for the holidays, you will consider the work of The Salvation Army and the 34 other programs vetted and supported by United Way of Southeast Missouri 


Happy Holidays from Team United

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"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.

Housed 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!