We are experiencing a time of immense global change – arguably the greatest this generation has ever seen. There is a heightened awareness of community needs and an emerging urgency to unite to rebuild and strengthen our communities. The changes are seen and felt in every minute of every day as we think about the uncertainty of the future.
One thing is certain – we need United Way of Northeastern Minnesota (UWNEMN) in our communities. UWNEMN is changing, adapting, and pivoting in the work we do in order to help people during this time and into the future. In the words of Bob Dylan, “If your time to you is worth savin’ then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone for the times they are a-changin’.” We at UWNEMN need to adapt in order to survive to help the people who need help most. Our time, our families, our children, they are worth savin’, and UWNEMN is definitely swimmin’. The times are a-changin’ – and so are we.
We must pivot and change in order to remain relevant and viable. We must adapt our programming and focus in order to serve those most in need, especially during times of uncertainty and unrest. UWNEMN has changed the way that we distribute lunches through our Meet Up & Chow Down summer feeding program. In prior years, children participating had to eat their lunches on site at the program; this year, they can “grab-and-go” and take the lunch off-site to eat. This change will help ensure social distancing, safety of participants, and that meals are getting to those who need them most.
UWNEMN is changing the way event fundraising is conducted. In the wake of the pandemic, several UWNEMN special events were canceled including the popular Flavor of the North which benefits the Buddy Backpacks program. This event brought in $47,000 last year. To creatively raise additional funds for Buddy Backpacks, UWNEMN turned to virtual fundraising and has held two online auctions. However, the virtual auctions do not bring in close to the amount of funding that in-person events would. Two additional auctions are planned, with a Family Fun themed one taking place June 16th – 19th. Click here for more information.
UWNEMN is looking ahead into an uncertain future and beginning a planning process to update our strategic plan. This organization is vital to northeastern Minnesota, and our Board and staff are dedicated to changing with the times to ensure we are best prepared to serve our communities. Planning will focus on things like how we interact with volunteers to accomplish our work, changes to fundraising through employee campaigns, and leadership transition as our current Executive Director will be retiring from UWNEMN this year.
The times are undoubtedly a-changin’. We don’t know what the future holds, but we do know that we as an organization and a region need to unite to best support our people. That’s just what UWNEMN plans to do.