Delayed a month due to COVID 19, United Way of the Lakeshore met in late May for its annual membership meeting. With 45 members present representing the diversity of the communities and population served, Board Chair John Severson and President Christine Robere shared highlights of the 2019 year, including key results on strategic goals on shrinking poverty and impacting ALICE - Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed (ALICE) individuals and families.
It was noted that despite gains last year in wage increases and overall economic improvements, the numbers of ALICE increased rather than decreased, due in large part to the increase in the cost of living in our area. These cost increases include housing, transportation, health care, child care, technology and food costs in particular. 45% of our population continued to be below the ALICE threshold in 2019. “With COVID 19, and the resultant impact on our overall economy, with more of our residents now faced with unemployment, many for the first time in their lives, the task ahead for our collective impact work will be the most challenging of our lifetime”, commented Robere.
“We must continue to commit ourselves to addressing the poverty in our communities, and renew our focus on ALICE, but we are specifically motivated to address todays needs that are confronting our families due to the current pandemic and chaos created” Severson said.
Highlights from 2019 included: United Way hosted Fill the Truck item collection drives with 64 area companies that brought in donations of hygiene products, school supplies, baby supplies, coats, hats and mittens, toilet paper, and 67 ALICE families were adopted for the holidays. $2,196,395 was invested in programs and services in educational and developmental programs, income stability programs, and programs that improve the health and safety of our communities. In all program investments focused on preparing our children for a brighter future with the skills to succeed in a job and in life; programs that helped individuals and families with housing, budgeting, food, emergency flood relief, tax filing assistance and transportation in order to reduce family instability; and our health programs promoted healthy, active lifestyles, access to care and counseling, and prevention of abuse.
United Way’s reinvigorated volunteer portal was made more user-friendly and logged 10,384 hours of service in 2019. 95 Senior Corps-RSVP volunteers helped at 30 different volunteer sites. Day of caring engaged 74 workplaces and over 600 volunteers to help veterans and child care centers with minor renovations, built a pavilion for a youth camp, brought in a food truck to feed the hungry, built little libraries to store books and a major clean up a Johnny O. Harris park in Muskegon Heights. United Way also became the backbone for a new youth led tutoring initiative and the Child Day Care Action Team. In total, over 85,000 people were helped through the support of 76 local programs.
2019 campaign commitments came in at $2,096,614 with another $304,000 raised as part of the COVID response fund, for a total of $2.4 million to support our communities during challenging times.
Rehmann Robson presented a favorable audit to the membership for acceptance. It was filed as presented.
New board members were also elected:
New board members, proposed to be elected to a first 3-year term (thru 2023): DJ Hilson, Muskegon County Prosecutor; Brad Hilleary, President, Webb Chemical and Trace Analytical; Brenda Jacobs, Managing Partner, Brickley DeLong; Jillian Nowak Meloche, Sales & Marketing Manager, Nowak Machined Products; Jonathan Wilson, Regional Manager, DTE Energy; John Schaub, Plant Manager, Howmet Aerospace
Returning board members and proposed to be elected to a second 3-year term (thru 2023): Kathy Moore, Muskegon County Public Health Director; Bob Carter, Retired, Muskegon County Sheriff; John Severson, MAISD Superintendent; Pat Shafer, Retired, Muskegon Chamber of Commerce
Proposed to be elected for a 1-year term (thru 2021): Shawn Buckner, Meijer, 2020 Campaign Chair; Dakota Crow, Boys & Girls Club of the Muskegon Lakeshore, Agency Liaison; Mary Boyd, Trinity Health Michigan, Past Chair; Robert Ross, MCC, Newaygo County Executive Committee Representative; Martha Gabrielse, JP Morgan Chase, Newaygo County Representative
Retiring Board Members:
Six retiring board members were recognized by the Chair and the membership for their time on the board: Sherri Campbell, Community Shores Bank; Lucas McCotter, ADAC Automotive; Mark Meyers, City of Norton Shores; Kendra Olsen, Retired Educator; Greg VanWoerkem, State Representative; Erik Jepsen, Formerly with CWC Textron.