United Way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region


Month: April, 2013

Staff Leaders Conference

by United Way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region

Posted on behalf of Rick Chambers

 I want to share my perspective on the recent United Way Worldwide Staff Leadership Conference in Indianapolis. And I’ll start by pointing to the stars.

There’s an incredible episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine titled “The Visitor”—don’t watch it without tissues nearby; you’ve been warned! The main character, Ben Sisko, counsels his aspiring-writer son, Jake, to find a balance between his writing and reality:

“I’m no writer, but if I were, it seems to me I’d want to poke my head up every once in awhile and take a look around, see what’s going on. It’s life, Jake! You can miss it if you don’t open your eyes.”

That quote neatly sums up the value of the Staff Leadership Conference. It was an opportunity to poke our heads up from the day-to-day work of United Way—as valuable as that work is!—and consider the greater impact of our collective efforts:

Children learning to read and reading to learn.

Families achieving financial stability.

Communities with access to quality health care.

And on and on….

True, SLC spent plenty of time on the details of fundraising, relationship building and broad-based partnerships. But it was the stories that stood out, whether it was the familiar tale of Verona Elementary (adroitly delivered by Jennifer Nottingham) or the advances in collective impact happening in places like Salt Lake City and Kansas City.

For me, that was the takeaway. The work that each of you does every day goes far beyond the work itself. You are writing a powerful story! You are changing lives!

Attending SLC with the singular goal of learning new ways to work is a bit like reading The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes just to find out how the Brits spell words. There’s some value in that, but it misses a much bigger and meaningful picture.

During one of the general sessions, Principal Salome Thomas-El, author of I Choose To Stay, quoted Maya Angelou: “People don’t remember what you do. People don’t remember what you say. But people will remember how you made them feel.” What sets United Way apart is that it covers all three of those metrics—and leaves our community forever remembering how you changed the story.

And that really is life!

Youth Day of Caring 2013

by Kellie Cochrane

YDOC blog

On Friday April, 26, nearly 500 students from across Battle Creek reported to Full Blast Water Park where they headed into the community for a day of volunteering.  The effort is an annual United Way HandsOn event during national volunteer week called Youth Day of Caring.  This year’s event was the largest yet, with more students and agencies participating than ever before.

Youth Day of Caring brings together students from all of the area schools for both the planning and the execution of the event.  A committee of students, with representation from each school, starts meeting in the winter to plan everything from a venue to approving the projects.  Nonprofit agencies across Calhoun County provide volunteering opportunities, and also give tours of their site and explain their organization’s mission to the students.

Projects include a wide range of activities, from landscaping to reading to children, the students are all assigned to projects that allow them to give back to their community.  Students are assigned to the projects at random, so they’re able to meet and mingle with students from different schools.  Each school provided staff members to help assist in supervision, and everyone pitched in and had a lot of fun.

After the projects were wrapped up, the students came back to Full Blast for lunch and to reflect on their day.  United Way President and CEO Mike Larson addressed the students to thank them for their hard work, telling them: “Whether you believe it or not, you’ve really made a difference in our community today.”

Students also heard from retired Col. Frank Walker, who spoke passionately about his love for the Battle Creek community and his pride in seeing the next generation step up to take care of it.  Before leaving for the day, students wrote down reflections from the day on Post-it Notes to post on the walls for everyone to see.  We were truly inspired by this group of young people who clearly know what it means to LIVE UNITED.

For more information or pictures from Youth Day of Caring, check out the Facebook page!

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