United Way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region


Month: July, 2013

A Lesson in Tough Choices: ECM Roundtable

by Kellie Cochrane


Our ECMs are welcomed by Jason Horan, Assistant Director of Resource Development

Our dedicated Employee Campaign Managers (ECMs) joined us for the annual Roundtable event to begin preparing for our upcoming campaign.  We’re very fortunate to have such committed individuals who work to bring the Live United spirit into their workplaces all year long!  Rickman House hosted this year’s event, and even provided our ECMs with a tour and explanation of their work.  The Rickman House provides housing for low income adults with special needs, and was recently renovated to help them better serve this population of our community.

First, our ECMs heard from Community Impact Director, Matt Lynn, and Assistant Director of Community Investment, Jamie Helsen.  Matt and Jamie shared some of the fundamental beliefs of United Way: that all children deserve a chance to succeed in school, that all families deserve to be financially stable, and that all people should be able to lead a healthy lifestyle.  Jamie expanded on some of the health initiatives, explaining some of our work around helping the under insured in our community.

Another highlight would have to be the interactive game, Spent that everyone played.  Spent puts you in the position of the unemployed and takes you on a journey where you have to make choices based on your budget.  The first step, selecting a job, figuring out if you can afford health insurance premiums, and finding affordable housing.  It also accounts for the smaller things, such as your child’s field trip, which costs $15 when you’re still 4 days away from pay day with a few more bills due, what would you do in that situation?  The game is a fascinating portrayal of situations our neighbors, friends, and even family may find themselves in if they live pay check to pay check.  The game allowed our ECMs to really consider what an impact some of United Way’s programs make in people’s everyday lives.

We are so thankful for everyone who made it to the ECM Roundtable this year.  We’re definitely looking forward to seeing all of the amazing work of our corporate partners for 2013!

Beating the Summer Slide

by Kellie Cochrane


Summer brings a lot of excitement when you’re a kid; sleeping in, plenty of outside play time, and no homework.  The freedom kids celebrate, however, causes educators to worry about the “summer slide.”  Summer slide refers to a learning loss some students experience when removed from the school system for months on end.

At United Way, we’re very proud of our early grade reading efforts and the impact they’ve made, but the work doesn’t end when the school year does.  Throughout the year, kindergarten and first grade students’ reading proficiency is carefully tracked, and at the end of the year, their reading levels are recorded.  Throughout the summer, students receive books in the mail that are tailored to their reading level.  This method simplifies things for parents, as they don’t have to worry about transportation or buying the books.  It also creates an excitement around reading, as the kids view the books as gifts, many parents report that their children are anxious to read the new books to them.

This week, Time magazine published an article stating that the only definite factor in learning success over the summer, was parents who read with their children.  While many think the summer slide is largely based on socioeconomic status, this study found that regardless of income level, trips to the library and children spending time reading or being read to, keeps students on track.  Another study found that giving students books to read over the summer was just as effective as summer school.

We’ve seen results locally with our approach to beating the summer slide.  Last year, 91% of the students in kindergarten and first grade at Verona Elementary received the books.  Of those that returned to Verona, 78% maintained or improved their exit reading level.

For more information about our early grade reading efforts, contact communityimpact@uwbckr.org.