Since 1957, the United Way of Porter County has been raising funds to help the people of Porter County from beginning of life through the end of life. “We truly are a Porter County organization, made up of all Porter County volunteers. The money we raise stays in Porter County and as the county has grown, so have we through the generosity of our donors,” says Sharon Kish, president of the United Way of Porter County. Kish says that since the inception of the United Way of Porter County, the organization has raised $64,798,137 through their donors. “The important part of this number is that it shows what was invested back into our community, into health and human services,” says Kish.
The United Way of Porter County improves the lives of those in the region by working to improve education, provide financial stability and promote healthy lives. Kish says, “We have a wonderful array of services in Porter County and we’ve been able to support and help them grow and to provide our residents the critical services they need. There are very few people in Porter County who have not been touched by a United Way-funded service.”
Focusing funding on these three main components to a good quality of life — education, financial stability and healthcare — allows the United Way of Porter County to reach the most number of people in the most meaningful ways. “The education component focuses on such services as funding afterschool programs and preschool programs. The financial stability component is not only focused on providing emergency assistance, but allowing residents to become and remain financially stable, so they don’t need those services. Finally, we focus on access to healthcare. We provide funding to many children and their families through the Boys and Girls Clubs, the YMCAs, Hilltop Neighborhood House and our Success by Six/United for Children program, which is a regional initiative that has now broadened through the third grade. We provide end of life care through hospice and VNA, funding to St. Agnes Adult Day Care, emergency assistance through Porter County Aging & Community Services, the Salvation Army, and Catholic Charities. We do the volunteer income tax program for lower income and elderly and people with disabilities, and last year alone we completed and filed over 500 tax returns which brought back over $500,000 in refunds to those families. This is an economic boost to not only the families, but to the county. We are focusing on leadership training through Young Leaders United and through our Power of Youth (POY) Council. The POY has at least three students from every high school in Porter County, who do volunteer activities and raise funds. Last year, POY members raised $18,000 that was allocated to youth-serving organizations,” Kish says.
“Our goal is to have an impact on people’s lives in a positive way. With our partners, we want to work to find solutions to some of the most critical needs in our community. Our need for volunteers will continue to increase, so we are trying to engage more people in volunteer activities. They are the lifeblood of nonprofits and enable the organizations to serve more people. We know that once people retire, they take those skills with them; so we hope that when people retire, they will find their passion and volunteer through our Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP). We are also recruiting AmeriCorps members to serve as tutors, mentors and career advisors in the schools and volunteer capacity builders in area nonprofits. Plus, we are starting Community Conversations as we prepare a new strategic plan for United Way of Porter County. We are listening to people and their hopes and aspirations for themselves and their families,” Kish says. “We believe in our motto — LIVE UNITED — and we want everyone to know that they can ‘be the one” to make a difference in someone’s life, right here in Porter County!”