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United Way of Summit County announces funding to help meet its 'bold goals'

Nov 17, 2017

As published by Crain's Cleveland Business>

United Way of Summit County announced investments for its two-year funding cycle beginning in 2018 — just over $4 million in funding going toward nonprofits that line up with the agency's stated "bold goals" for the county.

That's a $1 million increase over the previous funding cycle that started in 2015, the agency reported in a news release.

It's a lot of money, but then, there's a lot of work to do, United Way officials say.

"We know that achieving our Bold Goals is going to require close, constructive partnerships and significant investment in this community," Christine Amer Mayer, chair of United Way's board of directors, said in a statement. "That's why we are committed to working with the best players in Greater Akron – who can leverage United Way funding to produce meaningful change in the lives of local children and families."

Beginning in mid-August, United Way's community impact task force considered funding requests from throughout the local community, said the county's nonprofit funding channel. The task force focused "on criteria that included program quality and results, collaboration with other organizations and leverage through matching funds. Most importantly, in order to receive funding, applicants had to demonstrate how their programs would directly affect the measures targeted by United Way's Bold Goals," the agency said in announcing the new funding.

United Way has been focusing its efforts on four specific areas where its board and executives think it can have the most meaningful impact – a process that began two years ago when current president Jim Mullen came from United Way in Nashville, Tenn., to run the operation in Summit County.

Mullen and his board have agreed on four goals upon which United Way is now focused.

The first is to get 65% of Akron Public Schools' third-graders reading at or above their grade level, the second is to get 90% of APS high schoolers to graduate on time, the third is to financially empower at least 11,000 more Akronites with financial literacy, and the final goal is to reduce drug overdoses in the county to fewer than 1,000 a year.

They are big goals – especially when you consider that the county currently sees about 2,400 overdoses a year or that only a little more than a third of the local school district's third-graders read at their grade level.

So, addressing the problems reflected in the goals is not cheap – as illustrated in the recently increased United Way Funding.

A list of the recipients of funding is on the agency's website, but among the largest awards for education work is $306,000 to the Akron Area YMCA for early childhood care and education work; $170,000 to the National Inventors Hall of Fame's APS Innovation 365 program; $125,000 to the Akron Urban League's Urban Youth Academy STEAM Program; and $204,700 for the Early Childhood Initiative run by Building for Tomorrow.

For overdose reduction, United Way's largest awards included $100,000 for the Packard Institute's Recovery Coach Academy and Community Response Team; and $100,000 that Summa Health will use for a technology-enabled transportation program.

As for the financial empowerment work, United Way has said that will be a service it provides directly, in conjunction with the city. In October, United Way and the city of Akron announced the opening of the first financial empowerment education center, slated for 2018.

Mullen, who is originally from Northeast Ohio and has said he had long wanted to work for United Way here, said the community has been supportive of funding his goals and he was thankful. He also promised results.

"None of this would be possible without the incredible support we have received," Mullen said in the release. "People have been inspired to invest in the future of their community through the Bold Goals, and the result will be a better, more stable Summit County for everyone – from students working toward the careers of their dreams to families striving for the security of financial independence."

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