Making a difference for familiesThe Community Impact Coalition is making a difference in people’s lives – whether it’s putting food on the table for hungry families, stuffing school supplies in children’s backpacks, or heating homes with firewood.
By: Al Edenloff, Alexandria Echo Press
The Community Impact Coalition is making a difference in people’s lives – whether it’s putting food on the table for hungry families, stuffing school supplies in children’s backpacks, or heating homes with firewood.
That’s what can be gleaned from the coalition’s annual report of its activities during the past year.
Formed two years ago as a division of the United Way of Douglas and Pope Counties, the Community Impact Coalition tries to create a long-lasting impact in the community by focusing on education, income and health, according to Jessica Boyer, community impact director.
The need is definitely out there, she said.
“I think we’re growing by leaps and bounds,” she said. “With support from the community, we’ve accomplished a lot.”
The support comes from businesses, individuals, organizations and other partnerships that recognized a need within the community.
Two of the coalition’s efforts in the last year, Boyer said, were especially eye opening: Project Community Connect, which provided a way for 48 local agencies to share their resources with local residents who needed them, and mobile food drops that provided food items for families throughout the area.
“We had between 100 and 125 volunteers at each food drop,” Boyer said. “People really want to help out and this was an opportunity to do it.”
Here’s a look at the activities the Community Impact Coalition led in the past year and the number of lives that were affected:
•Backpack Attack: Provides 125 children with bags of nutritious, child friendly food for over the weekends to help alleviate child hunger in Pope County through the Backpack Attack program. (In two years this program has impacted 325 children.)
•Earned Income Tax Credit Tax Clinic: Assisted 261 individuals and families receive $359,328 in tax returns with assistance from the free tax preparation clinic. The event connected Mid-Minnesota Federal Credit Union with the tax clinic.
•Heat a Home: Kicked off the “Heat a Home” campaign to gather donated wood to distribute to households that use wood as a source to heat their homes. In less than one month more than 32 loads of wood were distributed.
•Homeless Awareness Month (November): A proclamation was signed by the city and county, accompanied by an awareness event/fundrasier at Pizza Ranch and a high school student essay contest, which was featured on four different occasions in the newspaper.
•Imagination Library: 1,323 children in Douglas County and 395 children in Pope County are getting a jumpstart on learning. These children receive a book in the mail each month as part of the Dolly Parton Library Program.
•Mobile Food Drop: In just six months, 5,196 individuals or 1,631 total households have received additional food as the result of the monthly Mobile Food Drops. In the first three months, this project helped increase the amount of food distributed in Douglas County by 100 percent.
•Pete’s Food Vouchers: $5,000 in food vouchers distributed to approximately 200 families to increase food access as a result of a partnership with Pete’s County Market.
•Plant an Extra Row: Kicked off Plant an Extra Row campaign to increase nutritious food availability through distribution of community donations of fruit and vegetables. More than 7,000 pounds of produce were distributed locally.
•Project Community Connect: The event doubled in just one year. The 2009 event connected 340 households with additional support services through Project Community Connect, where 48 services vendors were located in one place at a time. (The 2008 totals: 189 households helped, 23 vendors participated.)
•Stuff the Bus (Douglas County): Nearly 525 children in Douglas County received backpacks filled with school supplies through a partnership with Alexandria Jaycees through the “Stuff the Bus” campaign (up from 425 children in 2008).
•Stuff the Bus (Pope County): Nearly 77 children received backpacks filled with school supplies through a partnership with Pope County Family Counsel to the “Stuff the Bus” campaign (compared to 40 children in 2008).
The Community Impact Coalition is funded through grants and private individual donations. For more information or to find out how you can help the effort, call Boyer at (320) 763-4840.