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United Way asks, 'What if?' in new campaign

The United Way is hosting a training session on Wednesday, Aug. 17, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at its office in Alexandria.

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ALEXANDRIA — What if?

That's the question being asked by the United Way of Douglas and Pope Counties' campaign for 2022-2023.

"We want to change the game in our community. We want to be sure that every person has opportunities," said executive director Jen Jabas.

Part of doing that is putting focus on three main areas: Health — specifically mental health — education and financial stability.

The campaign asks three questions: "What if we provided access to mental health services for those who need it?" "What if we equipped children and youth to go after their biggest dreams?" "What if we helped people to obtain jobs, allowing them to achieve stability?"

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"(A campaign) gives us a way to get excited," Jabas said. "So when we kicked off our campaign, we said, 'What if you could join us at United Way and learn more about how you can make your campaign fun?'"

To do just that, the United Way is hosting a training session on Wednesday, Aug. 17, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at its office in Alexandria.

"The training is really an idea-share between all sorts of businesses, bouncing ideas off of each other — what's worked in businesses and what's fun and engaging for employees," said Kendall Brickweg, marketing and communications coordinator.

Jabas added that the training is open to anybody who wants to learn more about what a campaign is, and what it would be like to run a campaign of their own.

"It's so much more about community than about United Way," Jabas said. "United Way just happens to be one of the ways that you can engage and support your community and find out how you can help.

"It's not just about giving, but also about giving of your time. So it's not just dollars, but where can you volunteer and what would that look like," she said.

If you cannot attend the training, one-on-one sessions with businesses can be scheduled, as well.

More information is also available online, including a What If? game that features questions and answers about the campaign, and the United Way itself.

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Campaigns vary from business to business, depending on the number of employees, their abilities and their interests, Jabas said.

"We want to be able to make sure that when someone is considering a United Way campaign that they think about what works best for them," she said.

"We define a campaign as any employer who allows their employees the opportunity to engage with United Way through their business," Brickweg said. "At one business, a campaign might look like Jen coming in and giving a presentation, and they can complete a pledge form. Other businesses blow it out of the water, and it's like homecoming week."

Campaigns are a very important part of helping people to get involved, Jabas said.

"I think they're really significant," she said. "It's really hard when you're an office of four to get in front of everybody and share about the work that's being done, and to share about the other nonprofits. When a workplace holds a campaign like this, it's really great because they're demonstrating they want to give back to the community, and they're offering their employees an opportunity to give in a way that's meaningful to them."

There are many opportunities for both businesses and individuals to get involved throughout the year, Brickweg said.

"I feel like for somebody who's looking for a starting point … we're a great place to get you looped in and connected with nonprofits in the community," she said.

Jabas agreed, saying, "We're from a community where people care about each other … and when we see someone else hurting, we want to do what we can to help."

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More information about the What If? campaign and other programming is available at the United Way of Douglas and Pope Counties' home page, at uwdp.org/ , or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/unitedwaydouglaspope/ .

Travis Gulbrandson covers several beats, including Osakis School Board and Osakis City Council, along with the Brandon-Evansville School Board. His focus will also be on crime and court news.
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