In the Know column: It’s U that makes a difference!

In our community, homelessness is increasing and during the winter months in Minnesota, the temperatures outside are unsafe for anyone without shelter.

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CliftonLarsonAllen and Tastefully Simple team members pack United Way Backpack Attack bags.
Contributed photo

By Jen Jabas, director of the United Way of Douglas and Pope Counties

It’s U that makes a difference!

You are probably familiar with the phrase, “There’s no I in TEAM” but have you ever heard the phrases: CommUnity doesn’t exist without U or United isn’t possible without U?

At United Way, our work doesn’t happen without our amazing volunteers! It’s no coincidence that U is the first letter in the name of our organization and that UNITED as a community is the WAY we get things done. Last week was National Volunteer Appreciation week and I wanted to take this opportunity to celebrate the volunteers who make a difference every day at United Way and across our community through the many wonderful non-profits who create opportunities for each of us.

I would like to celebrate over 8,000 volunteer hours with United Way:


Just completed

  • Hope Haven. Hundreds of volunteers from six churches and local community partners provided shelter to those without for 12 weeks during the cold winter months!
  • Grant Review Panels. Approximately 60 individuals gave four hours of their time to assist United Way in making investments in local non-profits to support work in health, education and financial stability.
  • Backpack Attack. More than 1,000 people packed bags of food for approximately 500 kids across two counties each week throughout the school year. 

Sign up now

  • Food Drops. It takes 50-80 volunteers a minimum of two to three hours per shift to distribute food to approximately 200 households in Douglas County and 100 households in Pope County every single month. Sign up to help this Thursday in Douglas County.
  • Day of Caring. Each May over 350 eighth-grade students from Discovery Middle School give two hours of their time to help community members with outdoor projects every spring.  It’s not too late to get your project requests in for this May; they are due this Friday, April 27. Follow this link or give us a call.

Coming soon

  • Traveling Tree House. For 10 weeks in the summer parents and community members share their love of reading with the 150+ kids who attend the Traveling Tree House each week.
  • Stuff the Bus. Over 30 businesses and countless individuals collect school supplies at their workplace or while out shopping for back to school supplies for 400-plus students every year.
  • Coat collection and distribution. Thousands of winter weather items were donated to provide warmth to individuals and families in our community.
  • Holiday gifts. Approximately 200 people sponsored 950-plus children by shopping for and purchasing gifts over the holidays for families faced with financial hardship.


United Way of Douglas and Pope Counties hosts a volunteer website with opportunities for individuals and businesses. In addition to the website we have a speed volunteering initiative that can be done by any individual or group in any setting at your convenience.

Volunteer Website – Get Connected. Check out this mobile‐friendly experience where community organizations can list and promote volunteer opportunities in one location. Community members can browse existing needs and then register for service opportunities that align with their passions. Volunteers can then track their efforts within the community throughout a given time period. Get Connected learns volunteer’s passions and interests and provides ongoing recommendations of ideal service opportunities.

Speed Volunteering Projects – Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere. Check out a listing of projects that were created by United Way and local non-profits. Each worksheet contains a project that is focused around addressing a commonly expressed need from individuals that are served in our community. These projects can be easily coordinated and completed with friends, families, youth groups or coworkers. Simply choose a project and follow the worksheet. When you have completed your project, drop off the finished product at United Way. United Way will then connect these resources with people who need them in Douglas and Pope Counties.

A big thanks to the kids, parents, teachers, working individuals, retirees, men and women of all ages! You are the reason our community is UNITED and your gift of time and talents is appreciated.


For more information, contact our office at 320-834-7800 or e-mail

Jen Jabas is the director of the United Way of Douglas and Pope Counties. “In the Know” is a rotating column written by community leaders from the Douglas County area.

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