April 1, 2009

United Way aims to take 50 families out of poverty

The United Way of Racine County elected new officers Wednesday at its annual meeting, honored departing board members and three exceptional volunteers and outlined a new program in development for more than a year -- Advancing Family Assets (AFA) -- that aims to bring 50 families out of poverty this year ... and hopefully 500 or more in the next decade.

Francisco Sanchez of Chase bank was named chair of the organization, a new title, replacing outgoing president Greg Anderegg of SC Johnson who led the board for the past three years. David Maurer, executive director for some 19 years, also got a new title: president and chief professional officer.

David Maurer, Mary Wyant and Greg Anderegg

As his last official duty, Anderegg presented the President's Award to Mary Wyant, who was ending her six years on the board with what Maurer said was the best attendance on record.

Maurer, Mark Mundle, Rakesh Popli and Anderegg

Rakesh Popli and Mark Mundle were named Volunteers of the Year.

Jeff Neubauer, chair of the AFA initiative, said the program will address the "paradox" of companies unable to find qualified workers like truck drivers, machinists and nurses in a community with persistent and high unemployment. "Not to overstate it," he said, "but how do we break the cycle of poverty?"

He ran off a series of unsettling statistics:
  • More than 20 percent of families with children in the city of Racine have incomes below the poverty level.
  • Out of those 2,017 families, 84% are single head of household families
  • Of the 1,664 women aged 15-50 who gave birth here in the past 12 months, 72% were unmarried.
Neubauer said the program -- which hopes to start in a few weeks with the first 50 families -- has a three-pronged strategy based on income, education and health -- attempting to improve all through "intensive engagement with coaches" using existing community resources.

"The rate of return on investment is much higher when you focus on the youngest children," he said, pointing out that typically the least amount of funds are spent on kids from birth to three, and the most on adults in prison.

The goal, he said, is to bring 95% of these families out of poverty. "We do it with married couples," he said. "If we can do it with these 2,000 families, bringing them from where they are to where they want to be, it's conceivably achievable" to do it with even larger numbers.

The United Way, Maurer said, has budgeted an initial $50,000, and will be asking the City Council for $20,000, along with a similar amount from the business community. Eventually, the United Way expects to budget $200,000 annually for AFA, he said.

"If we can move the needle, we'll want to refocus our resources," Neubauer said. Non-profit organizations and churches wishing to nominate eligible families for the program should contact Kimberly Payne, project facilitator, at the United Way.

New board members elected were Milous Adams, U.S. Navy, retired; Randy Baker, CNH Global; Sue Boland, Wheaton Franciscan-All Saints; Bruce Duerr, Great Northern; Ethel Gates, Service Employees International Union, Lincoln Lutherna; Mark Giesler, Johnson Diversey; Stephanie Hayden, Racine Unified; Ray Koukari Jr., Gateway Technical College; Steve McLaughlin, UW-Parkside; Paul Rohling, Johnson Diversey, retired; John Siegert, Design Parners; Fran Strickland, SCJohnson; and Helen Suda, Gateway, retired.

Board members re-elected included Tom Burke, Modine Mfg.; Mike Goebel, CWA Local 4611; Brad Goodwin, SCJ; Adrian Schoone of Schoone, Leuck, Kelly and Pitts; Alicia Tanguma, PA Staffing Service; and Scott Terry, Fuel Creative.

Campaign Chair for 2009 is Chris Antonneau of David Insurance.

1 comment:

  1. This is exactly where Racine needs to focus its efforts. One does not need to be a mathematician to see that doing things the same old way we always have, will equal devastating results for Racine. Thank you to Jeff Neubauer and the Racine United Way for your vision and committment to improving this city.