United Way of Susquehanna County
In 2014, the Institute for Public Policy and Economic Development completed a study on United way of Susquehanna County’s (UWSC) behalf. Despite the many good things happening in Susquehanna County, it was clear the indicators pointed to kids being left behind. The study revealed a sharp increase in:
- Increase in childhood poverty rates
- Increase in number of children qualifying for free or reduced lunches
- Single parent households
- Grandparents raising grandchildren
In July, 2015, UWSC announced its transition to the Community Impact Model placing a stake in the ground around targeted priorities leading to real change. Guided by the UWSC volunteer Advisory Committee it was determined that UWSC moving forward would focus on funding initiatives that “Help Children Do Well,” specifically programs that address improving access to high-quality early education, childhood wellness, promoting family stability and mentorship. In addition, UWSC will continue to fund safety net services as defined as emergency aid provided to individuals and families who face an immediate threat to their well-being as a result of a crisis.
UWSC has several signature programs geared toward Helping Children do Well
Dolly Parton Imagination Library
In 2016, UWSC launched the Dolly Parton Imagination Library in Susquehanna County. The Imagination Library provides a free, high quality book which is mailed to the home of children registered in DPIL from birth to age 5 and is theirs to keep. Although the program is available to all households regardless of income, UWSC is specifically focusing its attention on registering children living in economically at risk households. If UWSC can get books in the hands of kids and encourage and help parents be better readers to their kids along with helping to improve nutrition and family stability, we are contributing to making sure kids show up prepared to learn.
Real Men Read
In 2017, UWSC launched the Real Men Read program. Real Men Read connects volunteer male readers, MENtors, from the community with kindergarten classes to encourage reading and learning in young children, as well as to boost early grade reading success. MENtors make a commitment to read to a class for an hour once a month. At the end of each reading visit, students receive a copy of that day’s book to add to their home library and are encouraged to reread their books at home. This is a great opportunity for students to have a positive male role model who values education and encourages the love of reading. From K-3rd grade students are learning to read, and from 3rd grade on students need to be able to read to learn. According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation students who don’t read proficiently by third grade are four times more likely to leave high school without a diploma than proficient readers. The program serves Blue Ridge, Elk Lake, Montrose Area, and Mountain View School Districts.
Little Free Library Program
Little Free Libraries play an essential role by providing 24/7 access to books and encouraging a love of reading in areas where books are scarce. A Little Free Library is a unit containing books where anyone may contribute or take books. You can donate a book(s) by simply placing them in the Little Free Library book exchange near you. If you take a free book (or two) from a Library, you do not need to return that exact book. However, in order to keep the Little Library full of good choices for the whole neighborhood, the next time you swing by the Library bring a few books to share. Little Free Library book exchanges function on the honor system; everyone contributes to ensure there are always quality books inside for both children and adults.
Pre-K County Literacy Kits
The Pre-K Counts program provides summer learning literacy kits to children enrolled in Pre-K Counts classrooms. Pre-K is a critical time for brain development in children. To help these students from suffering the effects of summer slide during this important time in their development students are given learning materials to help reinforce the skills that they learned throughout the year and continue active learning during the summer. The program currently serves Pre-K students at Forest City Regional School, Mountain View Elementary School, and Treasure House with hopes of reaching other Pre-K Counts classrooms in the future.
The Nurse’s Pantry is a school-based program that provides school nurses with funding for essential items for students which their families may not be able to afford and can result in those children missing valuable class time. The Nurse’s Pantry was piloted in 2018 in the Susquehanna Community School District and has now been introduced to all school districts in Susquehanna County with a goal of reducing chronic absenteeism among at risk children in our community.