by David Buice, Special Contributor
Pregnant at 14 and a working mother by the age of 15, Keyuna Carter had to work harder than most to earn her high school diploma. Unfortunately, despite completing her education, her future seemed limited to minimum wage jobs. Moreover, she still found she needed assistance to help make ends meet.
But a flyer posted at a food pantry set Keyuna on a different path. That flyer was an advertisement for a job-training program to prepare participants for entry-level positions in health care. Intrigued, Keyuna registered. She ultimately completed the program — one funded by United Way’s “Pathways To Work” initiative — and became a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA).
Now working a higher-paying job and better able to provide for her family, Keyuna is only one of the tens of thousands in D-FW whose circumstances have been dramatically improved or transformed by United Way of Metropolitan Dallas.
The keys to United Way’s success
For over 90 years, United Way of Metropolitan Dallas has been a leading provider of community support, working tirelessly to assist those North Texans who struggle against great odds to lead more productive lives.
“First and foremost, United Way is a local organization,” says Jennifer Sampson, McDermott-Templeton President and CEO of United Way of Metropolitan Dallas. “Everything we do benefits our neighbors and our community. We’re a unifying force for solving problems with the community.”
United Way of Metropolitan Dallas focuses much of its solutions-oriented work on three fundamental issues: education, income and health. In Sampson’s words, “Whether it’s helping jobseekers develop necessary skills, ensuring that students — from pre-K to post-high school — have access to and support for learning, or helping those without health care tend to small illnesses before they become big problems, we take a long-term, comprehensive approach to affecting lasting change in these areas. They are the building blocks that every family and community needs to reach their full potential.”
By providing uniforms and school supplies so students can go to school every day feeling confident in themselves and ready to learn, offering after-school and summer activities that cultivate enriching learning experiences, and equipping mentors to advise and teach by example, United Way of Metropolitan Dallas has a long tradition of putting children on the path to lifelong success.
The organization’s goals for 2020 are ambitious. It aims to have 60 percent of the high school graduates in North Texas prepared to succeed in college or in a career by 2020. The current figure stands at 42 percent, but United Way is already making progress.
United Way of Metropolitan Dallas firmly believes that better health leads to better lives. Improper nutrition, limited opportunities to exercise and stay physically fit, chronic illness and mental health issues all inhibit the full enjoyment of life. However, United Way is a leader in instilling and supporting good health habits.
One in three Dallas County children grows up impoverished. United Way of Metropolitan Dallas supports programs that give community members a chance for a more prosperous future. Again, the organization has set a bold 2020 goal: to help 250,000 individuals move up and out of poverty.
To accomplish this, United Way makes sure that basic needs, such as food, shelter and safety, are met. The organization also helps individuals develop their job skills and career readiness — as Keyuna Carter can attest. Financial literacy is another priority. United Way understands the value of helping families learn to manage budgets, reduce their debt and raise their credit scores. Equipped with these tools and knowledge, individuals can save more of their hard-earned money.
These efforts have already paid significant dividends. 250,689 fewer North Texans are now projected to live in poverty than expected when the United Way set their 2020 goal.
As impressive as these numbers are, even more impressive is United Way of Metropolitan Dallas’ ability to inspire and motivate. Contemplating her organization’s past accomplishments and future goals, Sampson says, “We’re out there every day, mobilizing volunteers, partnering with local companies, helping nonprofits and community organizations. We’re making a difference.”
Giving Tuesday is a global day of giving that marks the beginning of the charitable season. For 2018, United Way of Metropolitan Dallas is teaming with United Way of Tarrant County, United Way of Denton County, Texas Instruments Chief Executive Officer Rich Templeton, his wife, Mary, and their three children to host #GiveBigDFW, a highly localized response to #GivingTuesday’s general call to action.
Already, individuals and organizations across North Texas have pledged to make this special day of giving and volunteerism especially meaningful. “We would like to show that the next generation needs to step up, so our children are going to participate in various activities and hopefully start setting the example that you are never too young to start giving back to the community,” says Mary Templeton.
Those activities include assembling care kits for mothers and small children served by Nexus Recovery, leading creative workshops for preschoolers at Mi Escuelita, and teaching Boys & Girls Club beneficiaries how to build and code LEGO Boost Robots. Additionally, Texas Instruments employees will deliver 1,000 meals to hungry and homebound seniors, and volunteers from every corner of D-FW will help distribute meals at CitySquare.
To learn more and help prove that the North Texas community is among the most generous in the nation, make a donation or sign-up to volunteer at GiveBigDFW.com. As Sampson observes, “Real change only happens when we work together. In this way, we can create hope for a better tomorrow.”