Guest Column: United Way internship has been eye-opening

Published 10:51 pm Friday, February 9, 2018

Live United by Katelyn Tollefson

In January I started to intern at the United Way of Freeborn Country. Over the last month, I have learned a lot about United Way and other local programs and resources that are available in the community. There have been many different aspects that I have looked at, read about and engaged in over the month. I’m not even sure where to start because there is so much to say and not enough space for it all.

Katelyn Tollefson

One thing that really has stuck with me from the beginning is collaboration. There are different ways people, agencies, etc. can work together, such as coordinating, cooperation and collaboration. Collaboration is completely different then coordination and cooperation. Collaboration takes full commitment between multiple people, organizations, governments, the city, etc., and this takes a lot of work.

People need to work together to help others accomplish more and to have a bigger, better impact in the community and world. Working together (collaborating) to solve or make a difference is better, more effective and efficient than working alone.

I helped with the Community Connect event in January, and it took a lot of coordinating. Linda Lares from SEMCAC, Ariel Martin from Parenting Resource Center and I worked together to plan and get things ready for the event. This was a great experience and taught me a lot about what happens when planning an event.

It takes a lot of work to plan an event, and there are so many little details that need to be taken into consideration. Organization and communication are key factors when planning events to make sure everything gets done and everyone knows what they need to do.

I have learned a lot about the nonprofit world. People who work for nonprofits are truly amazing people. They want to help people and help the world grow into a better place. It takes a lot of work to run a nonprofit organization. They run off of donations and grant funding.

Donations can change quickly because of many factors such as employment rates, business contributions and grants that are available. It takes a lot of work to look for grants that are available and if your organization meets the right criteria. I spent a whole day looking for grants without any luck. Some grants you have to be invited to apply for and many others you have to meet certain criteria.

I have also found that the people I have been working with aren’t judgmental of others; they understand people make mistakes, but there is always opportunity for them to change. There’s a reason why people do the things they do. Sometimes it’s how they survive in this world and they don’t know where to get help. People need support, resources, and know how to access these resources in order to make better decisions. We must work together to accomplish this.   

Throughout the rest of my internship I hope to learn what kind of career path I want to take after graduating. I want to find ways to involve more people in volunteering and be more involved in their community. I am excited to learn more about disaster response and mental health. I want to help people better their lives, and I want to help make the world a better place.

Katelyn Tollefson is an intern with the United Way of Freeborn County.