Live United: An update on the team of the United Way of Freeborn County

Published 8:45 pm Friday, August 6, 2021

Live United by Erin Haag

Early this summer, I wrote about my daughter’s love for our historical museum, and how she brought her “share” jar to donate to the repair of the Norsk Church. She recently asked me if they had raised enough money yet, and I told her I didn’t know. She asked if I could ask Miss Stephanie.

Erin Haag

Well, this was a teachable moment for me. I have a friend that I highly respect back in my hometown. She consistently works with her children on practical life skills such as making their own appointments, including looking up open business hours, providing information on their account and so forth. I’m not as consistent as my friend with those types of things, but once in a while I remember not to jump in. I told my daughter she could ask Miss Stephanie herself. She asked for the information, and I told her she was allowed to look up on the computer the website. She ran off and I didn’t hear anything more about it.

Fast forward to yesterday. I got a message from Miss Stephanie expressing her full heart at receiving my daughter’s letter. That’s right. My daughter got the address, wrote a note, found a stamp and mailed off a letter. I asked Miss Stephanie to send me a picture of it, and she did. “Dear Miss Stephanie. Have you gotting enough money for the church?” complete with a bird’s eye drawing of the church at the bottom of the page. We’re currently eagerly awaiting Miss Stephanie’s response.

My daughter’s letter reminds me that I need to be sure to give updates about UWFC. I tell the stories and sometimes forget to update on the practical side of things.

Let’s start with the United Way team. It’s been a bit of a revolving door the past few years, for a variety of reasons. It’s the nature of small nonprofits. I’m hoping this will change, and relationships will be built with the team as a whole. We’re currently a team of three, hoping to add a fourth soon.

Nikolle Guion has been with us since late November. I first met her with the winter gear drive when delivering coats to Lakeview Elementary. She graduated with her social work degree in December 2019. With the chaotic year of the pandemic, she focused on parenting her three boys and volunteering. I offered her a flexible position focused on putting her social work skills to use, and she does it well. Nikolle focuses on the NAPS Program, the Winter Gear Drive and other specific community impact projects.

Ruth Delano joined us about three weeks ago. She comes to us with a background in political campaigns and policy work. Ruth moved to the area last year with her husband and added a sweet baby boy to her family last year. She was ready to return to the workforce, and interviewed with another nonprofit agency in town. They were so impressed with her, and knew her skills would be a great fit for our needs. She jumped in with both feet and is bringing some great energy to our office along with some musical talent.

Ruth’s title is “operations specialist” and that translates to “jack of all trades.” She’ll be helping me with the administrative side of data entry, answering phones and so forth, but also working with companies in building their annual workplace campaign. She’s especially excited to work with the volunteers.

Our Americorps VISTA project with the volunteer center has seen some setbacks in the form of turnover. Staffing is a challenge everywhere right now. However, we are still mission focused on building that volunteer center. We’ve gone from a small list of volunteers to over 50 volunteers who regularly work with us. We hope to expand our engagement opportunities and turn some of those opportunities into programming that can directly work with those in need.

With that in mind, we do have a VISTA position open. I hope to have this position filled within the next few weeks. It’s a one-year commitment, with benefits such as an Education Award, child care assistance, health benefits and much more. This is a 40-hour a week position, typically filled by a recent college graduate looking for a year of experience before pursuing further education.

The position is not officially posted yet, as it goes through a process, but I hope it will be soon. If someone is interested in learning more about the VISTA program, please have them email a resume to Ruth at or call our office at 507-373-8670.

If there’s a common theme in my articles and stories it’s about magic and the wonder of connections. I look forward to sharing some stories about Nikolle and Ruth and some of those magical connections that happened to bring our team together. Until next time, thank you for living united.

Erin Haag is the executive director of the United Way of Freeborn County.