Live United: Thanks for investment from teachers in book program

Published 8:45 pm Friday, August 20, 2021

Live United by Erin Haag

The kids are back in school. Pictures are being taken and shared, teachers work to prep their classrooms and the excitement and anxiety is through the roof.

Erin Haag

It’s been an emotional week for this mama. My children have not been in a classroom in in a year and a half. They had an incredible year with Distance Learning Academy, with wonderful teachers that hold a special place in our heart. Going back into the classroom was a little more nerve-wracking than normal years. We attended a back to school gathering, and over and over we heard, “We’re so glad you’re back.” This was from classmates, from teachers and even from parents. They were welcomed back with true joy.

This week I know that teachers are working feverishly to prepare their classrooms, their lesson plans, memorize things and keep track of all the normal administrative training that goes along with the start of a new school year. This same week, teachers and staff at Albert Lea Area Schools took the time to read about United Way, and to make a pledge.

There’s a note section where people can write a note saying what program they’re designating it for. Sometimes those teachers take the time to write a personal note to us. It is personal to us. It’s a reminder every day of why we do what we do, even when the odds are stacked against us. Thank you for taking the time to write a note. Every one of them is deeply appreciated.

On Wednesday, I found myself at the district offices to participate in a drawing. I didn’t have child care that day and was told to bring my children along. My children were properly impressed with this and joined the fun. When we were walking out the door, my son said, “But, I thought we were going to draw? What were we supposed to draw?” Apparently, he had envisioned participating in a big mural drawing of some sort. I’ll have to hook him up with the Albert Lea Art Walk next time they’ve got a mural going up.

Thank you, Albert Lea Area Schools. While the campaign’s not quite over, 19% of pledges designated their funds to Imagination Program. They spoke loud and clear that they valued getting books into the hands of kids — kids that are being visited by the Healthy Families program through Public Health. In what can be the busiest, most emotional week, I’m humbled that staff dedicate their time, energy and donations to United Way programs.

Wednesday afternoon, my daughter asked if she could do thank you cards. She drafted up her note, and got it approved by me and set to work. There’s drawings of kids in big comfy chairs reading books, and books flying in the clouds (maybe a little Harry Potter imagining there?) and even a little poem about books. Of course, those sweet notes made me tear up, too. 

I’m already emotional about my children growing up, deeply appreciative of the work that teachers do on an everyday basis, in tears over the number of them who pledge in our campaign. The real kicker was when I opened up mail today to find another donation to Imagination Library that will cover 10 children. I’m not ashamed to say that I sat in my car outside the post office and cried a little. Then I turned up the radio and sang along loudly all the way to work.

The work is never ending, and there’s never enough time. There’s more work to ensure the sustainability of the Imagination Library Program, along with all the other programs.  I’m still putting out fires every day, and trying to move to future planning, to expanding. It takes work, it takes time and it takes generous donors and volunteers and cheerleaders. This week, I feel like I’ve got that in spades. If you’d like to learn more about our work, call 507-373-8670 and have a conversation with us. We’re busy, but we need the opportunity to take a break and just chat once in a while, preferably while eating a snack or enjoying the sunshine. We love the notes, too, with and without donations. Send them to PO Box 686, Albert Lea, MN. We’ll even write you back, or you might get a customized drawing from a kid who’s going to grow up and rule the world.

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