Live United: It’s a busy season for the United Way of Freeborn County

Published 8:45 pm Friday, November 5, 2021

Live United by Erin Haag

I’ve mentioned our 2021 grant cycle is currently under review. These applications are gone through by a group of volunteers and scored on the rubric. The thing about programs though is that they’re not black and white. To be equitable, we must have flexibility in funding, and we make efforts to give that flexibility.

Erin Haag

The rubric is scored and then the highest score goes into the number one spot — and so forth. This is all done without consulting others — the volunteers don’t even know who’s in the group yet. For newcomers, this process comes with some nerves and anxiety — am I doing this right? We explain that it’s not a make it or break it piece of the process, that this is designed to help guide the discussion. The point of an application is to write it so well that a stranger with no experience or previous knowledge of your program can understand the basics of your program and what you want to do with the funding.

We take those ranking scores and average them out over the group. Then we start with the first one and discuss it. Any questions? Any concerns? How did the group feel about it? Did the financials make sense? What is surprising is how often the scores are the same. With a group from all walks of life, different experiences, different backgrounds, having several programs score the same just attest to the well written grant and the quality of the program.

It’s easy for the first few. The more we move down the list though — then the scores start to be all over the place. This is where that flexibility comes in. Often funding is awarded, but it’s contingent on answering a few questions, or revising the outcomes so it can be tied to the quarterly reports.

I’m deeply appreciative of the time our volunteers spend in going through the process. It can be intimidating to realize that what you say has an impact on the lives of so many people. However, I believe our process has also given validation to others — the rubric is straightforward.

I’m sure everyone’s read through this entire thing, hoping that I was going to announce the awards. Sorry — not yet! I wanted to — but then realized that we aren’t quite there yet. The recommendation from the Community Investment Committee will go to the Board of Directors for a final vote — then award letters and the first check will go out. I anticipate money being in hand for our agencies by Thanksgiving. I will share loud and clear who receive awards though! We’re so thankful to our donors who make this work possible.

In other news, I’m trying something a little new this year. In today’s paper, you should see a pledge card. I worry often about our mailing list, wondering how up to date it is. We had the best phone call the other day from a gentleman that is traveling down to Florida for the winter. He updated us with his address so we could send him a pledge card so he didn’t accidentally miss it.

I invite you to clip this pledge card and send it in to PO Box 686, Albert Lea, MN 56007. We also love handwritten notes telling us what you enjoy, or asking us questions. We’ll answer them!

Currently I have a couple of volunteers hanging out with Nikolle, our community resource specialist. They’re hanging up coats and laying out scarves, and I hear a coat rack is being put together. I hope the instructions are not the Ikea kind. We’ve been busy this week, meeting the needs of school social workers ensuring the children in our community stay warm this winter.

What are our needs? We know we need men’s coats. We’re aware of at least four gentlemen that would need a size 1X coat. Even general clothing and warm socks would be helpful for this group of gentlemen. Remember, all of our community needs lists are through referrals from social workers, case managers or other community advocates. Providing warm clothing and coats is a great step for them to build a relationship with those in needs.

We have a few children identified as being in need through social workers as well. Boots and snow pants and even just seasonal clothing for infants. You can find the specific list and sizing on our Community Needs page. You can find that page at or just call our office at 507-373-8670 to get the latest update or to sign up to volunteer at a distribution date or to help hang up coats.

If you know of someone in need, Winter Gear Distribution dates are the following days: Saturday, Nov. 6, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 11, from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m.; Monday, Nov. 22, 3:30 to 6:30 p.m.;  Saturday, Dec. 11 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; and Tuesday, Dec. 21 from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m.

Enjoy the beautiful weather anticipated this weekend. As always, thank you for living united.


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