Live United: Here are three good ways to start out the new year

Published 8:45 pm Friday, December 30, 2022

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Live United by Erin Haag

This is it folks. Today’s the last day to donate to the 2022 campaign. If you hustle and get your donation postmarked today, you’ll be able to count it for 2022 — and fuel the change for 2023. If you miss the post office, you can typically postmark an envelope at Hy-Vee, and they’re open until 11 p.m. Contributions can be mailed to PO Box 686, Albert Lea, MN 56007.

ways thought that New Year’s was the wrong time to make a resolution. For me, this is my time of rest, to snuggle into the comfort of my much-loved slippers, to spend time with family and read good books. It is the time of renewal, to freshen up my home, my office and to start dreaming — but I’m not always ready to go and DO it yet. It’s cold out there!

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I don’t get to pick the New Year’s date though, and so I asked my daughter what her resolution was.

Her resolution is learning more about dachshunds. Her daddy was chiming in, “fight less with your brother.” Without missing a beat, she said, “sure, and also to get more chickens.”

I write these articles during the “off season” of the Minnesota legislation session. In years past, I’ve stepped back for a few months, doing the foundational work of United Way. Things like taxes, financial reviews and policy writing. Budget development, database entries and continuing education lies in my future. At least I can wear those warm slippers while I do this work.

This year, I might be a little more active than I want to be. It’s our hope to be moving soon — and, yes, we have a place selected. Lease negotiations are in the final stages — what we’re working on is the capital expenditure budget to determine final agreements. We’re working with local contractors on things like flooring, painting, electrical and so forth. Timelines need to be established, and goodness, it’s much slower than I’d like it to be, but that’s always the way with project management.

My professional resolutions aren’t for the year. Right now, I’m looking at the first three months. In the first three months, we hope to move and get settled into our new place. We hope to open the Welcome Pantry in its permanent location, welcoming the approximately 245 families we’ve been serving each month. We hope to host a meet-and-greet with area social workers and Public Health employees and other professional counterparts. The Homeless Response Team is anxious to meet and hear about developments with the Coordinated Entry System that collaborates across southeastern Minnesota for openings in shelters.

In short — we hope to come home. We took months to find the right place, and it’ll be a period of construction, the actual moving and getting settled in. It’s exciting though — because we’re looking at a space that has room to grow. A space designed for a food shelf, our office, collaborative teams and inspired work. A space for our Winter Gear Drive, Jingle Program and all the things we have been dreaming of — right down to the décor. I’ve got office plants that need to be re-potted, and I just got some beautiful self watering globes for Christmas. I may or may not have come home from visiting family in Kansas with some cuttings to propagate.

Our work doesn’t hyper-focus on any one thing though. Those taxes and financial reports aren’t going away, budgets will still need to be developed. Our Community Impact grants will open up in mid-January, and by the beginning of the second quarter the Community Investment Committee should be on track for announcing our 2023 funded program partners. Three, possibly four new board members will be onboarded, and we’re beginning the search for our Community Investment Committee.

Along with resolutions, I’ve heard of picking “your word” for the year. I always liked that concept but never really settled on words for myself. For the United Way team though, I have three. Intentional, foundation and opportunity. These three words have been often repeated throughout the year, applied to different aspects of our work. Developing programs and looking at them from the perspective of the community member we’re trying to serve? We examine our intentions. Are we making an emotional decision, or an evidence-based one? Do we have the data to support that this program is needed and that the model of program we’re proposing is a best practice? We also look at the foundation of it. Do we have the capacity to do this? How can we be sure our program is sustainable? All new things take a little bit of a leap of faith, but we want to make sure there’s reasonable foundations to make things work.

Lastly, we look at opportunities. Are we providing opportunities in a variety of ways. Opportunities for community members to learn about our programs, opportunities to reduce barriers to access programs. Opportunities for community members to give back in a way that is meaningful to them. It might be a client also volunteering at our Welcome Pantry, shopping before or after their shift. Maybe it’s making sure to bring last year’s outgrown coats to our Winter Gear Drive or using donated fabric scraps to sew bags of quilts for us to hand out. It’s also an opportunity for our nonprofits in the area — opportunities to collaborate, to have their voice heard, to provide opportunities to learn from each other and from experts in our sector.

Intentionality. Foundations. Opportunities. It’s a good way to start a new year, even if it is cold outside. If you’d like to dream along with us, please make sure you’ve got your contribution in for the 2022 year, make your contribution for the 2023 year early or call to learn more about volunteering to join our Board of Directors, our Community Investment Committee or volunteering for one of our programs. Maybe that’s your resolution — to get more involved in your community. Give us a call at 507-373-8670 to learn more.

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