Live United: United Way prepares to kick off annual campaign

Published 8:45 pm Friday, August 4, 2023

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Live United by Erin Haag

Sometimes my kids ask me what I’m going to write about. They’ll give me suggestions. Often those suggestions are not really related to United Way, and I remind them that we have to tie it all together somehow. It can be a good source of entertainment though, and if the Tribune ever needs another column, I’ve got the writers for them. Maybe they can be substitutes for Al Batt or April Jeppson. After all, who doesn’t want to hear my daughter’s take on how chickens are like the Welcome Pantry because you never know what’s going to pop up. I’m not sure I follow her logic quite yet there. That might be a future article in the hopper if I ever figure out what she’s trying to get at. This girl does love her chickens. She spent this hot week making them “chicken popsicles” to help them beat the heat.

Erin Haag

This week, they told me to write about trying new things, following the rules and loving people. They got into an intense discussion about what the moral of my article should be. Little do they know how very inspirational they are — not only for me, but for others. They work hard, play hard and love hard. Probably more than one article’s worth, especially with the way I tend to get my word count and then some turned in. So this week, I’m going straight to the last one, the best one in my opinion.

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One of our favorite things to do as a family is to look at our “Memory of the Day.” The Memory of the Day is a Facebook feature, and it’s turned into a memory book for me. Some of the memories are difficult to remember, like hospital stays and the hard moments. Others are simply pictures and quote that brought me inspiration or made me laugh. There’s no shortage of funny cat videos, and my daughter’s “Cluck Tube” videos of her and her chickens are on there, too. Some of the memories have become family legend, but others we forget until we read them aloud, and we relive the joy and laughter of them again. I read aloud the conversations, or show the pictures of what happened last year, two years ago, eight years ago. The youngest child usually isn’t very happy if we go to the older memories of before he was born — unless it was before his sister was born, too. They both love seeing their puppy and kitty when they actually were puppies and kitties. Yesterday’s memory of the day was spot on for this article though.

“Loving our neighbors is not the same as simply not hating them. Love is not a lack of hate or of anything else. Love has form and content and it compels us to act. It compels us to actively seek the well-being of others.” Uffda. This is pretty spot on for a solid definition of Living United in my opinion. To be a good neighbor, to be a good friend, a good community member — we want to work to lift each other up. Over and over again, I’m reminded that this is a stretch role sometimes — we may not always like each other, but a good community recognizes the need to love each other.

The thing about love is that it takes work. We often hear that it takes work to have a long lasting marriage. It takes work to maintain a lifelong friendship. What about being a good neighbor? A good community member? A loving one? That takes work too. We’re not as familiar with the type of work it takes to be a loving community member — because that often means going outside your comfort zone. To love your community, to love your city, your county, your area takes work. It takes work to learn about new things, to recognize barriers for others. It also takes intent.

I’ve written before about the intentions of our programs — especially with the Welcome Pantry. The intentions of our program model tied to the seven themes that were identified as important.

To us, ensuring that we frame our programs within that model is how we ensure we’re loving our neighbors, our community members that are in need.

The 2023 campaign is kicking off in a couple of weeks, with our first workplace campaign being at Albert Lea Area Schools. I have presentations lined up and will be adding more to my calendar. While our programs have been grant-funded so far, we also are seeing twice the number of shoppers than anticipated. As we learn and grow, we’re going to be working to identify why that is, but in the meantime, we don’t want anyone to be turned away. This means to make our program sustainable, we are looking for support from our community. If it’s to the general campaign, which is funding our annual Community Impact Grants, a specific program such as the Winter Gear Drive, Imagination Library or the Welcome Pantry, every little bit helps us keep things going. I’ll always be grant searching, looking for ways to make the dollars grow further, but we can’t do it without your help.

Our 2023 campaign theme is “United In Purpose.” Love with intent. Love with purpose. Live United. It’s all the same thing, isn’t it? Ultimately, loving each other, lifting each other up and being intentional in how you do so is going to change our community for the better. In the coming weeks, I’ll be writing about different areas, and ways you can support being United in Purpose. From food drives with specific lists, to hosting a Winter Gear Drive Box, to team volunteering, to hosting a workplace campaign — all of it makes a difference. With such a wide variety of ways to help, I’m sure we can find the right place for you. To learn more, call at 507-373-8670 or email As always, we appreciate our bevy of supporters each and every day.

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