Since January 2013, you have been reading our monthly columns and learning more about United Way of Story County’s past 60 years of providing leadership and support to those in need. You have read about the early days, the funds we raised, those transition years as we expanded and focused our efforts countywide, but most importantly you have read about the lives you have helped us impact.

Then and now, United Way of Story County helps children prepare for adulthood, keeps seniors in healthy environments and offers a helping hand to hard working families. It’s true that none of this would happen without strong community partners and dedicated donors. While there is much to be joyful for, we know we can’t stop now.

The problems facing our community are increasingly complex and require evidence-based solutions to provide real, long-lasting change. United Way of Story County is a strategic leader in building county-wide partnerships. The relationships we have with partner agencies, business community members and experts outside of the area means United Way of Story County is in a unique position to identify needs and to develop, support and evaluate effective human services. This is so much more than the United Way of yesterday.

As we prepare for this next year, and for our next 60 years, we know that in order to make a significant meaningful change in the lives of our neighbors and friends, we need to take a more focused approach and develop community partnerships in these three key areas:

Education

• Together, we can develop the most effective prevention strategies to keep children, youth and adults safe from harm.

• Together, we can provide much needed outreach and advocacy services.

• Together, we can utilize research-based programs to help children and youth access the building blocks for academic success.

Income

• Together, we can be sure that individuals and families have the support to help them access the basics they need to survive – from affordable child care to good nutritious food on their tables.

• Together, we can be prepared to meet those emergencies that many face on a daily basis, from homelessness to food assistance.

• Together, we can actively work with individuals and families to help them move toward self-sufficiency by teaching budgeting skills and providing employment skills.

Health

• Together, we can secure essential services such as counseling and support, home health care, dental care and respite care that are affordable and accessible to all.

We call this new focus community impact! We know it will take our community working together to make a difference.

That first campaign 60 years ago raised an impressive amount of $38,864. Let’s keep up our tradition and continue to exceed the LIVE UNITED annual campaign goal this year, next and beyond. Let’s continue to celebrate that each of us are UNIQUE APART but always UNITED TOGETHER. Thank you for giving, advocating and volunteering so that our community can continue to LIVE UNITED.

(Jean Kresse is president & CEO for United Way of Story County, a strategic leader in building county-wide partnerships to identify needs and to develop, support, and evaluate effective human services, especially in the areas of education, income and health, for our diverse community.)