EIM Nonprofit Spotlight :: United Way of Idaho Falls and Bonneville County

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East Idaho Moms is excited to feature United Way of Idaho Falls and Bonneville County as our nonprofit for October 2021. Eastern Idaho is fortunate to have a wealth of nonprofit and service organizations. By highlighting some of these groups, we hope to encourage moms and families to get involved and learn about all that our wonderful community has to offer.

In 1887, the Charity Organization Society (the first United Way) was funded by a woman, Priest, a Rabbi, and two ministers in Denver, Colorado. The Society’s main purpose was to plan and coordinate local services, and it conducted a single fundraising campaign for nearly two dozen organizations. Locally, the Community Chest of Idaho Falls was organized by E.F. McDermott in 1940 to coordinate multiple fundraising activities in Idaho Falls. The name changed to United Way of Idaho Falls and Bonneville County (UWIFBC) in 1976, to conform to other organizations throughout the United States. The UWIFBC is now one of seven United Ways in Idaho, serving seven counties in Eastern Idaho: Bonneville, Clark, Fremont, Jefferson, Lemhi, Madison, and Teton.

The UWIFBC’s mission is to “improve people’s lives by mobilizing the caring power of our community,” and it is accomplished through the program’s many works. The UWIFBC directs the bulk of its impact program funding towards ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) in support of Idaho’s “working poor.”  According to Christine Leusch, the UWIFBC Community Engagement Manager, “over 44% of families in the counties (we) serve were identified as ALICE families prior to the pandemic.” ALICE community members are employed but do not make enough to cover basic necessities. These families have to make difficult choices, like whether to pay for childcare or rent, and cannot afford “extra” activities for children, such as tutoring, sports, or camps.  More information about ALICE, including the Idaho ALICE Report can be found at www.unitedwayif.org/alice-report and/or www.unitedforalice.org/idaho.

Other impact programs of the UWIFBC include Food Backpacks and Summer Feeding; Kindergarten Bootcamp; Ready, Set, READ!; and the SOAR Afterschool Club. Through the Food Backpacks and Summer Feeding program, the UWIFBC helps to fill backpacks with nutritious food, hygiene items, and books that are sent home with students from low-income programs during weekends and long breaks. The UWIFBC also assisted with the USDA by operating one of the Summer Meals program sites in Idaho Falls. Through this project, the UWIFBC provided thousands of educational, STEM, and book “to-go” kits to help with summer learning loss. 

The Kindergarten Bootcamp program of the UWIFBC is a two-week, school-based program that prepares incoming Kindergarteners for the upcoming year by helping them to get familiar with their classrooms, to develop and build healthy social skills, and to be introduced to language and numerical concepts. The Kindergarten Bootcamp held last August hosted almost 200 students at five different camps. 

The Ready, Set, READ! program provides free books and reading videos to children’s families to help with literacy and curb learning loss from the COVID-19 pandemic and summer break. Lastly, the SOAR Afterschool Club “inspires students to learn essential academic and social skills and build a supportive network of caring volunteer role models.”

Community events and fundraising that are hosted by the UWIBFC include the Live United Concert Series, a Cornhole Tournament, and a “Day of Action.”  The Concert Series is a free, family event held at The Waterfront at Snake River Landing.  It includes food trucks and weekly Community Engagement Projects where the public is asked to bring items for the partnering agencies of the UWIBFC.  More information on the Live United Concert Series can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/liveunitedconcertseries

The yearly Cornhole Tournament is a fun, competitive event where two teams compete for cash prizes. Entertainment, food, and drinks are also available at this event. The last major yearly event that occurs is the “Day of Action,” where nonprofit partners connect with local volunteers to complete larger projects, such as painting, cleaning, or construction.  Fundraising is done primarily through Workplace Campaigns, but money is also raised through grants, planned gifts, and individual donations.

Virtual and in-person volunteer opportunities can be found at www.unitedwayif.org/volunteer-opportunities or on Just Serve at www.justserve.org/unitedwayofidahofallsandbonnevillecountyvolunteercenter.  In the near future, volunteers will be needed for the UWIFBC afterschool programs to clean and process donated books as well as the Community Investment Committee (March – June).

General information about the United Way of Idaho Falls and Bonneville County can be found on Facebook at https://www.unitedwayif.org, Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/unitedwayif/, or Twitter at https://twitter.com/WayIdaho

Direct contact can be made with Christine Wiersema, President and CEO, or Christine Leusch, Community Engagement Manager, by email at [email protected], [email protected], or by phone at (208) 522-2674.

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