A focused community strategy

UWCC releases strategic priority areas

by Angie Matthiessen, Executive Director – United Way of Charlotte County

Sherlock Holmes was known for his attention to detail. In fact, illustrations of the famous character typically include him holding a large round magnifying glass. Holmes’ strategy was to focus on the smallest of details that weren’t quite right in a situation and use those small areas of focus to make rather large deductions.

United Way of Charlotte County picked up a metaphorical magnifying glass in our community partner conversations last summer to identify the details that are causing the biggest stumbling blocks for our residents.

Our previous strategic priorities were broad and aimed to cover a lot of ground in breaking the cycle of poverty. Moving forward, our intention is to narrow our focus in those areas to better reach the root of the issues.

We can all agree that individuals must have a foundation of basic needs in the present in order to have any expectation for a solid future. There is an old adage that states:  Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. This sage advice is only helpful once the man has a firm foundation under him. Otherwise, he may have to sell his fishing pole to cover his rent for the month.

Basic needs such as food, childcare, housing and financial assistance are a requirement before someone can take steps towards planning ahead. UWCC has prioritized these basic needs through United at Work, Season of Sharing and VITA, as well as through providing grant funding to local programs that offer this type of support for Charlotte County residents.

UWCC will continue to prioritize basic needs in our community.

Once the foundation has been established, planning for the future can help individuals and families on the road to self-sufficiency. Based on the gaps identified in our strategic planning meetings last summer, UWCC has focused on key elements of educational success and financial empowerment to move the needle on self-sufficiency.

The most prominent gaps identified for educational success were parent engagement across all ages, trauma-informed programs, school-readiness and successful transitions. It cannot be stated enough that our students need the support of our entire community if we expect them to be set up for success in their educational journeys. Programs that we fund in these priority areas will complement the work of our dedicated Charlotte County Public Schools.

In the realm of financial empowerment, the priority areas identified were increased employability and asset accumulation and sustainment. UWCC focuses on serving the ALICE population; those who are working in our community (sometimes more than one job) and are still unable to meet their basic needs. As we identify and support programs that lead to increased employability and increased assets for our community, ALICE can become self-sufficient.

Our work towards breaking the cycle of poverty would be incomplete if I didn’t mention that Charlotte County, Florida has the second highest median age of any county in the nation, due to a large senior population. Unfortunately, senior isolation has become a growing concern that will take a community effort to remedy. UWCC has made it a priority to reduce barriers that isolate seniors from their peers and community.

And finally, it was determined, more broadly, that communication and navigation were critical pieces across the entire spectrum of community needs. UWCC will be prioritizing time, talent and treasure for communication, navigation and volunteer efforts.

Through our magnifying glass, we deduced, much like Sherlock Holmes, some striking issues that we want to address in Charlotte County. With your help, we can mobilize the power of our community to address these issues and break the cycle of poverty.

Next week, I will be sharing details on the programs UWCC will be funding based on this new, focused, community strategy. More information on these priorities can be found at unitedwayccfl.org/focus.

For more information about United Way of Charlotte County’s mission:  Mobilizing the power of our community to break the cycle of poverty, please contact Angie Matthiessen, Executive Director. She can be reached at director@unitedwayccfl.org.