Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Keeping families together: Stepping Stones project

Your gift helped furnish this room
 for a family like Melanie and Bill's
Melanie and Bill are a young married couple with three beautiful children. But addiction, at one point, tore their family apart. Their family was separated when Melanie and Bill’s heroin addiction made the caretaking of their children too difficult. The parents lost custody and were estranged from their children. The judge presiding over their case sentenced them to an outpatient treatment program. Their road to recovery included a very structured and demanding program, but both showed much success. 

As Melanie’s recovery progressed, she was referred to a United Way funded project, Stepping Stones, and was given the opportunity to reunite with her children as she continued her treatment program. She and her children were provided safe and affordable housing through the Stepping Stones project. For nine months she learned parenting and employment skills as she continued her journey to recovery. While living there, one of her children became very ill. Melanie persevered and stayed focused, obtained a job and paid rent at the home despite the added stress. Last summer, she and Bill graduated from their outpatient programs and have since transitioned their entire family into affordable permanent housing.

CODA’s Stepping Stones project provides women and their children with safe and affordable housing as they complete their outpatient treatment programs. Women learn the skills they need to successfully manage their addictions, seek employment, and parent their children through this project. An on-site monitor assists with coordination and support to these women and their families as they rebuild their lives so they can move on through recovery to permanent housing.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Dreamer and Doer: Frances Wisebart Jacobs, “Mother of Charities”

March is National Women’s History Month. And at United Way, we have an especially strong connection to the powerful work of women in history. We wouldn't be here today without Frances Wisebart Jacobs, a woman who helped found the organization that became United Way.

Born in 1843 in Kentucky, Jacobs immigrated with her husband to Denver to open a clothing store. She quickly saw the needs in her new home and moved to take action. One of her big, early initiatives was helping tuberculosis (TB) patients get the care they needed.  Hundreds of TB patients moved to Colorado each year for its clean, unpolluted air. But the state didn't have the services to care for them and many ended up homeless, with no choice but to “roam the city coughing and hemorrhaging.”

Jacobs started a volunteer organization that helped them and later advocated for a free TB hospital in Denver. Her passion for change inspired others. The hospital’s research contributed to ending TB as an epidemic.

TB was only one of the issues that Jacobs worked on. She also founded a free kindergarten and a relief society that focused on women in need. In a time when people in poverty were often blamed for their condition or even considered to be a lesser order of human being, Jacobs saw them with empathy and compassion. She understood the connections between the various challenges in her community, saying “God never made a pauper in the world, children come into the world and conditions and surroundings make them either princes or paupers.”

In 1887, Jacobs joined with interfaith Denver leaders to start the Charity Organization Society, which brought together twenty-three charities to coordinate their work. Eventually the organization went nationwide and became United Way and our local branch was founded in 1920.

France Wisebart Jacobs was just one person but her work had a ripple effect that we can still feel today. Many women in our community are creating change and making history. In honor of Women’s History Month, thank you from all of us at United Way.

Sources: Wikipedia,, National Women’s Hall of Fame. Image courtesy Wikipedia.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Donor Spotlight: Carole Bentley

After Carole Bentley survived cancer, she knew she wanted to give back to people who were going through what she had experienced. That passion for helping others drove her to volunteer with the American Cancer Society, where she has worked on events including their gala fundraiser. Fortunately for us, Bentley is also a firm advocate for United Way of the Columbia-Willamette and its mission for our community. She has been donating to United Way for her entire career, more than 35 years. She filled out a pledge form at her very first job at First National Bank, and still gives today as the senior vice president/Commercial Lending Center manager at Banner Bank in Lake Oswego.

Along with her co-workers, Bentley is involved in the United Way workplace giving campaign at Banner Bank. In 2012, Bentley’s branch had the best-ever results for any local Banner Bank — their campaign total more than tripled. That means more money going back to the community to create change. Her advice for anyone involved in running a United Way campaign is to focus on the human aspect and engage with employees. It’s important for potential donors to understand that “someone you know might have been helped by United Way.”

Having lived in the Portland area for many years, Bentley says that what she loves most about this community is that while it has all the resources of a major metropolitan area, it has a small-town feel where everyone knows and supports each other.

Bentley’s worked to make sure that her own values continue in the next generation. She has two sons and taught them from an early age that “when we’re lucky enough to not be hurting, we must help others who are. And, if you can’t give money you can give time.”

Bentley says that she gives to United Way because she loves the fact that 100 percent of her gift goes to help the community. “I like to know where the money goes and I’ve always felt confident that when I give to United Way the money will be used wisely.”

Thank you, Carole Bentley, for your 35 years of giving and creating change in our community. We can do what we do only because of donors like you.