2019 Recognition Event Highlights

Thanks to all of you who came out to be part of our 2019 Recognition Event at Little America last week. 

It was wonderful seeing you there, and we were grateful for the opportunity to honor those who are so committed to United Way of Northern Arizona’s mission of uniting for an educated and thriving community.

We thanked retiring UWNA board members Gary Davis of Tucson Electric Power and Mia Somenek, a representative of the Northern Arizona University’s Student United Way, and welcomed Grace Davis, also of the NAU Student United Way. 
Our Community Builder/Collaborators of the Year Awards were presented to:

  • Cindy Grider for the NAU Craft Fair
  • Tony Abrams, the W.L. Gore & Associates Campaign Coordinator
  • Sybil Smith for her work with the Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) program
  • W.L. Gore & Associates for the Adopt a Family initiative
  • Arizona Community Foundation of Flagstaff and the Williams Rotaryfor support of KinderCamp™
  • The Wharton Foundation for support of LAUNCH Flagstaff.

We honored the following companies with the Campaign Growth Awards: Banner Health – Page, the City of Flagstaff, Flagstaff Unified School District, Unisource, North Country HealthCare, Northland Hospice & Palliative Care, Wells Fargo Bank (Northeast), and Zachry Constructions. 

Many thanks to the corporate workplaces whose generous workplace campaigns are the backbone of UWNA’s fundraising efforts every year: Arizona Daily Sun, APS, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Arizona, BNSF Railroad Association, Joy Cone, Kinney Construction Services, Little America Hotel, Loven Contracting, National Bank of Arizona, Nestle Purina, Northern Arizona University, Tuscon Electric Power, United Parcel Service and W.L. Gore & Associates.

This was a joyous celebration, but also a little bittersweet as we said goodbye to our good friend Steve Peru, who led the United Way of Northern Arizona for the past four years. We look forward to seeing him as a UWNA volunteer and congratulate him on his new position as Chief Development and Government Relations Officer for Coconino Community College.

Board Chair Sylvia Johnson thanked Steve for his service during the event  and said he left behind a strong staff perfectly positioned to move forward with UWNA’s critical work. 

“We are particularly pleased that Carol Dykes, who has devoted more than 20 years to the United Way, has agreed to serve as our Interim CEO,” she said. “We look forward to great things ahead.”

View all of the photos from Tom Alexander by clicking here.

Kick Off the Holiday Season with the United Way

This weekend, get a head start on your holiday shopping with a visit to the Annual Mountain Campus Holiday Arts & Crafts Fair. Find some truly unique gifts for friends and loved ones while you support local artists and enjoy beautiful holiday music. There’s even a visit from Santa on Saturday!

The fair is from 9 am to 5 pm on November 17, and 10 am to 3 pm on November 18 in the DuBois Ballroom on the Northern Arizona University campus. The $2 fee for adults and $1 fee for students goes towards the United Way of Northern Arizona’s annual campaign.

Kids 12 and under can get in for free.

How the Community Impact Fund is Changing Lives

At the heart of the United Way of Northern Arizona’s annual campaign is the Community Impact Fund, a volunteer-driven process that invests your donations into the proven programs, partnerships and initiatives that are changing lives in Coconino, Navajo and Apache counties every day.

Volunteers with the committee make a year-long commitment to investigate, evaluate and report on programs from more than 50 area organizations, according to Stacey Brechler-Knaggs, who co-chairs the committee.

The group breaks into teams and reviews applications for funding from organizations. Partner agencies that apply demonstrate the need in the community for the program and how they would address it. Volunteers look at the organization’s program plan, capacity and financial information.

The initial review of written applications is followed by a site visit.

“It’s a good process because at the site visits, organization’s can go a little deeper or clarify their application,” Brechler-Knaggs said. “It’s hands-on and we can actually see a class or a service or an outcome.”

Throughout the process, the committee ensures that the program aligns with the three interconnected overarching goals of UWNA: educational success, financial self-sufficiency and thriving communities.

But the recommendations are just the first step of the process. Proposed community investments are reviewed by the UWNA Finance Committee, with the final funding decisions made by the full Board of Directors.

The Community Impact committee is currently looking for volunteers. If you are interested, you can complete our volunteer form or call 928.773.9813.

UWNA Kicks Off 2018 Campaign

Unveiling a renewed focus on “uniting for an educated and thriving community” and shining a spotlight on its early children literacy efforts, United Way of Northern Arizona (UWNA) kicked off its annual campaign recently, with a goal of raising $1.8 million to benefit dozens of organizations and programs assisting residents of Coconino, Apache and Navajo counties.

“Through the Community Impact Fund, your support is changing lives for thousands of people in an area larger than the country of Ireland,” UWNA President & CEO Steve Peru told supporters gathered at Little America Hotel for the campaign launch. “Just look at the numbers from the last year alone. As a result of the community’s generosity, a half million pounds of food were distributed to people in need, 11,000 hours of youth mentoring occurred, and almost 10,000 free books were given to children. That’s not to mention services for the elderly, financial counseling for families, income tax preparation services, and so much more.”

Peru said that this year UWNA will focus its efforts and funding on initiatives that align with at least one of three core principals – educational success, financial self-sufficiency, and thriving communities.

Educational success took center stage yesterday as the group featured one of its signature efforts – a partnership with the Dolly Parton Imagination Library to provide a free book every month to children from birth to age 5. The books, delivered straight to the child’s home, help families nurture a culture of literacy. Studies show that being read to or having a small child be able to flip through a book are key behaviors that foster future reading success, Peru noted. UWNA is currently holding a special $45,000 drive for the initiative this year.

It was also announced by the event’s keynote speaker, Arizona Literacy Director Terri Clark of Read On Arizona, that her group has selected Flagstaff to be one of six communities to participate in the Read On Arizona’s Acceleration Zone Project.

Funded in part through the Arizona Community Foundation and Arizona Department of Education Early Childhood Unit, the Acceleration Zone Project will focus on eliminating the literacy gap for economically disadvantaged students in Arizona. In Flagstaff, the project will be coordinated through LAUNCH Flagstaff, which is housed at UWNA.

“We know that age-appropriate literacy in language and mathematics in the early years is fundamental to life-long learning,” said Paul Kulpinski, Partnership Director of LAUNCH Flagstaff. “The partners of LAUNCH Flagstaff also realize that there is a lot of work to do to ensure equitable access to high-quality early learning opportunities for every child. This project will give us the opportunity to access support and resources that will bolster our current work, which is why we are so thrilled to be selected.”

Peru also noted that due to the size of the region and to create more of a local level of engagement, this year’s campaign does not have a chairperson but instead will honor throughout the year champions and companies who rally to raise money, volunteer and advocate on behalf of the United Way.

An excellent example of that, said Peru, is Kinney Construction Services. The company founded by Tim Kinney is taking the lead on funding for the Dolly Parton Imagination Library effort and has pledged more than $45,000 overall to UWNA for this year’s community impact campaign.

“If that’s not enough,” Peru said, “KCS has also increased the number of its employees who have joined our Summit Society to 13.” The Summit Society is composed of donors who give $500 or more to the United Way.

Another Record Year for VITA

It has been another record year for the United Way of Northern Arizona’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. This year, 113 IRS-certified volunteers filed 3,268 returns for residents of northern Arizona, an increase of 17 percent over last year.

The work done by VITA means that once again and ever increasing amount of money stays in the pocket of taxpayers. Total refunds were almost $4.5 million and total Earned Income Tax Credits were almost $2 million.

To get an idea of how much the program has grown, the refunds this year are more than twice what was generated back in 2010 when the total refunds were about $2 million and the EITC was just over $700,000.

One of the big reasons VITA is able to keep expanding is the growth of Scan2Go, where taxpayers can bring their paperwork to a VITA location to be scanned. VITA volunteers then complete the tax returns and arrange for them to be picked up or mailed to the taxpayer.

In fact, the UWNA was recognized by the IRS for its notable work in implementing the Scan2Go technology throughout the region. Three out of every four VITA tax returns in Flagstaff were Scan2Go. Meanwhile, tax returns done out of almost all of the Northland Pioneer College (NPC) campuses and centers were were “virtual” VITA.

Additionally, VITA volunteers were able to assist 71 clients in making “offers in compromise” on back taxes, helping successfully reduce their IRS debt by 98%.

Many thanks to our partners and sponsors during the tax crunch time including: the City of Flagstaff, Coconino County, Navajo County, Flagstaff Unified School District, Page Public Library, Goodwill of Central and Northern Arizona, The Hopi Foundation, Wells Fargo, El Tapitio, Whole Foods, BBVA Compass, National Bank of Arizona, Bank of the West, Cuddle Outreach, St. Jude Food Bank and the Moenkopi Senior Center.

Congratulations to entire VITA team, Megan Good and UWNA Income Director Eileen Sherlock, who once again made this year’s VITA efforts a stunning success!

KinderCamp 2018

One of the most rewarding parts of each summer’s KinderCamp™ is that day when dozens of children in our region graduate from the month-long Pre-K program, a signature initiative of the United Way of Northern Arizona and its partners.

The event is known as the “bridging over” ceremony. It features students walking over arched steps, symbolically announcing that they are ready – academically, socially and emotionally – for kindergarten.

Begun 14 years ago as a way to boost early childhood education, the impact of the program is most pronounced for students who previously had not had a chance to be in a Pre-K classroom.

“Our daughter had limited engagement with other children her age prior to attending KinderCamp,” said one parent whose little girl attended this year. “I feel this will be hugely beneficial for her as she transitions to kindergarten.”

The seven northern Arizona schools that participated in KinderCamp this year all held their bridging ceremonies recently. Although each school had a different theme (Sailing into Kindergarten, Grow with Us, Kindergarten Superheroes) all celebrations of a very successful month of learning, sharing and helping get 280 children better prepared for that all-important first day of kindergarten.

“My son’s confidence grew as well as his alphabet and number knowledge,” said another parent. “Thank you!”

Another special part of the program is that in addition to teaching in the classroom, each KinderCamp instructor visits the child’s parents or caretakers in the home and brings a bag of school supplies, including a literacy kit. It’s an extra step to ensure guardians’ engagement in their child’s education.

The United Way of Northern Arizona would like to congratulate the KinderCamp students, parents, teachers and administrators at Killip, Kinsey, and  Thomas elementary schools in Flagstaff; Williams Elementary School in Williams; Lake View Primary School in Page; Blue Ridge Elementary School in Lakeside, and Bonnie Brennan Elementary School in Winslow for another terrific KinderCamp program this year.

You’re Invited: See KinderCamp in Action

It has been 14 years since United Way of Northern Arizona and its community and school partners launched the KinderCamp™ program. In that time, this four-week summer boot-camp has helped thousands of Pre-K children prepare for their first day of kindergarten – academically, socially and emotionally.

Now you have a chance to see this highly effective and impactful program up close and personal by taking a tour at one of our longtime KinderCamp schools. 

Children who graduate are less likely to suffer separation anxiety from their parents in the first days of school, are comfortable with the demands of a school day schedule and demonstrate a new-found confidence in the classroom.

Children gain the school readiness skills they need to succeed in kindergarten and beyond.

Over 14 summers, the KinderCamp initiative has expanded to include classes in Williams, Winslow, Page, and Lakeside.

Tours of KinderCamp classes are being conducted at Thomas and Killip elementary schools in Flagstaff on these dates:

  • Monday, June 18 – 9:30 am
  • Wednesday, June 20 – 9:30 am and Noon
  • Thursday, June 21 – 9 am and Noon
  • Friday, June 22 – 9 am and Noon
  • Tuesday, June 26 – 9 am and Noon

To register to take a tour of a KinderCamp classroom, contact Carol Dykes at United Way of Northern Arizona by calling 928.773.9813 or emailing cdykes@nazunitedway.org.

UWNA Accepting Applications for 2018 Craft Fair

Attention artisans and crafters: The United Way of Northern Arizona is currently accepting applications for the 18th Annual Mountain Campus Holiday Arts & Crafts Fair, being held this November 17 and 18 at the du Bois Center on the campus of Northern Arizona University.

Join us for one of the most popular holiday fairs in the greater Flagstaff area and help support the United Way, which benefits from registration and entry fees. Space is limited and we expect that booths for this event will fill up quickly. This is a juried show, meaning no commercial vendors whose products are not made locally are eligible.

Hours for the fair will be 9 am to 5 pm on Saturday, November 17, and 10 am to 3 pm Sunday, November 18. Set up will be that Friday ONLY from noon to 6 pm. NAU students volunteers will be on hand to help. There will be locked security at the event during closed hours.

Booth sizes and prices are:

  • 10 x 10 for $110 for both days
  • 10 x 15 for $165 for both days.
  • You can also share a booth with another registrant, but each individual participant must submit an application, provide photographs of the items to be sold, sign a release form and be approved by the committee running the fair.

Download your fillable form here to apply.

If you have not been a vendor in past years, or if you have participated in the past but changed or added to your product line, we will NOT accept applications without pictures.

Because of space restrictions, we urge you to send in your applications as soon as possible. You do not need to send money at this time. Notification of acceptance to join the show will be late July.

If you have any questions please contact Elaine Hebestreit at 928-773-9813 or ehebestreit@nazunitedway.org.

Annual Meeting Highlights

The United Way of Northern Arizona recently celebrated a successful past year with its Annual Meeting and Recognition Event.

It was announced that the current campaign has netted more than $1.3 million so far.

(If you haven’t had a chance to donate, there’s still time. Please click here to contribute.)

“Your support empowers people to succeed in school, get on solid financial ground and lead healthier lives,” said Sedric Cade, outgoing chairman on the board.

UWNA also honored two organizations as Community Builders – the Student United Way at Northern Arizona University and the Front Door Project, which is working to prevent homelessness in the region.

The Community Building Awards are presented to individuals or organizations that support collaborative solutions that sustain the assets and strengths of the community; build local leadership; embrace diversity; mobilize individuals and produce measurable results.

The UWNA also elected the following new members to its board:

  • Kevin Dickerson (Page Unified School District)
  • Reed Hancock (Tucson Electric Power)
  • Erika Harting (Wells Fargo Bank)
  • Mike Penca (Flagstaff Unified School District)
  • Chris Reed (Christ Church of Flagstaff)
  • Gabriella Smith (Kinney Construction Services)
  • Jeff Springborn (Nestle Purina)
  • Mia Somenek (NAU Student United Way)

UWNA also elected new officers. Sylvia Johnson is now the chairman of the board; Janet Dean is Vice Chairman and Barbara Goodrich is Secretary/Treasurer.

NAU Launches Student United Way

Northern Arizona University is helping create the next generation of philanthropic pioneers by establishing a Student Chapter of the United Way at NAU.
The student founders of the organization are part of the university’s new Non-Profit Certificate program, where they are learning what it takes to manage a non-profit.
The leaders of the group have been volunteers for other organizations in the past – from Guatemalan orphanages to wildlife conservation groups – and are enthusiastic about establishing a student chapter to work hand-in-hand with United Way of Northern Arizona.
“I knew a lot about the organization and felt that starting this chapter would be an amazing way to give back to the Flagstaff community,” said Mia Somenek, a business major who is president of the new group. “There are so many students willing to volunteer their time and I believe this chapter will give them the ability to do so.”
The group chose to host a student chapter of the United Way because of its broad mission to support efforts to improve education, financial stability, and health in the community, said Kayla Winters, a finance major and the philanthropy chair for the group.
“It doesn’t just support one cause or organization,” she said. “It has many partners that I’ll have the opportunity to work with.”
Among the projects, the Student United Way is working on are movie nights at a local elementary school, projects with Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Flagstaff and fundraising for one of United Way of Northern Arizona’s signature programs, the Dolly Parton Imagination Library. DPIL provides a free book every month to children from birth to age 5 to cultivate a love of reading.
The student founders said they would not have been able to launch the group without the guidance and support of the UWNA.