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Dave Olson, Published March 28 2013

United Way unveils new way of focusing aid

FARGO – The United Way of Cass-Clay announced during its annual meeting here Thursday that it has begun making target investments in three critical areas: education, income stabilization and health.

While the United Way will continue to provide funding to area agencies and programs, it will now do so with a focus on collaborative efforts, said Sherri Thomsen, United Way of Cass-Clay president.

“This is an evolutionary change,” Thomsen said.

The United Way recently launched the UNITED for Education Collaborative and the UNITED for Jefferson Neighborhood Collaborative, the latter aimed at helping students who attend Jefferson Elementary in Fargo.

Thomsen said Jefferson Elementary is less than five miles from Centennial Elementary, but academic achievement numbers indicate a wide gap in learning and learning readiness, with Jefferson students lagging far behind their peers at Centennial.

The consistent factor isn’t race or gender, Thomsen said, but poverty. The median family income of Centennial students is about $110,000, while the median family income for Jefferson students is less than $30,000.

She added that 5,500 students in metro-area schools are living in poverty.

Whether it’s helping fund a counselor position at Jefferson Elementary or supporting a backpack program that feeds children during the school year and summer, the United Way’s aim will be to slow the cycle of poverty, Thomsen said.

Thursday’s annual meeting was the largest in the organization’s history, with more than 600 corporate partners, investors, donors, volunteers and community partners in attendance.

The United Way of Cass-Clay raised $5.1 million in 2012, nearly double the

$2.7 million it raised in 2000.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555