In 2017, the newly merged United Way of Monmouth and Ocean Counties (UWMOC) created a strategic plan to hone in on our mission, vision and community impact goals. In one year’s time, UWMOC has made significant advances in the expansion of community impact programs to our bi-county region in all four of our focus areas: school readiness, early grade reading, youth career pathways and financial stability. Arriving at this point of making a substantial impact on the lives of youth and their families in Monmouth and Ocean counties has been no small task, requiring months of consulting with members of our community to determine gaps in service and bringing together new partners to accomplish our goals.
United Way has long been regarded as a community convener and collaborator. In order to determine our impact focus areas, community conversations were held with a variety of corporations and nonprofits. UWMOC also hosted roundtable discussions with many community organizations on the topics of school readiness, early grade reading and financial stability to ascertain the issues in each area. Once the focus areas were established, volunteers on Community Impact subcommittees conducted a competitive grant process. Grant applications from nonprofits and schools were reviewed, and partners were carefully selected to provide the most comprehensive services. In order to ensure donor dollars are being utilized properly, programs are monitored and required to report outcomes.
The new impact work in our strategic plan targets not only the challenges of today, but prepares the youth of our community to be successful in the future. School readiness is a focus area that engages and empowers parents to prepare their children for Kindergarten, developed with four partners throughout Monmouth and Ocean counties. Early grade reading, a literacy initiative designed to help stop the summer slide when children are out of school, has been regionalized to include four new partners—totaling ten partners for this initiative. Financial stability has had considerable growth over the past year. We began with providing economic wellness services at one Financial Success Center location and have expanded to ten locations spanning our entire region.