United Way of Monmouth and Ocean Counties (UWMOC) held its final board of directors meeting for the 2017-18 fiscal year on June 19, 2018. The board elected a new slate of officers: Chairman Robert Rosone (Little Silver) of Deloitte, Vice Chairman Jason Altman (Hillsborough) of Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Secretary Sonia Grant (Manchester) of TD Bank, and Treasurer Virginia Piccolo (Farmingdale) of Withum. “I am honored to be elected board chairman and proud of the important work that United Way is doing to meet the needs of those in Monmouth and Ocean counties,” said Rosone. “I look forward to building upon the leadership of the merged organizations set by Jeremy Grunin and working with the United Way board, staff and volunteers to make an ever greater impact in our communities.”
This was the last meeting led by Jeremy Grunin of the Jay and Linda Grunin Foundation, the merged organization’s first board chair and sponsor of The Grunin Foundation Challenge to match $1 million in new donations to the organization by 2021. After many years of service to the community on the United Way board, it was also the final meeting for Robert Bonney of Davison, Eastman, Muñoz, Lederman & Paone, P.A. and George Destafney of OceanFirst Bank, whose membership terms came to an end.
After undergoing a strategic planning process in 2017, UWMOC embarked on a new community impact plan. As part of this plan, the organization’s work was regionalized in the targeted areas of Financial Stability, Early Grade Reading, Youth Career Pathways and School Readiness. After a rigorous application and review process, UWMOC’s Board of Directors approved new grants totaling $657,000 in these areas, and a variety of charitable organizations were invited to join UWMOC in this important work.
Bundling services to support financial success
In addition to UWMOC’s current Financial Success Center (FSC) in the Freehold Raceway Mall, Financial Stability grants have been awarded to the Affordable Housing Alliance in partnership with Fulfill and the Mental Health Association of Monmouth County to serve Eatontown, Neptune, Red Bank and Toms River, and to the St. Francis Community Center (LBICC) to serve Bayville, Long Beach Island, Manahawkin and Toms River. According to the ALICE Report, a New Jersey study of financial hardship, over 33% of households in Monmouth and Ocean Counties are struggling to afford basic necessities. To address this issue, these FSCs will offer bundled services in one easily accessible location. Trained financial coaches will provide multiple financial stability services including affordable housing, budgeting, financial education workshops, employment assistance, SNAP applications, health insurance enrollment, free tax preparation and utility assistance.
Combating the summer slide and reducing school absenteeism
UWMOC’s work in early grade reading helps ensure that students are reading and succeeding by the end of third grade. Low-income children often experience the summer slide, where they lose the equivalent of two to three months in reading achievement over the summer while their higher-income peers tend to make slight gains. To prevent this summer learning loss, UWMOC is expanding access for at-risk students to high-quality, holistic learning and enrichment opportunities with the following partners in Monmouth and Ocean counties: AMP Zone, Boys & Girls Clubs of Monmouth County, Collier Youth Services, Girl Scouts of the Jersey Shore, Horizons at Rumson Country Day School, Ocean County YMCA, Red Bank Primary School and YMCA of Western Monmouth County.
A grant was also awarded to the Visiting Nurse Association of Central Jersey (VNACJ) to sustain its school-based nurse practitioner program. This program allows a nurse practitioner to work in partnership with school nurses to prescribe and administer medications for acute illnesses, resulting in a reduction in students’ lost school time, parents’ lost time at work, healthier kids and linkages to community resources. Currently, the program will take place in the Freehold Borough and Keyport school districts with the plan to expand into Ocean County later this year.
Preparing youth to begin their school career
In the School Readiness focus area, grants were awarded to Child Care Resources of Monmouth County, the Count Basie Theatre, St. Francis Community Center (LBICC) and VNACJ. UWMOC’s school readiness initiatives help ensure that students are academically, developmentally and social-economically prepared for Kindergarten. Research shows that learning begins long before a child enters Kindergarten. As early as 18 months of age, low-income children can begin to fall behind in vocabulary development and other skills critical for school success. These programs will engage and empower parents as they play the most powerful and influential role in their children’s lives. As their children’s first teacher, brain builder, tech navigator, advocate and coach, parents set the stage for success in the early years.