Building a Thriving Community: United Way of Central Iowa Focuses on Equity
During the Greater Des Moines Partnership’s Future Ready DSM podcast, guests share insights about the employment landscape for people entering the workforce, as well as those looking to advance or change their career paths with The Partnership’s Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer Dr. Marvin DeJear.
Mary Sellers, President of United Way of Central Iowa, joined the podcast to discuss the United to Thrive campaign, which launched in 2020, which focuses not only on education, income and health, but growing, prospering and thriving. Placing equity at the center of the campaign, United Way of Central Iowa strives to graduate students from high school, then goes one step further by looking at how to set them up with a plan to create a successful future and build wealth for their family and future generations. United to Thrive focuses on essential needs, early childhood success, education success, economic opportunity and health and well-being.
Foundation of United to Thrive
When United Way of Central Iowa asked Central Iowans about the most pressing needs of the community, the common theme was equity, and so United to Thrive worked to address disparities by reaching unique populations and creating new relationships. For example, when it comes to health and wellbeing, specifically the percentage of Central Iowans who have a medical home, or a regular healthcare provider, Asian and Hispanic Iowans are least likely to have providers. By partnering with Ethnic Minorities of Burma Advocacy and Resource Center (EMBARC), United Way of Central Iowa works to provide health, education and access to the refugee and immigrant families in the state.
Essential Needs + Future Talent
United Way of Central Iowa recently received a $1.8 million grant from the federal government to work on guidance and assistance to diverse populations who want to go into healthcare. Those attending classes at Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) or Mercy College of Health Sciences, may be confronted with challenges such as transportation or rent, and United Way of Central Iowa can find ways to help with essential needs so that they can stay in school, get a good paying job and become an integrated and essential part of the Greater Des Moines (DSM) community. Early childhood success is dependent on children being healthy and ready to learn. Low-income children are half as likely to be ready to enter kindergarten as their higher income peers. To combat this, United Way of Central Iowa has partnered with Des Moines Public Schools and local childcare centers to make preschool accessible and available to diverse families that wouldn’t otherwise have access to it.
One out of every four eleventh graders in our state contemplated suicide last year. Social isolation and other factors are taking a toll, and it’s a priority of United Way of Central Iowa to meet the needs of individuals who are struggling. Sellers said that working with organizations like AMOS and Children and Families of Iowa allows them to support and serve those in the community working through mental health issues.
More than 300 volunteer leaders are doing the work of United Way of Central Iowa, and there are three main ways interested individuals can get involved, including through:
Learn more about volunteer opportunities with United Way of Central Iowa, including the upcoming Day of Action on Tuesday, Sept. 13.
Listen to the entire podcast above.
The Future Ready DSM podcast brings Greater Des Moines (DSM) employment leaders and experts in to discuss the latest trends in talent attraction and retention in the region. Hosted by Greater Des Moines Partnership Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer Dr. Marvin DeJear.