Do you wish you could change the world? Are you a passionate community supporter looking for ways to turn your fire into tangible good? Have you become frustrated with how to support the community you love because you feel alone in the fight for social justice?
United Way of Summit & Medina is right here with you! We envision a world where all individuals are empowered to achieve their full potential and live healthy, stable lives. Our direct services and innovative ecosystem of ongoing assistance target real-world problems, and we’ve seen our programs and services help people turn their lives around.
But we can’t do this alone. We need your passion, unique insight and individual talents to help transform our community and advance the common good.
Become a community advocate and be the hero your community needs!
Not sure you’re ready to don that cape? Read on to learn what it means to be an advocate and community supporter, how the main United Way goals align with your personal values and who is qualified to become a public policy advocate. Plus, we’ll give you some easy tips for getting involved and real-world community support examples for becoming the change you want to see in the world.
The Importance of Community Advocates
Every day, your neighbors in Medina and Summit counties struggle to find the help they need. When you become a United Way advocate, you’re standing shoulder to shoulder with us in, with and for our community in a new kind of system — one that puts people first and breaks down barriers that prevent people from getting help.
From the Civil Rights movement to more recent protests against both global and local violence, it’s always been up to people like you to advocate for policy change that protects the vulnerable and creates a more level playing field for everyone. Your unique perspective and experiences are critical to achieving the wider United Way goals of universal access to resources and support. We need diverse voices to unite under the banner by advocating as a united group and become the unstoppable force of generational improvement.
United Way’s Current Public Policy Goals
United Way has Bold Goals for our community. We believe audacity is the only attitude that cuts through the noise of doubt and fear standing in the way of our — and your — United Way goals, so we set the bar as high as possible. Our current policy priorities include:
Physical and mental health are the cornerstones of a strong family. When families struggle to find or afford nutritious food, medical care or weather-appropriate clothing, they cannot fully participate in their community. United Way advocates for continued access to national initiatives like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) while also creating local community support examples, like our FAMILY RESOURCE CENTERS at area schools. Parents and caregivers can connect to health and wellness programs, financial coaching, basic needs support and more. As a United Way advocate, you could help keep these resources flowing to the families who might slip through the cracks without them.
Generational poverty is often driven by the deep belief that we are powerless to change our circumstances. The struggle to make ends meet through a seemingly endless daily grind can obscure any hope for a better future. United Way’s Financial Empowerment Centers aim to break this damaging cycle through judgment-free counseling on strategies for creating a budget, paying down debt, improving credit scores and more. Once the fear around money is dispelled, families are empowered to take control of their finances, navigate financial challenges and achieve their financial goals — including the dreams of homeownership, college education and beyond. Your role as a community supporter could take the form of a financial counselor guiding people toward a richer future or a volunteer tax preparer offering your skills to families who otherwise couldn’t afford the service.
Support for Children
From sparking the joy of literacy through our Imagination Library to pairing young people with adult mentors in the Youth United program to strengthening the link between education and employment in our College and Career Academies of Akron, United Way of Summit & Medina invests in local kids at every level. On the national stage, United Way advocates for policies that combat infant mortality and improve maternal vitality, as well as efforts to expand equal access to early learning programs like Ohio’s Step Up to Quality. Whether you step into the role of Adult Success Coach, offer internships at your company for high school students or help educate legislators on the need to improve educational inequities, your contributions as a community advocate are crucial to the next generation of leaders in our community and country.
A main focus of advocating for United Way of Summit & Medina is to connect people with the resources they need to improve their circumstances. We do that every day at our brick-and-mortar locations and through remote services like 211. All residents of Summit and Medina counties can call this number 24/7 for free, confidential help finding supplemental food programs, mental health services, prenatal care and more. One of the most basic needs many people struggle to maintain is a roof over their heads. That’s where United Way’s housing services become a lifesaver. Whether they’re experiencing homelessness or facing eviction, families and individuals can turn to us for personalized assistance finding temporary shelter, permanent assistive housing, or help paying rent. You can support United Way in these efforts as an advocate and feel good about being a conduit for transformative change.
Who Can Be a Community Advocate?
We need all kinds of people to advocate for positive change as we go about building a new ecosystem in Summit and Medina counties. Our community’s future depends on a chorus of diverse voices blending together to seek justice, equality and inclusion for all. Who can join United Way and become a community advocate for policy change? You! Whether you’re young or old, rich or poor, college-educated or street-smart, white, black, brown or some other color of the rainbow of humanity, you have skills and insight to offer in support of the United Way goals. All you need to be a United Way advocate is a little free time and a desire to make life better for yourself and your neighbors.
How to Advocate for Policy Change and Community Improvement
You don’t have to quit your job or make a huge investment of time or money to become a public policy advocate. In fact, you probably already know how to advocate for policy change, but you just don’t use those words for it.
Here are six easy ways to be a supporter of the United Way’s goals for a stronger, healthier, more unified community:
Every vote you cast has an impact on public policy. Read about the issues and candidates before heading to the poles, then vote your conscience and values.
Talk and Listen to Your Neighbors
You may already know someone who’s struggling to make ends meet or falling through the cracks of complex bureaucratic systems. You may never have had the privilege of knowing someone who came through the fire of addiction or abuse to rise from the ashes into the power of autonomy. But the only way to know what your community really needs is to talk to your neighbors — and really listen to what they have to say. Reach out to someone from a different background, neighborhood or culture. Share your story and see how theirs overlaps.
Engage With Local Officials and Organizations
Government officials are public servants — which means their job is to be community advocates affecting change on our behalf. Your job as a community supporter is to pay attention and get involved in the process. Make it a point to attend public meetings held by your city council members, mayor or other elected officials. Listen to what they have to say, and find the courage to ask questions or voice your opinion. Every time you make public officials aware of the needs or concerns in your community, you’re getting closer to being an effective public policy advocate.
Know Your Rights
Part of feeling empowered to support your community is understanding what your legal rights are. If you don’t know your rights, you risk overstepping to the point of getting in trouble — or worse, doing nothing and feeling powerless against injustice. It’s your responsibility as a community advocate to stay within the boundaries of the law while affecting meaningful change.
Volunteer or Donate
You can be part of advocating without marching in a protest or lobbying your congressional representative. There are lots of ways to support United Way’s goals of a stronger, safer, healthier community. Volunteer at a community engagement event, as a Youth United success coach or in another capacity. Your time and talents help us create lasting, meaningful change for your neighbors. Don’t have room in your schedule to show up in person? Donate to invest in our efforts as a public policy advocate, and we’ll show you a real return on investment in measurable results in the lives of real people.
Become a United Way Advocate For Your Summit and Medina Community
You can change the world as a United Way advocate for Summit and Medina counties. Your passion for your community can transform into tangible good when you learn how to advocate for policy change on the local, state and national level. Join United Way by advocating to support your neighbors on the journey to a brighter future for all of us.