Speaking to a sold-out crowd of approximately 900 in the John S. Knight Center, United Way of Summit & Medina board chair Michele Cerminaro today announced the organization’s updated Bold Goals.
- United Way’s Bold Goal 1 remains unchanged: to raise the percentage of Akron Public Schools (APS) third-graders reading at or above grade level to 65 percent.
- To its Bold Goal 2, United Way added an additional target metric. In addition to raising the APS four-year high school graduation rate to 90 percent and the APS college and career readiness rate to 60 percent, United Way will work to ensure that 60 percent of Akron youth are employed or active in extracurricular activities.
- As well as financially empowering 11,000 Summit County residents as its Bold Goal 3, United Way will financially empower 2,500 people in Medina County.
- Following its successful work with Summa Health to pilot and launch the First Step program, which makes medication-assisted addiction treatment available in the emergency room, United Way is shifting its focus to correcting racial inequities in health. In 2019, Summit County’s Black infant mortality rate was 15.4 out of every 1,000 live births, compared to a county average of 6 per 1,000. For its Bold Goal 4, United Way is now working to close that gap by bringing down the Black infant mortality rate to 6 out of every 1,000 births.
United Way first announced its Bold Goals in 2017, marking a shift for the organization: away from pass-through fundraising and towards an impact-driven model. Today’s updates to the Bold Goals came about following extensive research and deliberation by United Way’s Community Impact Task Force, which tasked itself with re-evaluating the most pressing community needs following the global pandemic. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization had shifted its focus to crisis response to helping residents of Summit and Medina counties weather the accompanying economic instability. Now, with its focus back to generating lasting community improvements, the organization is targeting 2028 to deliver on its Bold Goals.
“We learned a lot during the pandemic,” said Cerminaro. “United Way developed new and effective ways to directly serve our community – making 211 and our Family Resource Centers central hubs for those seeking assistance and distributing $25 million in rent, mortgage and utility assistance through Summit County Cares. Now, we’re going to take what proved most effective in that moment of crisis and expand it across our community to create lasting change.”
United Way of Summit & Medina president and CEO, Jim Mullen, spoke of how United Way would accomplish this. People in need of assistance today rely on a support system that is fragmentary and difficult to navigate, which all too often makes poverty easier to endure, but not easier to escape. Going forward, United Way will concentrate its efforts on creating an ecosystem of programs with the client at the center that will help residents who are struggling find lasting stability.
“Just ask those who are seeking help in our community, and they’ll tell you the system isn’t working. So we need to build a better system,” said Mullen, “We need to target the persistent inequities in our community – like unequal access to health care – and work to correct them. United Way care coordinators are always just a phone call away through 211 and are embedded throughout our communities through our Family Resource Centers. They guide clients through available services, making sure their basic needs and mental health are taken care of as they work toward long-term stability. That is how we will accomplish our Bold Goals.”
During the ceremony, United Way spotlighted companies and organizations that went above and beyond to fund its impact work through the annual United Way campaign. This year, GAR Foundation earned the 2021 “Spirit of Caring Award.” United Way’s highest corporate honor, the Spirit of Caring Award is presented annually to the company that best embodies United Way’s call to action – VOLUNTEER. ADVOCATE. GIVE.
“With the support of our partners, United Way is committed to building a better future for everyone living in Summit and Medina counties,” said Mullen. “And we’ll do that by working in our community, with our community and for our community.”