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It has been nearly two months since I began my new position here at United Way of Citrus County. I have met with so many wonderful community leaders and agency leaders over this past month. It is really encouraging to see how many people are working to improve the lives of others.
Our local United Way raises more than $700,000 annually and funds 19 agencies in our community. Our local Board of Directors is comprised of 25 community leaders who are dedicated to the success of Citrus County.
United Way, both locally and worldwide, is focused on and committed to making a true community impact. United Way Worldwide released a study that shows the key building blocks to successful lives are education, income and health.
These three key areas work together to improve the lives of individuals and that has a ripple effect that can be seen in that individual’s family and out into the community. Our United Way is dedicated to these building blocks of life and has set goals to see true change in Citrus County over the course of the next 10 years.
It is not enough to just give out the proverbial “Band-Aids.” We need to get to the root causes of social needs to truly improve lives and, in turn, improve our community. As a community, we cannot just fund our problems away; rather we need a long-term strategic plan to address the issues we face. Your local United Way is dedicated to being the organization that will work with the many nonprofit agencies in our county, to plan and address these issues.
Recent census data shows there are more than 17,000 adults in Citrus County who do not have a GED or high school diploma. Furthermore, data supports that without this level of education, the average attainable income is $13,000.
With a GED/high school education, a person’s income can nearly double.
This is why our Education Impact Council is so focused on building awareness of the great programs available at Withlacoochee Technical Institute (WTI) for those in our community to attain this necessary degree. The cost of the entire program is about $150 and it takes three to six months to complete.
WTI touts an 86 percent pass rate, free child care is available and classes are offered at three locations throughout Citrus County and online! Impressive, isn’t it?
Our Income Impact Council is inspiring the 19 agencies we support in Citrus County to consider being a part of a 10-class Financial Stability series. United Way agencies across the nation are successfully working with individuals to improve credit scores, build relationships with local bankers, encourage saving money, and teach the basics of balancing a checkbook.
Additionally, class participants will learn résumé-building and interview techniques. These skills are essential to financial independence and as we have seen through the efforts of other United Ways, really work to improve lives.
The importance of healthy living and healthy choices has been repeated over and over again. This is, in large part, because it is so vital to life!
Our Health Impact Council hopes to begin an incentive program that provides goals for children to attain through regular exercise and provide bicycles for not only the children, but also for their parents as their reward.
We also want to begin a community garden that would provide fresh produce for neighborhood volunteers. All fun stuff!
In my life, I have always been fortunate to have been surrounded by friends and family who encouraged me to dream big and go after goals with focus and drive.
Encouragement from others is sometimes all it takes to motivate a person to take that next step in their personal lives. We need to be the encourager, the supporter, the community for those in need in Citrus County — motivating them to dream bigger and go after their goals.
Life does sometimes give you lemons, and sometimes you need a friend or neighbor to help you turn it into lemonade!
Amy Meek is president/CEO of the United Way of Citrus County.