- United Way St. Croix Valley Launches New Program to Fight Hunger in Polk County
- Local Senior Residents Receive Valentine's Fruit Baskets
- New Name, New Initiatives for United Way Food Center
- First Annual Family Friendly River Run/Walk Helps Hudson Police
- Bowls for Hope to Benefit United Way Food Initiative
- Searles Attends United Way New Presidents Forum
- Francis Named United Way Development and Communications Director
- DiaSorin Inc. Community Giving Campaign Supports United Way
- First National Bank of River Falls Receives United Way Circle of Excellence Award
United Way St. Croix Valley is launching a new program to fight hunger in Polk county, said Ann Searles, Executive Director. Through this new program, the organization will work directly with small farmers to obtain locally grown food to distribute to local food pantries.
“We are thrilled to announce this new program focused on fighting hunger right here in Polk county,” said Searles. “One of the first things I began hearing when I started my position at United Way St. Croix Valley was that there is a real issue of hunger in Polk county. We heard that message coming directly from the community, and we have been working with some great new partners to create a response to the need.”
United Way St. Croix Valley will partner with the Farm Table Foundation, located in Amery, to distribute fresh produce and other nutritious food out of the existing warehouse location for the Hungry Turtle Farmers Co-op. During the growing season, they will purchase fresh produce from local farms, and will also receive deliveries from The Food Group, a nonprofit food bank located in Minnesota, to help supplement the food year-round. Beginning in June, they plan to distribute milk, meat, and other healthy food to the seven food pantries and homeless shelter serving Polk county.
Another key part of the program will include cooking classes that will help people learn how to prepare and cook meals with fresh, local produce. Food pantry staff and volunteers told Searles that clients sometimes don’t know how to cook with the fresh produce that is offered at the pantry. Working with Farm Table Foundation, United Way St. Croix Valley will sponsor classes for food pantry volunteers and staff so they can learn recipes and preparation tips that will help them distribute more of these healthy foods. “When a pantry volunteer can offer a great recipe and can talk about how easy it is to prepare, the clients are going to be more likely to try the new item,” said Searles. And families who are using the food pantry will be encouraged to take the classes. “We would love to bring everyone together in the Farm Table space in Amery, where children and families can see how the food comes right from the farm, and learn how to cook it and make nutritious meals.”
A total of 105 seniors in Polk County, 120 seniors in St. Croix County and 65 seniors in Pierce County received fruit baskets this year for Valentine's Day, courtesy of United Way St. Croix Valley in memory of former Board member Susan Obermueller by her family and friends.
United Way St. Croix Valley has announced new initiatives and a new name for its Food Resource Center. A celebration was held Jan. 26 at the center, where the new name, The John Coughlin Food & Resource Center, was unveiled along with a new logo.
The center is named after the late John Coughlin, who served as Executive Director of United Way St. Croix Valley for more than 20 years and first opened the center in 2008. The JCFRC has distributed nearly 1.1 million pounds of food and personal care items to 13 food pantries, a homeless shelter and a domestic abuse shelter in Pierce and St. Croix Counties since opening, and there are plans for new initiatives.
Two of the new initiatives include a partnership with Healthier Together - Pierce and St. Croix Counties and a backpack program. So far, the backpack program has provided more than 400 backpacks filled with healthy food for children in Pierce and St. Croix Counties to take home on the weekends. United Way’s Food & Resource Center Coordinator Michelle Alters has joined the Healthier Together Overweight/Obesity Action Team, where she will work with representatives from health care, public health, education and other fields to reduce obesity in the two counties.
“I am excited to see all the great work being done in our community and the new direction that the JCFRC is going,” said Alters. “There is lots of exciting work to be done in 2017 to ensure that we are getting healthy food into the hands of those in need,” she continued.
The JCFRC also presented its first annual Les Berg Volunteer Award during the renaming event, which was awarded to Meredith Berg. The Bergs worked with Coughlin in the initial planning and fundraising stages of the center and helped launch the We Do Feet program that shares the building with the JCFRC.
United Way St. Croix Valley serves residents of Polk, Pierce and St. Croix counties. The annual campaign provides funding for more than 60 nonprofit agency programs and United Way initiatives including the John Coughlin Food & Resource Center and Family Friendly Workplace. The mission of United Way St. Croix Valley is to unite communities, focus resources and inspire people to measurably improve lives in Western Wisconsin. For more information, contact Ann Searles at 715-377-0203 ext. 102 or email@example.com.
Pictured: Recipient of the first annual Les Berg Volunteer Award Meredith Berg
United Way St. Croix Valley Executive Director Ann Searles and Hudson YMCA Executive Director Chris Kost presented Hudson Police Chief Marty Jensen and the Hudson Police Department with a $500 check from the proceeds of last fall’s Family Friendly River Run/Walk, to be used for purchasing an additional Automated External Defibrillator (AED) for the department’s squad cars.
This year’s 5K will be held Saturday, Oct. 14 and will once again be a family-friendly event. Family members of all ages as well as pets will be able to participate in the fundraiser for United Way St. Croix Valley and Hudson YMCA. For more information, or if you are interested in sponsoring this year’s event, contact Searles at 715-377-0203 ext. 102 or Kost at 715-386-1616.
The Bowls for Hope event to be held Tuesday, March 7 by the University of Wisconsin-River Falls has chosen The Hunger Prevention Council's Moolah for Milk program as beneficiary this year. United Way St. Croix Valley's John Coughlin Food & Resource Center is part of the program, and will use funds raised to purchase milk for St. Croix and Pierce County food pantries.
United Way St. Croix Valley Executive Director Ann Searles attended the United Way New Presidents Forum January 10-12 at United Way Worldwide in Alexandria, Va. The forum is an annual event organized for all new United Way executives and designed to welcome and engage new United Way CEOs and Executive Directors in United Way's priorities, as well as provide an overview on strategic direction.
Searles spent time meeting United Way Worldwide leaders, learning from prominent network leaders and sharing best practices. There was also a half day trip to Capitol Hill, where Searles was able to speak with representatives from Congressmen Ron Johnson and Sean Duffy's offices and discuss local issues affecting the St. Croix Valley.
"I learned that the United Way St. Croix Valley utilizes a business model that has been proven to have the greatest impact on communities throughout the world," said Searles. "It is a model that is committed to creating health, education and financial stability by supporting over 60 local community impact partners who are helping those in need, as well as providing programs like the John Coughlin Food & Resource Center and the Family Friendly Workplace--building a stronger community and a better place for all."
United Way St. Croix Valley is pleased to announce that Jessica Francis has joined the staff as Development and Communications Director. “With Jessica’s background in fundraising and knowledge of the St. Croix Valley, we feel she’ll be able to hit the ground running to help us build a stronger community,” said Ann Searles, Executive Director of United Way St. Croix Valley.
Francis grew up in New Richmond and currently lives in Somerset. She started her nonprofit career at Greater Twin Cities United Way, and served as the Associate Director of Hunger Solutions Minnesota, a statewide hunger relief organization, for more than a decade. She is also an active volunteer locally, having served as the Board President of the Somerset Community Food Pantry, as well as the Board Secretary for United Way St. Croix Valley.
Francis says her passion for helping those in need started when she was a student at New Richmond High School. While discussing the school’s upcoming food drive, a friend confided that her family had used the food shelf when they were getting back on their feet after a crisis. “That was my ‘aha’ moment - when I realized that in small communities, hunger is all around us, but is hidden because of its stigma.” Francis said she’s happy to have found a position that allows her to support families and individuals right here in her local community.
“I have been thrilled to see the great work that Ann Searles, our Executive Director, has been doing since she was hired in April,” said Francis. “I am so pleased to be able to join the staff and help United Way St. Croix Valley improve lives. There’s a lot of work to do, but we have many generous businesses and individuals who are willing to pitch in and make a difference.”
Francis will play a key role in United Way St. Croix Valley’s workplace giving campaign, and will also seek new avenues of funding to support the community’s growing needs. To contact Francis, call 715-377-0203 ext. 101 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
United Way St. Croix Valley serves residents of Polk, Pierce and St. Croix counties. The annual campaign provides funding for more than 60 nonprofit agency programs and United Way initiatives. The mission of United Way St. Croix Valley is to unite communities, focus resources and inspire people to measurably improve lives in Western Wisconsin.
DiaSorin Inc. in Stillwater recently completed its community giving campaign and donated half of the proceeds, $7,696.00, to United Way St. Croix Valley. The other half was donated to United Way of Washington County-East. Although based in Stillwater, DiaSorin Inc. CEO John Walter is dedicated to supporting United Way St. Croix Valley because many of his employees live in Western Wisconsin. DiaSorin Inc.'s community giving campaign is employee-driven and supported by administration. Pictured left to right: Donna Norell, Jodie Deshler, United Way St. Croix Valley Executive Director Ann Searles, Carrie Peterson, John C. Walter
United Way St. Croix Valley recognized First National Bank of River Falls with the Circle of Excellence Award for the bank’s significant and ongoing contribution to the community. “First National Bank of River Falls is the model of what it means to truly care about making a difference in your whole community,” said United Way St. Croix Valley Executive Director Ann Searles. “Through volunteering and sponsoring monthly shipments for our Food Resource Center and running successful United Way fundraising campaigns, their continued support has made an impact in all three counties we serve--Pierce, Polk and St. Croix--and we are so thankful.” Pictured left to right: Debbie Volkert, Mortgage Lender; Kaydi Sobottka, Human Resources Officer; Jeff Johnson, President & CEO; Ann Searles, United Way St. Croix Valley Executive Director; and Chad Edwards, Information Technology Officer.