Voices United


Voices United

A United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County Blog


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Introducing Technology United!

February 15, 2019

Written by John Dunn, VP – Digital Supply Chain, GE Healthcare and Technology United Council Co-chair

It’s official: IT United, the United Way donor network of technology professionals making a difference in our community through giving, volunteerism, and advocacy, will now be known as Technology United.

Moving from “IT” to “Technology” reflects the increasing role of technology in the workforce. What was traditionally considered the work of IT teams is now branching out into different functions, across a multitude of departments, organizations, and professions.

These days, so many professionals use technology in their work, yet would not associate their role with IT. These are people who perform complex analytics, security, operational technology, marketing, reporting, and many other functions critical to the success of a business, and we want them on our team.

Another benefit of this change in name and focus is the potential for increased community impact. The core mission of IT United has always been creating opportunities for students to explore careers in technology, providing unique exposure opportunities that they may not have had otherwise. A broader range of technology professionals doing this work allows us to more clearly explain the breadth of technology careers. As we reach out to students in the community to show the benefits and potential of a technology career, it helps to have that wider net. 

In our brand-new Technology United video, I love the line “alone we can do a lot, united we can change the world.” This is why I’m involved with United Way, and why so many other people turn to this organization when they want to make an impact. With United Way involved, Technology United can make a sustainable impact. This is not just a relationship with one school or one group of students, but a coordinated effort between United Way, Milwaukee Public Schools, and more than 300 area professionals to bring opportunity, inspiration, and access to students across our community.

I’d like to tell you about a young lady, Shantavia. She just graduated from MPS last year. As a sophomore at Washington High School of IT, she joined their IT Academy. What prompted her to join that track was the Technology United job shadow she participated in at GE Healthcare.

She stuck with her studies and, as a junior, she was encouraged to apply for the Northwestern Mutual three-week summer boot camp, and was accepted. She excelled, and was invited to stay for the full summer internship.

After graduating from high school, she became aware of i.c. stars while at a job fair. She applied, went through the assessment, and was accepted. Now she is getting ready to graduate from i.c. stars.

These programs have given this young woman the opportunity to flourish. She has talent, and she has the perseverance – she just needed the platform.

Ask yourself, as a member of the business community, as a technology professional, as a caring individual, what can I do? Where do I fit in?

There are lots of ways to plug in through Technology United’s volunteer initiatives: participate in our annual Technology Career Fair, host a job shadow at your company, or offer your skills to a local nonprofit to help advance their mission.

Because alone we can do a lot. United, we can change the world.

Learn more about Technology United.



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Blog Categories
  • IT United
  • Technology United

How United Way Responds to Urgent Needs

February 7, 2019

Written by Nicole Angresano, vice president of Community Impact at United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County

When the community needs a hand, United Way is here to help.

In addition to investing year-round in local programs and initiatives, our team at United Way responds to urgent community needs with financial and volunteer support when and where it’s needed most.

When temperatures plummeted well below freezing last week, I reached out to our program partners to determine how we could support their critical work. These are nonprofit agencies that provide a safe, warm bed for individuals with no place to stay; nutritious meals to individuals and families in transition; and so much more.

Supporting this community and expanding our shared capacity to respond when the need is greatest is why United Way exists. It is the essence of our mission, and what gets us out of bed in the morning.

Thanks to the generosity of our donors and volunteers, here is how we supported urgent warming efforts during the recent freezing temperatures:

  • Provided hotel vouchers to Waukesha-area shelters to meet increased demand for beds.
  • Supported transportation costs for employees of Walker’s Point Youth & Family Center to get to work on frigid days.
  • Funded a hot meal for residents of Guest House of Milwaukee, a United Way partner that provides shelter, emergency services and support services for men in Milwaukee County without a home.
  • Funded a hot meal for guests of Cathedral Center, a local shelter that provides a safe environment for women and families, when their regular meal site closed.
  • In Madison and Milwaukee, United Way partnered with Lyft IMPACT 2-1-1 and to provide free rides to warming centers.

In addition to this cold weather response, our team at United Way is prepared to meet urgent needs year-round. During the recent government shutdown, we partnered with the Milwaukee Area Labor Council to provide free, hot meals to nearly 200 federal workers. Last winter, our partner CityYear notified us that students at Casimir Pulaski High School were arriving without winter coats, hats, and gloves, so we stepped in with a donation to ensure every student had what they needed. Currently, we are in conversation with our partners for how we can best support SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program) recipients when they experience a 50-day gap in benefits in March/April.

To ensure the health, safety, and stability of every individual and family in our community, we must live United. Thank you to all who donate, advocate, and volunteer with us; we cannot have the impact we do -- and the ability to respond to urgent needs in the right way and in the right time -- without you. 

2-1-1 is a central point of access to be connected to information and assistance to regain stability for those struggling with a family, health or social service needs. Sign-up to learn more and help share this crucial resource on 2-1-1 Awareness Day.

Get notified of urgent needs and ways you can help: sign up to be a United Now volunteer.

Mary Lou’s Closet is a year-round supply drive to mobilize basic need items for youth. Learn more.

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  • ALL
Categories: ALL

Three things I’ve learned about leadership

January 21, 2019

Leading the Way

The recipient of the 2018 Linda McFerrin Award for African American Nonprofit Leadership is Vincent Lyles. Vincent served as the president and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee from 2011 to 2018. Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee is the largest youth-serving organization in the city of Milwaukee, with more than 750 employees and over 2,000 volunteers.

Cory Nettles of Generation Growth Capital, Inc. and the Chairman of the Board of United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County announced the award on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

“Vincent Lyles has been among the strongest nonprofit leaders in our community. He did a great job scaling Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee impact in our community, particularly related to programming sites and especially related to the number of kids served each day. He is the perfect recipient of the Linda McFerrin Award for African American Leadership.”

Each year, a nonprofit leader will be selected by United Way’s Diversity Leadership Society and a $5,000 grant will be made by United Way to the organization they represent.

We asked Vincent to share some insights and ideas on being an effective leader.

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Blog Categories
  • Agency Partners
  • Awards
Categories: Agency Partners, Awards

How United Way Staff are Giving Back in 2019

December 31, 2018

As United Way staff, we get to spend every day helping the community, but that doesn’t mean we clock out on giving back when 5 o’clock hits! Looking for creative ideas for how to give back in 2019? Check out some of our resolutions…

“Helping children learn to read using Vello to allow me to be a virtual tutor.” – Craig Nuechterlein, Information Technology

“I plan to educate myself on the vast, pressing needs in our community by volunteering at as many different nonprofits as possible. It’s easy to stick with a favorite cause, so I intend on stepping out of my comfort zone and learning as much as possible along the way!” – Bridget Tishler, Resource Development

“I have a few things that I do on a regular basis in terms of financial contributions to local causes, as well as spending time volunteering with a local group. But this year, I’d like to challenge myself to try something new. The first thing that came to mind is Vello—virtual reading with students at our local schools. I love the idea of connecting with these young minds and encouraging them to read as often as possible.” – Dan Herda, Marketing & Communications

“My plan is to plan on planning. In other words, I am planning to open the Volunteers United Weekly Digest every time it arrives, and search for the right volunteer opportunity that looks appealing.” – Scot Henry, Information Technology

“Mentoring, reading to youth, baking for veterans.” – Kathy Shine, 2018 Loaned Executive

“I’m going to volunteer my time and talents as a VITA tax preparer (including at United Way’s homestead credit clinic) and a Vello reading tutor. And I’ve also made a goal to call – not text – at least one friend per week who isn’t my spouse or a blood relative. It’s alarming how out of practice I am at that.” – Jim McLaughlin, Community Impact

“I’m planning to come back again as a Loaned Executive for next year’s campaign, assuming my wife hasn’t kidnapped me and moved me to Denver (where her two daughters are).  If that does happen, I’ll see what I can do to help Denver’s United Way campaign.” – Craig Howard, 2018 (and hopefully 2019) Loaned Executive

“Packing homeless hygiene packs that I can give to individuals asking for assistance in public.” – Stacey Meyer, Information Technology

“United Way gives me lots of awesome opportunities to help humans, so in addition to trying some new volunteer projects around my passion – helping women and children - my 2019 giving back resolution is to find fun and creative ways to help animals, like making dog toys to bring to the Wisconsin Human Society.” – Katie Kuhn, Marketing & Communications

"My family makes sandwiches for Guest House of Milwaukee on Christmas Day.  We find it’s a good way to involve the young adults who have too much stuff already.  And then they take them over to the shelter.  I also plan to continue volunteering at the Farmers Market in Oak Creek and finding various other volunteer project (and, of course, donations to United Way and others)." – Michele Kieweg, Information Technology

“I am going to invest more time and resources into programs serving young people/adults in 53206 zip code as well as serving as an advocate alongside community leaders committed to violence prevention.” – Karen Coy-Romano, 2018 Loaned Executive

Feeling inspired? Find the perfect volunteer project for you, your family, and/or your work or friend group by visiting United Way’s Volunteers United site.

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Sharing our Blessings through Year-End Giving

(From left) United Way President Amy Lindner, Board Chair Cory Nettles, and CEO Mary Lou Young.

December 20, 2018

Written by Cory Nettles, Founder and Managing Director of Generation Growth Capital, Inc. and Chairman of the Board for United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County.

At United Way, we often hear from our nonprofit partners that winter is a time of incredible need. Between the cold weather and the holidays, many individuals and families in our community could use a helping hand.

In this season of celebration and reflection, I think about how blessed and fortunate my family is, and how we can extend those blessings to our fellow community members who may be struggling. While we made financial donations to our favorite nonprofit organizations throughout the year, we know we can stretch a little more, hopefully helping one, ten, or one hundred more people through a year-end investment in United Way.

When I say your year-end gift is an investment, I really mean it. When you invest in the community and make it better, it makes all of our related assets – housing, economic, social service safety net resources – worth more. Likewise, a donation to a social service agency that strengthens the quality of healthcare, food, or education someone receives means they can become a more productive member of society. A financial gift to United Way makes the whole community stronger, healthier, and more vibrant. In my experience, these investments pay huge dividends.

I choose to give my year-end gift to United Way’s Community Fund because United Way delivers results. By partnering with best-in-class nonprofit partners and leveraging donor dollars in a smart way, the United Way drives lasting change in education, health, and financial stability – the pillars of a strong community.

There are many ways you can give a year-end gift: cash is a wonderful, immediate way to give, or you may consider contributing appreciated stock. For those who receive a year-end bonus, consider investing a portion of it – say, 10% -- back into the community through a gift to United Way’s Community Fund.

We live in a wonderful community that is thriving and booming in so many ways. Still, many people are left out of the abundance, struggling to make ends meet and provide for themselves and their families.

For those of us who benefit from greater affluence in our community, we must be mindful of those less fortunate than us, and do our best to lift them up.

Please, join me and my family in making our community stronger and safer for all of us through United Way.

Donate online today.

Questions? Contact United Way at 414.263.8145 or via email.

Learn more about United Way’s Community Fund and work in health, education, and financial stability.

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We did it…together!

United Way Board Chair Cory Nettles and Campaign Co-chairs Cristy Garcia-Thomas, David Gay, and Don Layden announce the campaign total.

December 13, 2018

Written by Amy Lindner, President, United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County


Looking back on this year, my first with United Way, I am overwhelmed with gratitude. Each and every day, I witnessed United Way donors, volunteers, advocates, and staff show up to fight for what really matters: a home for every family, nutritious food for every student, access to healthcare for every expectant mother, and a family-sustaining job for everyone who needs it. It truly brought to life one of my favorite phrases: great things happen when we live United.  

Together, we raised $56,001,547.76 to continue supporting the health, education, and financial stability of every person in our shared community.

This was a record year for volunteerism: 749 volunteer events were held in 2018, featuring 42,126 volunteer hours with an estimated value of $1,040,090. Watch our video highlighting some of our volunteers.

Thank you to the companies and organizations, large and small, who ran a workplace campaign this year, and special thanks to our million dollar companies!

Check out the priceless reactions of our Give & Win Sweepstakes winners.

We had a great time at the Campaign Closing celebration, sponsored by Aurora Health Care. If you attended, tag yourself in the pics.

Finally, I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge the upcoming retirement of both United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County CEO Mary Lou Young and former Vice President of Resource Development Linda McFerrin. Their tireless dedication, passion, and influence has made United Way the powerhouse of community change it is today, and I know the team is so committed to continuing their legacy.

As a surprise, the United Way Board Chairman, Mr. Cory Nettles of Generation Growth Capital, Inc. announced the “Linda McFerrin Award for African American Nonprofit Leadership” at the end of this year’s closing celebration. Such a fitting tribute for a great leader.

To everyone who joined the fight, all I can say is…thank you! Together we win!


Amy Lindner
President, United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County

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Changes are Coming this Tax Season

November 29, 2018

Written by Crystal Monsivais, Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site coordinator, La Casa de Esperanza

Ready or not, here comes tax season! Are you ready? There are new changes to our tax laws that may catch you unprepared. The IRS has a way for you to better prepare yourself and it’s by using their Withholding Calculator.

Here are some helpful tips to get the information you need:

What does the IRS Withholding Calculator do for me?
The Withholding Calculator helps estimate your income tax for 2018. It can help you determine if you need to change your withholding with your employer.

How can I locate the Withholding Calculator?
Go to: https://www.irs.gov/individuals/irs-withholding-calculator

The IRS Withholding calculator is easy to use if you have all the necessary documents. It can help alleviate any unforeseen changes in your tax return for 2018 and 2019.

What will I need to use the Withholding Calculator?
You need your most recent paystubs and your most recent completed tax return to be able to enter the information needed from the Withholding Calculator.

How do I change my withholding?
If, after answering the questions in the Withholding Calculator, you determine that you need to make some changes on your W4, you can Complete a new W4 form: https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/fw4.pdf and turn it into your employer. You may need to re-assess you information again starting in January 2019 for the next tax season.

What happens if I don’t do anything?
If you choose not to use the Withholding Calculator, you may find that you have a lower refund than previous years. You may also have an amount due, when you have had refunds in the past.

If you need help with preparing your taxes or have any tax related questions contact

La Casa de Esperanza’s VITA tax program at 262-832-1534

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Podcast: The Power of Elevating the Voices of Women in Our Community

(From left) Jasmine Johnson, Mary Lou Young, Gail Lione, Jayne Hladio, and Cristy Garcia-Thomas

November 27, 2018

Produced by Katie Kuhn, United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County

Listen Now (00:56:30)


On Wednesday, November 7, United Way’s Emerging Leaders and Women United joined forces to present a fall leadership panel featuring notable change-makers in our local community. Panelists discussed the growing power and influence women play as advocates and leaders in the workplace, community, and beyond. Moderator Gail Lione, Dentons, spoke with Cristy Garcia-Thomas, Advocate Aurora Health Care; Jayne Hladio, US Bank; Jasmine Johnson, ManpowerGroup; and Mary Lou Young, United Way on this topic.

The audience were inspired as they heard personal stories, experiences and advice from the panelists. We recorded the panel and are thrilled to be able to share this inspiring conversation.

Thanks to von Briesen & Roper for sponsoring!


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Blog Categories
  • Women's Leadership
Categories: Women's Leadership

We ate…we shopped…now we give back!

November 21, 2018

The Thanksgiving holiday has expanded to so much more than just good food and gratitude with family. Thanksgiving also ushers in the official start to the holiday season, when many people celebrate not only by purchasing gifts for friends and family, but by spreading love and cheer to those in need.

“Giving Tuesday,” the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, is a great opportunity to kick off the season on a high note. While the word “giving” may bring a monetary donation to mind, there are lots of other ways to give (though if you’d like to make a donation to United Way this year, click here)!

Here are a few simple ideas you can do by yourself, with a friend, or with your family on #GivingTuesday:

  • Collect winter coats, hats, gloves, and scarves in youth sizes (ages 4-17) to help local kids stay warm this winter. Donations can come to Mary Lou’s Closet at the Johnson Control’s Volunteer Center!
  • Bake cookies and visit with an elderly neighbor who could use some company.
  • Write a note of encouragement to a local family receiving a Winter Recess Meal Kit, which helps combat hunger over children’s winter break from school.
  • Use your skills to help others! Volunteer to teach older adults how to use a computer at your local library branch, or offer to teach a class at a local nonprofit (some fun class ideas: journaling, meditation, painting, budgeting, dance, etc.).
  • Sign up to volunteer with Vello, an online program that links volunteer tutors/reading assistants with local students using your computer or smartphone.
  • Say thank you and smile at everyone who helps you today!
  • Serve a meal or help at a local food pantry. These needs continue all year round, and lots of local nonprofits have regular programs to ensure everyone in our community has access to nutritious food.
  • While you’re shopping on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, pick up some extra food, clothing, or home items and donate to a local nonprofit or shelter.
  • Browse thousands of volunteer opportunities on United Way’s Volunteers United portal to find a project that fits your interests and schedule.

Happy Thanksgiving! We are grateful for YOU!

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How Does United Way Support Veterans?

Happy Veteran's Day and thank you to all who served - and continue to serve - our country.

November 12, 2018

While United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County does not yet directly fund veteran programming, a great deal of the work we do include wrap-around services for military veterans and their families. Our impact areas of Health, Education, and Financial Stability serve the needs often seen in the veteran community, including mental health resources, housing connections and food security. Our funded programs impact over 6,800 local veterans and their families annually.

United Way Strategy

# of Vets Served

Health Care Access


Older Adult Support and Independence


Health Education/Prevention: HIV


Food Security


Behavior and Mental Health


Assessment, Referral and Support


Emergency Shelter


Intimate Partner (Domestic) Violence


Support for Children and Families


Reducing Barriers to Employment


Legal Aid


Housing and Home Ownership


Community Wide Support


Disabilities Services


Health Education/Prevention: Case Management


Local Disaster Response


The above strategies represent issue areas that at least 20 self-identified veterans accessed programs at in the 2016-17 funding cycle

Total of self-identified veterans served through UWGMWC funded programs in 2016-17: 6,816


Additional involvement in veterans’ issues:

Impact 2-1-1:

Impact 2-1-1 is a central access point for people in need. It is available to anyone, but provides 320 unique referral resources specific to veterans. This includes things like Veteran Benefits Assistance, Veteran Employment Programs, Veteran Home Loans, Veteran Survivor Benefits, Veteran Support Groups, and Veteran Reintegration Counseling.

Homeless Veterans:

Veterans are more likely than civilians to experience homelessness due to a higher risk of experiencing traumatic brain injuries and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), both of which have been found to be among the most substantial risk factors for homelessness. A recent increase of sexual trauma to women while serving in the armed forces also greatly increases the risk of homelessness.[1] About a quarter the homeless vets in Wisconsin are in Milwaukee County.[2],[3]

  • United Way works in partnership with the City of Milwaukee to organize Project Homeless Connect – a one-day event that provides a holistic array of resources for men and women experiencing homelessness. Services range from housing & employment opportunities; health & dental screenings; haircuts & photographs to send home; clothing, backpacks & blankets; lunch, and more. 8% of guests accessing services in 2016 identified as being a military veteran.
  • United Way staff volunteers at the twice-a-year Point in Time count of homeless individuals.  Point in Time volunteers work with police and shelter staff to interview every person sleeping on the streets or in a shelter from 7pm to 7am. Two of these locations are at Dryhootch – a 24 hour safe space for Veterans to navigate the peace outside of the battlefield.
  • United Way has mobilized volunteers to write notes of encouragement and pack shoebox kits for Milwaukee Homeless Veterans Initiative.

[1] National Alliance to End Homelessness, “Fact Sheet: Veteran Homelessness” (April 2015). http://www.endhomelessness.org/library/entry/fact-sheet-veteran-homelessness

[2] U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, “HUD 2017 Continuum of Care Homeless Assistance Programs Homeless Populations and Subpopulations” (2017). https://www.hudexchange.info/resource/reportmanagement/published/CoC_PopSub_State_WI_2017.pdf

[3] HUD Exchange, “2007-2017 PIT Counts by COC (2017)”. https://www.hudexchange.info/resource/3031/pit-and-hic-data-since-2007/  

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At Fill the Freezer, Food is Love

Rebecca Cook (R) and her daughter, Emma, at Fill the Freezer 2018.

October 29, 2018

Written by Katie Kuhn, United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County

For Rebecca Cook, a senior attorney at ManpowerGroup, and her daughter Emma, volunteering is a part of life. For the past two years, they have taken part in a fun and delicious project with United Way and both agree it’s one of their all-time volunteering highlights. 

United Way’s Fill the Freezer is an annual event that brings professional chefs and community volunteers together to prepare and pack freezer meals for local families in need. All meals are prepared in one day at MATC’s commercial kitchen, then distributed to family-serving nonprofits like The Cathedral Center, Sojourner Family Peace Center, and others.

This past September, Rebecca, Emma, and 62 other volunteers joined 8 chefs to prepare a total of 351 freezer meals. Rebecca and Emma were paired with Chef Josh Vanbibber of EasterSeals Southeast Wisconsin, who – in his day job - provides immersive, hands-on training for adults with disabilities to prepare them for jobs in the food service industry.

“Chef Josh shared with us that he chose a meal his mom used to make,” recalls Rebecca. “She was a single mom and made their family comfort food dishes which was something really special to him and his siblings. He wanted to pass on that feeling of comfort and togetherness that this meal had always brought him.”

The dish, fondly called ‘Lauren’s Party Potatoes,’ “looked and smelled DELICIOUS,” said Rebecca. “Chef Josh specifically designed it so you would get pockets of melted cheese, and emphasized that it was a recipe you could add anything to - jalapenos or hot sauce, extra veggies, crumbled potato chips on top, even scrambled eggs to make it a breakfast dish!”  

Rebecca, Emma, and their volunteer group were put to work opening cans, chopping, mixing, and measuring. As they cooked, the group got to know each other and Chef Josh. “We had a great group that talked a lot and asked a ton of questions. Chef Josh shared his background moving from a fast-paced kitchen to his experience truly serving people with EasterSeals, and his intention for this dish to be something that anyone could make with simple, low-cost ingredients.”

Emma is a high school student at Wisconsin Lutheran, and spends a lot of her time volunteering. “This is one of her favorite projects of the year,” said Rebecca. “The morning of, she sprang out of bed because she was so excited to go.”

“Every time you volunteer you learn something, and learning to cook is so valuable,” said Rebecca. “The other cool thing about the project is how it changed our view of chefs – they are not just people who make your food in a restaurant. They are thinking about how people will eat a meal, how they will enjoy it, how they will feel. It really is love.”

Feeling inspired? Find your perfect volunteer opportunity.

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Blog Categories
  • Health
Categories: Health

After Breast Cancer Diagnosis, a Lifelong Friendship

Lori (L) and Kim love training for races together.

October 23, 2018

Written by Katie Kuhn, United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County

When Lori was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014, she was most worried about her three kids. After emailing their teachers to let them know about her diagnosis, one wrote back: “Have you heard of ABCD?”

After Breast Cancer Diagnosis, or ABCD, is a locally-based nonprofit that provides free, genuinely personal help and support that eases the stress and burden of breast cancer. One of ABCD’s signature programs is the one-to-one mentor match, which pairs those who have a recent breast cancer diagnosis with one or more mentors who have had similar experiences.

“I thought, what the heck, I’ll give it a try,” remembers Lori. “I knew of people who had had breast cancer, but not many.”

Lori was matched with two mentors. One, Debbie, had had a similar diagnosis as Lori and shared her experience with different treatments. The other, Barb, was, like Lori, the primary caregiver for her elderly parents when she was diagnosed. “It was so hard being a caregiver who needed care,” said Lori, whose mother had been diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer. “So it was great to have someone who could empathize.”

About a year later, Lori got an email from ABCD about becoming a mentor herself. “Training was unbelievable,” remembers Lori. “That was the first time I had heard stories of so many other people who had breast cancer. It was one of the most emotional experiences I’ve ever had.”


Kim was diagnosed with breast cancer in July of 2017.

“My mom had been through breast cancer in 2001 and told me to connect with ABCD,” recalls Kim. “I called right after I was diagnosed, but it was such an overwhelming time, so I pulled back.”

Five months later, Kim had completed chemotherapy and was preparing for surgery.

“I was really nervous,” said Kim. “I had never had surgery before and thought I would really like to talk to someone who had gone through this.”

She called ABCD again and was matched with Lori. “I couldn’t think of a better match,” said Kim. “We both worked, had teenage kids, had the same type of breast cancer, both were self-diagnosed. After my first surgery I was feeling very down because the pathology results showed the cancer was multicentric (meaning it was more extensive than the doctors initially thought), thus, I had additional surgeries. Lori had a similar experience (multicentric) and when she told me that I felt some comfort knowing someone else had this happen too.”

“It changed my whole experience,” remembers Kim.

United Way supports ABCD’s Nuestra Conexion program, a culturally responsive peer support initiative meant to reduce barriers and increase support for Spanish speaking survivors and individuals living with breast cancer. This program offers community outreach and engagement to promote awareness of breast cancer and offers one-to-one peer support for survivors. 

Over the past year, Kim and Lori have met up and talked regularly. For Kim, having someone to reach out to any time of day with questions has been invaluable. She also appreciates Lori’s positivity and willingness to get out and be active together. In fact, Kim and Lori both joined Team Phoenix, a triathlon training team for cancer survivors.

“I never thought I could do a triathlon, even before cancer,” said Kim. “But looking at Lori and the other people doing it, I was inspired!”

For Lori, being a mentor has been life-changing.

“While I wouldn’t choose to go through it again, there has been a silver lining to having breast cancer,” said Lori. “Meeting Kim and the other people I have mentored makes me feel like there is some benefit to what I’ve been through. If I can help my mentees avoid some of the challenges I experienced early on, that is a really cool thing.”

Kim has one more surgery to go, but feels supported and good about the future.

“You meet a lot of special people through the breast cancer experience,” said Kim. “Lori is one of those people who have changed my life. I think she will be a lifelong friend.”

Learn more about United Way’s work in Health.


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Blog Categories
  • Health
Categories: Health

DVAM: Hope and Healing

October 17, 2018

By Carmen Pitre, Sojourner President and CEO

“Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good.”

– Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Chances are high that you know someone who has been hurt by domestic violence.  A co-worker, friend or family member who has been scarred by the hurt and harm that has been caused by someone who promised to love them. 

Domestic Violence Awareness Month is an opportunity for us all to understand what we can do to help those who have been hurt among us.  During the month of October, we take time to honor survivors, we work to elevate the community conversation about domestic violence and we strive to engage everyone in the hard work of ending violence in our community.  While it happens in our homes, domestic violence sets the stage for violence on our streets, in our neighborhood and in our city.

At Sojourner, we understand that we must help survivors by believing them when they come forward.  We know that we must work together to make coming forward easier and we must dedicate ourselves to eliminating the barriers that prevent survivors from seeking help.

We believe that healing is possible.  At Sojourner, each day we partner with survivors to help them find their path toward wellness and hope.  We understand that people come through our doors at the most difficult of times and we believe it is our responsibility to be present to the truth they need to speak.

“Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once,…”

You must ask yourself what role you can play in ending violence in your own life, in your own neighborhood, at your job, in your church and within your own relationships.  Survivors need us to work together to end the silence that allows violence to thrive in their lives. We can give reassuring messages, encourage people to seek help, respect the decisions survivors make, listen to them when they need to speak their truth and challenge the notion that people are to blame for the hurt and harm that has happened to them.  Starting in your own life is a good place to begin.

We know that domestic violence can rob a person of their ability to live a peaceful life.  Violence can take away a person’s sense of safety and security.  Experiencing violence puts survivors on guard and teaches them that they must be prepared to defend themselves at any moment.  


Even more troubling is the normalization of violence for children who are exposed to hurt and harmful behavior.  We know that children who witness violence learn that this behavior is acceptable and it will influence their lives for years to come.


No child should grow up in violence.  No child should have to hide in the closet, under the covers or tremble in fear because violence is happening in their home.  We have the power to create a different reality for our children.

We must stand by survivors and let them know that they are not alone.  We must tell them that the violence is not their fault and we must affirm that we are here to help. 

These messages are deeply needed at this moment in time.

If we want to end domestic violence, it will require that we make space for hurt to be healed and pain to be acknowledged.  It is important for us, as a collective community, to give healing messages, to believe that healing is possible and to build programs that support a person’s ownership of their own healing process.

As helpers and healers, we can hold space for harm to be mended and for pain to be transformed.

Can we really heal? Is it possible to find space and time to heal our deepest, darkest hurts?  Can our hearts be mended? How do we build a culture of hope and healing for the next generation and ourselves? 

These important and urgent questions must be answered if we want to leave our children with a better world.  A world, perhaps, that will not need to dedicate a month to ending violence in our lives.

Sojourner Family Peace Center has been designated the 24-hour Domestic Violence Hotline for the City of Milwaukee and outlying communities. If you or someone you know need help, dial 414-933-2722 or learn more about how Sojourner can help by visiting their website.

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  • Agency Partners
  • Health
Categories: Agency Partners, Health

What are Warrant Withdrawal Wednesdays?

Municipal Court Judge Derek Mosley meets with an attendee of the Success Starts Here! Men's Seminar, hosted by United Way and ManpowerGroup.

October 16, 2018

For many people, going to court - even to settle a parking violation - can be incredibly intimidating.


On any Monday through Friday during walk-in hours, people may come to Milwaukee Municipal Court without a scheduled hearing and see a judge. Unfortunately, many people do not do this for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is fear of being arrested. While people in Milwaukee are never arrested for municipal violations, this is not widely known.


Another reason people avoid dealing with a municipal violation is lack of funds to pay a fine in full right away.


The consequences of avoiding dealing with a municipal violation can run deep. Having an outstanding warrant on your record or a suspended driver’s license can make it very difficult to find employment and housing.


In response, Milwaukee Municipal Court has started Warrant Withdrawal Wednesdays to engage people who have outstanding warrants and/or driver’s license suspensions. The events are held at community locations like Greater New Birth Church and Journey House with the hope that individuals will feel more comfortable taking the first steps to deal with a warrant at a neutral location rather than at the courthouse.


“We bring court into the community as an opportunity for people to engage with the court in a venue that is perceived as less threatening to some and might be closer to home for people attending,” said Sheldyn Himle, Milwaukee Municipal Court chief court administrator.


At Warrant Withdrawal Wednesday events, Municipal Court Judges meet individually with defendants to discuss their specific situation. If a person cannot pay their fine right away, they may be put on a payment plan or held accountable for the debt in another way, like through a community service requirement, alcohol or drug addiction program, or credit for time served. Each event also features a variety of community resources that residents can learn about while they wait.


The Municipal Court provided warrant withdrawal at September’s Success Starts Here! Men’s Seminar and will also be present at Thursday’s Project Homeless Connect. United Way recognizes the importance of these services as having a warrant is a barrier to employment, housing, and financial stability- all building blocks for a good quality of life.


For more information on the next Warrant Withdrawal Wednesday event, follow Milwaukee Municipal Court on Facebook. The date and location is typically announced several weeks ahead of time, and those who want to attend can call to register.


Volunteers are also needed to help facilitate the event. “This is a great, unique volunteer opportunity - lots of talking, no heavy lifting, and a chance to experience the joy of people who are honestly thrilled at the opportunity to take care of something that fell off their radar or wasn’t previously a priority to address,” said Sheldyn.


For more information and to sign up to volunteer, email Sheldyn at SHimle@Milwaukee.gov


It is important to note that the intent of Warrant Withdrawal Wednesdays is to re-engage people with the Court, not to forgive fines, but to work through resolving the debt in some way.

For those with a violation who are not eligible to participate in Warrant Withdrawal Wednesdays, Sheldyn has an important message: “Come on in to the Municipal Court! It doesn’t have to be scary – these are non-criminal violations. Our staff understand that these are ordinary, everyday things that any of us could run into. We are helpful, friendly, and customer service focused, but we can’t help you if you don’t come in and talk to us.”

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  • Financial Stability

Waukesha Teacher and Sons Team Up to Support Backpack Coalition

Kara Ecoff and her sons.

October 15, 2018

Written by Meghan Marsden Parsche, United Way volunteer blogger

School supply shopping is an exciting experience, as kids stock up on the essentials that will help them learn and grow in the upcoming school year. But the cost of seemingly simple items like pencils, notebooks, glue sticks and markers can add up quickly. For some students, back to school supplies simply don’t fit in their family’s budget.

As a second grade teacher with Waukesha Public Schools, Kara Ecoff has first-hand experience with the challenges facing students who cannot afford school supplies.

“It’s so easy to find yourself in a situation where you need support,” says Kara. “Things like the loss of a job, a disability or divorce could leave you in a completely different financial situation than you were in the year before.”

This is why each year, when school supply shopping for her own kids, Kara would purchase additional school supplies for students who didn't have all their needed supplies.

“Many schools have a stash of school supply donations, but it’s often pretty limited,” she explains. “There are often supplies available, but they aren't always what is needed. There may be 100 rulers donated, but not many markers or notebooks.”

Two years ago when Kara’s son Andrew was working on his black belt in Taekwondo, she sought out opportunities for him to fulfill his volunteer requirement. On the United Way volunteer website, Kara was thrilled to find an opportunity that would not only allow her and her two sons to volunteer together, but would also allow them to help get school supplies in the hands of students who needed them.

Kara, Andrew and her younger son Elliot began volunteering with Backpack Coalition, which helps children from low-income families in Waukesha County participate and succeed in school by providing school backpacks and supplies. For two to four hours a week, they would volunteer in the warehouse, taking inventory of donations, sorting them and getting them ready for distribution. It was a manageable time commitment that had a big impact on Andrew and Elliot.

“It has certainly opened their eyes to the fact that not everyone has what we have,” says Kara. “It’s a very concrete example of something we have tried to teach them their whole lives, which is to be thankful for the ‘little things.’”

She says that her sons have enjoyed volunteering and are particularly happy to be part of a project that helps other kids.

This past year, Kara was able to experience other aspects of Backpack Coalition by taking part in a school supply collection at a Wal-Mart and by volunteering on distribution day, where she even got to see some of her former students.

“There was definitely an atmosphere of thankfulness and appreciation at the distribution,” she says. “It was really rewarding to be able to see the process come full circle.”

This year, over 5,000 backpacks were donated to kids in need. The Backpack Coalition reviews school supply lists to try to provide the most commonly-requested supplies. Supply lists vary quite a bit from teacher to teacher, but the backpacks represent at least 80% of items needed at each grade level.

Whatever your passion, the United Way has volunteer opportunity for you. Whether it’s a one-time event or a few hours each week, you can make a difference. Visit our website to learn more.

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  • Education
Categories: Education

“One of the most inspiring events in our community…”

Guests of Project Homeless Connect can access more than 80 services and resources at the annual event.

October 12, 2018

For the past three years, Bekki Schmitt, Information and Outreach coordinator for the Milwaukee County Department on Aging, has manned a resource table at Project Homeless Connect.

“This is one of my favorite outreach events of the year,” reflected Bekki. “We talk to so many people about the services provided by the Department on Aging. Not everyone who comes through is a senior, but there are more older individuals experiencing homelessness than you might think.”

Milwaukee County Department on Aging (MCDA) serves anyone aged 60 or older with a wide range of programs and services including:  senior centers, transportation, meals at area dining sites, dementia care, as well as long term care programs.

Providing outreach to individuals attending Project Homeless Connect has proven to be a great fit for MCDA. “It’s a natural connection,” said Bekki. “Project Homeless Connect offers us a great opportunity to share resources with older adults experiencing homelessness.”

According to Bekki, the great thing about connecting to older adults experiencing homelessness at an event like Project Homeless Connect is that it acts as an entryway into the vast network of community resources, so the person is never again left behind. “Once someone taps into the resources from MCDA, they are connected to professionals, services, and agencies, all of whom can open the door to other resources when the need arises.”

Bekki remembers a story of two men experiencing homelessness who began regularly attending a senior dining site in West Allis. Over time, workers and attendees of the dining site got to know them, so when one of the men stopped coming, they knew something might be wrong. “They found out he had had a small crisis and immediately connected him with professionals who could help,” said Bekki. “I’ve watched that same scenario play out time and time again – that’s why it’s so important to connect people to others who care and can look out for them.”

Bekki loves seeing Project Homeless Connect guests arrive at her table alongside their guest advocate, a community volunteer paired one-on-one with each guest who can help them navigate resources and feel at ease. “When people walk up to our table alongside a guest advocate, it changes the tone of the conversation. It’s no longer a professional talking to a person in need, but three community members connecting.”

“This is one of the most inspiring events I’ve seen in our community,” said Bekki. “We face a lot of challenges in Milwaukee, but there are times when you see a point of light, see people and agencies come together to rally behind something really important. Project Homeless Connect is one of those moments.”

Milwaukee County Department on Aging serves anybody 6o and older with the goal of empowering older adults and strengthening our community. Visit county.milwaukee.gov/aging to learn more.

Project Homeless Connect is one week away! It’s not too late to help – sign up to volunteer or purchase an item off of the Amazon wishlist. Hope to see you there!

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Blog Categories
  • Financial Stability
  • Homelessness

Podcast: Navigating Senior Living and Care

Pam Foti (L) and Jenny Wagner of Vesta Senior Network

October 11, 2018

Produced by Katie Kuhn, United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County

Listen Now (00:58:03)


There are certain subjects in life that we all need to deal with at one time or another, but are hard to think about and plan for. What to do when a spouse or a loved one needs extra help as they age is one of those topics. What makes this an even less fun conversation is the sheer mind-boggling complexity of the senior care landscape. Acronyms like RCAC, CBRF, ADL, SNF cause confusion, how to pay for senior care causes anxiety, and uncertainty about what a loved one wants and needs and when they will want and need it can result in choice paralysis.

Pam Foti and Jenny Wagner understand these emotions, and are here to help. Both are elder care consultants and owners of Vesta Senior Network, a consultant organization that works with older adults and their loved ones to help them understand the many choices and opportunities that exist for them once it’s time for them to leave their own home.

Retire United and the Retiree Advisory Council recently hosted Pam and Jenny for a discussion on navigating senior living and care. For those who were not able to be in the room, we recorded the talk and Q&A.

Retire United members are retirees (or soon-to-be-retirees) who recognize the important role volunteerism and philanthropy play in strengthening our community. Learn more.


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  • Health
Categories: Health

DVAM: The Women’s Center Takes Action to End Domestic Violence

October 8, 2018

Written by Angela Mancuso, executive director at The Women's Center

October is here, and with the changing of the season comes an important time: Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM).


DVAM, observed every year in October, is an opportunity to come together as a community to talk about these issues, to understand them better, to share our resources, and most importantly, to support and stand with survivors. Domestic violence is a grossly underreported crime that affects thousands in our community. We all have a role to play in breaking the cycle of violence.  


This year, The Women’s Center’s theme for the month is “Take Action. Support Survivors. End Domestic Violence Now.”

I often get asked how someone can support a friend or loved one who discloses violence or trauma to them. It can be difficult for a survivor to disclose any part of their experience with others. If someone comes to you for support, start by believing them. You can’t take away what happened to someone, but you can listen to them, believe them, and be a source of comfort.

Some things you can say to someone who has been impacted by domestic or sexual violence:


  •  “I believe you.” The most important thing to do when supporting a survivor is validate their experience. Let them know you believe them.
  • “It wasn’t your fault.” It is essential that a survivor understand they are not responsible for their assault or abuse. Be a supportive voice and remind them that they are not to blame.
  • “I’m sorry this happened to you.” Mindful language is key: let survivors know that what happened was unacceptable, and that you take their experience and feelings seriously.
  • “Can I help?” Let survivors know you are there to support them without being forceful. This allows survivors power of choice on whether to seek out your help.
  • “What do you need most right now?” Give the survivor space to decide what comes next; there is no single right or wrong way for a survivor to respond to an assault or abuse.


It takes a lot of courage for a survivor of domestic violence or sexual assault to share their story with anyone. Never underestimate the power you have to affect the course of a survivor’s healing journey. Our 24-Hour Hotline is available always at 262.542.3828.

For more information about our events during DVAM and ways you can get involved this month and throughout the year, visit www.twcwaukesha.org.

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Blog Categories
  • Health
Categories: Health

Mortenson is Building a Stronger Community!

Mortenson volunteers at various projects around the region.

October 4, 2018

Written by Susan Smieja, sr. account manager, United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County

As United Way staff members, we get to attend many events at area businesses that support United Way. Some businesses go above and beyond to give their employees opportunities to help their community. Mortenson is one of those companies. They recently kicked off their annual United Way campaign by inviting all staff to breakfast to learn more about the campaign and shared a presentation either in-person or remotely.  Mortenson did a “stand down” for the campaign, so everyone – even those out in the field – could participate in the kickoff.

According to Mortenson General Manager Jeff Gruhn, “It is really important to us to include all locations and to share communications with all team members, including craft workers, so everyone can take part.”

Mortenson has been running United Way campaigns at their greater Milwaukee location since 1991 and has raised more than $250,000 in the last five years alone. Their employees are passionate about giving back, averaging about 77% participation in the campaign annually. 

Their theme this year is Do Something Good and they are promoting both giving and volunteering. In fact, they have organized seven volunteer projects for their employees to participate in. They also do something really unique to encourage volunteerism, for every four hours employees volunteer, Mortenson donates $200 to United Way. As though that were not enough, Mortenson also matches employee donations $1 for $1 up to $250 each. They truly embody what it mean to Live United.

At the kick off presentation, Jeff Gruhn emphasized the importance of giving back to our community and of Mortenson’s core values of service and stewardship. He talked about United Way’s fiscal responsibility and the impact we are having in greater Milwaukee as two of the reasons that Mortenson supports United Way. He said that Mortenson strives to provide for their employees so that they in turn can help others.  

According to Jeff, Mortenson encourages employees to look for ways to give back: “With the diversity of our outreach, we have the opportunity to impact many different areas. We have many team members, including our craft workers and new members, who can all give back and make a difference in our community.” 

Maggie Bork, a project manager at Mortenson, leads the employee campaign. She said it was an easy decision to take on this role, because United Way impacted her life. “My grandmother participated in a United Way-funded adult day care program that allowed her to stay in her home and stay with her family. Once your life is impacted, you can’t say no.”

Ross Bunchek, an estimator for Mortenson, has helped with the campaign for two years now. He says, “We cannot volunteer for every organization we want to, so donating financially is another way to extend our outreach.”

If you are wondering why Mortenson is so passionate about helping the community, Jeff Gruhn summed it up best when he quoted Mort Mortenson, whose father founded Mortenson Construction, in 1954: “There is no greater gift we can give others than our time and treasure.”

As a community, we are lucky that Mortenson continues to hold these values true today.

Feeling inspired? Learn how your company can have an impact in our community with United Way.

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Blog Categories
  • Volunteer
  • Workplace Partner

Coordinators Appreciation Week: Family Support and Fresh Food Access at Hopkins Lloyd

Glenn Carson

October 1, 2018

Written by Glenn Carson, community school coordinator at Hopkins Lloyd Community School.

September 24-28 is Community School Coordinators Appreciation Week! Learn more about the Milwaukee Community Schools Partnership and check back here regularly to learn more about the exciting projects going on at Milwaukee’s Community Schools.

This is my fourth year in my position as community school coordinator at Hopkins Lloyd Community School, hired through United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County. I work every day to align school partnerships to our school’s goals to better support the success of our students.  The work of a community school coordinator is not as cookie cutter as one would think, we have our hands in various aspects of the school and community.

Since being in the position here at Hopkins-Lloyd, I have been able to bring partners together to work cohesively within our building and with our students.  An example would be our monthly English Language Arts meetings I host with our four partners leading that work in our building (City Year, Reading Corps, Transformative Reading Instruction, and Core Knowledge Language Arts).  Once a month we look at student data, compare different strategies, create a student data inventory and work on various goals.  These meetings help our partners not only better service our students, but also stay connected to each other and align their work towards common goals.

When I first got to Hopkins Lloyd food access was a big concern for community members and our families.  Our principal, Ms. Harris, and I researched the possibility of getting a food pantry in our school that could service our families and the community.  With our building being as old as it is, we did not have enough accessibility to host food pantries in our building.  We later learned about the Pick N Save Fresh Picks Mobile Food Market.  I reached out and we came to an agreement to host the mobile market each month.  We have now hosted the Pick N Save Mobile Market for over two years on the last Tuesday of each month.  The market provides easy access to fresh produce, meat and dairy items at a 25% discounted price for the community.

One of our most recent programs we started is Homework Diners. Homework Diners are bi-weekly family engagement events that allow students and families to receive homework support from classroom teachers and volunteer tutors while enjoying a free community meal for the whole family.  This is a program myself and Principal Harris saw at a Community School in Albuquerque, New Mexico during a conference.  We loved the idea of parents and teachers working together to help students with their homework and wanted to bring it to our school. We implemented the program last February and partnered with HeartLove Place and their culinary arts students to prepare our meals for each diner.  The program got parents more involved in their students academics and allowed an easy opportunity for parent and teacher collaboration.  Our first Homework Diner for the school year will be Wednesday, October 10.

Being a community school coordinator at Hopkins Lloyd Community School has been a very fulfilling and educating experience.  My favorite part about the position is that the work is never the same, we are always looking for new and innovative ways of growing and broadening the Milwaukee Community School Partnership within our schools. 

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Coordinators Appreciation Week: Failure is Not an Option at North Division High School

Lateff Alston (back row, third from left) with the Milwaukee Community School Coordinators team. 

September 28, 2018

Written by Lateff Alston, community school coordinator at North Division High School.

September 24-28 is Community School Coordinators Appreciation Week! Learn more about the Milwaukee Community Schools Partnership and check back here all week to learn more about the exciting projects going on at Milwaukee’s Community Schools.

I am Lateff Alston, the new community school coordinator at North Division High School.  I am employed though the Milwaukee Urban League and under the auspices of the United Way. Prior to this wonderful partnership, I worked for Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin –Project Ujima as a community liaison for 12 years, serving youth survivors and families impacted by interpersonal violence. I also served as a health educator for the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Milwaukee-Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program for two years, teaching grades 6-12 in several MPS schools, and private schools including Messmer High School, my alma mater. This opportunity also afforded me the chance to teach at the Milwaukee House of Corrections working with their high school population.

I am motivated and optimistic at the many possibilities that North Division possesses. In spite of being labeled a “failing school,” low enrollment and a high absenteeism rate, the “spirit” of North Division is still felt in every square foot of that amazing edifice.  Located in the heart of Milwaukee’s central city 53206 area code, North Division has been a staple for educating youth since 1906. The students at North are surround by a brilliant group of amazing people that give tirelessly to educating our youth not only academically but also educating the complete student. Although low enrollment is an area of growth for North Division, the students tend to be much closer to one another forging a stronger bond corporally -- bond that is not easily broken.  School spirit is another unique quality of North Division High School. I’ve had the privilege to teach in several MPS high schools and I am ecstatic at the way the students “rep” their school. Everywhere you look, students are wearing the North Division logo somewhere on them. That says promise… that says hope!

The possibilities are truly endless to rewrite the school’s current narrative. A school that was the hub for educational greatness will be restored back to a mega power school it once was. I am most excited for the opportunity for theater to live again in North Division. Broadway products like Dream Girls, Westside Story, and A Raisin in the Sun just to name a few were the norm for this high school, which drew hundreds of people though it’s auditorium doors. Today, efforts are being made through a team of people comprised of current teachers and alumni to resurrect the fine arts department. I sit on the board not just as the community school coordinator but also as a “North Thespian.” I did not attend North Division High School but I was a part of all of the plays mentioned. 

Finally, my hope for the school harmonizes with many people in this community and that’s to see North Division High School become a force to be reckoned with in the MPS school district and across Wisconsin. For it to be not just a “thriving” school but a school that is ranked one of the best, if not the best school in Milwaukee.  Because at North Division “Failure is not an option…but success is.”

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Coordinators Appreciation Week: Connecting the Dots at Longfellow School

Longfellow Community School Coordinator Nestor Muro (L) with local police officers at the school's annual carnival in May.

September 27, 2018

Written by Néstor Muro, employed by Journey House as community school coordinator at Milwaukee’s H.W. Longfellow School.

September 24-28 is Community School Coordinators Appreciation Week! Learn more about the Milwaukee Community Schools Partnership and check back here all week to learn more about the exciting projects going on at Milwaukee’s Community Schools.

As the proud community school coordinator at H.W. Longfellow School and as we enter the second year as an official community school, I feel more inspired, determined and committed to work with families, staff, and community partners in support of our efforts to help students and families thrive.

Located in the heart of the Clarke Square community, our school community is often faced with numerous inequalities such as the lack of a mental health resource that will support our students and families. This summer, as a way to strengthen our partnership, between Journey House and Longfellow and to create synergy around collaboration, we hosted a Welcome Back to School Kick Off for both Longfellow and Journey House staff to mingle and learn about each other’s work, opening doors for future collaboration on family engagement events and in the after-school space. At the Welcome Back to School Kick Off we had food, music, raffle prices and a guest speaker from one of our newest partners at Journey House, Mindstar Counseling LLC. Mindstar Counseling LLC, is a local certified outpatient mental health clinic that serves adults and youth 3 years and above for a variety of mental health and social needs. Additionally, we had two international fellows through the U.S. State Department from the Republic of Congo and Israel share their work and offered their support in their short stay.

I am also excited about connecting families to local resources such as the new partnership with Mindstar Counseling LLC and bringing awareness to students and families of the resources and programs that our school has to offer. Furthermore, I look forward to sharing with families the immense support received from our partners through volunteering, workshops, donations, mentoring, field trips and more from the following but not limited to: Arts @ Large, Alverno College, Children’s Hospital, Ernst and Young, Journey House, Northwestern Mutual, Marquette University, Safe and Sound, United Way of Greater Milwaukee and Waukesha County, just to name a few.

A long-term goal is to continue to expose students and families to resources and opportunities that otherwise they may not have had and maintain the reputation that proceeds us as being a well-rounded and academically challenging community school. I aspire for students and families to continue to feel welcomed and supported by our staff, our school leaders and our community partners.

I feel confident that our team of talented and passionate educators will continue to serve our school community to the best of their ability and place Longfellow as one of the top schools in the state. In conclusion, I am grateful to be a part of the Longfellow, Journey House and the Clarke Square family and excited for what the future holds for us.

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Coordinators Appreciation Week: Dismantling Barriers and Celebrating Growth at Browning Elementary School

September 24, 2018

Written by Malayia Roper, community school coordinator at Browning Elementary School

September 24-28 is Community School Coordinators Appreciation Week! Learn more about the Milwaukee Community Schools Partnership and check back here all week to learn more about the exciting projects going on at Milwaukee’s Community Schools.

Today, I give our communities and our schools permission to dismantle the barriers. To make it a point to approach, honor, and feel it all. Feel the highs, the lows, the newness, and even the areas of discomfort. To respect our school environments, to trust the process, yet still be bold enough to be transformative in our ideas. To identify community issues in a way that is relevant to all cultures that are represented. To challenge the system. To be intentional. To be willing. To be present.

Each day is a new day in the fight against educational inequities. We must keep our boots to the ground and our hearts connected to the purpose as purpose triggers passion and passion ignites power in the schools and communities we work with. We must keep that power blazing as this fight is not easy. We’re faced with resistance and even complacency; however, that power precedes any pain or setbacks that may come our way. No, the fight is not easy, but by keeping that passion, we can keep pushing, keep uplifting, and keep carrying on.

As anchors in the work, we must keep focused. We must keep walking. We have to keep going. We have to understand that this mission, this assignment is bigger than what’s easy or what’s safe or what’s comfortable. We have to be willing to stand in the gap and do things differently to understand our students, our families, and our communities. We must operate past our fancy checklists and outside of our comfortable board rooms in order to step out of ‘compliance’ into a radicalness that creates space for everyone to feel free enough to join the movement.

Here at Browning School, we’re into our third year of being a Community School. We’re still in the beginning phases of transitioning away from telling people ‘what’ to think into a new mindset that  encourages people to tell us ‘why’ we should care. For many years, Browning was labeled a “last resort elementary school” or “a failing school,” Everyone had these perceptions of the school that overwhelmed and sometimes outshined the truth behind the Browning way. So, when a group of teachers began listening to the students’ opinions for the school, Browning organized a ‘Hygiene Closet,’ designed to meet the needs of the students and families we engage with. This closet is managed by our school’s social worker and provides students and families with a fun shopping experience. There was a great need to provide our community with high quality hygiene products that were readily available. And though the project is still in its early launch, it is one way Browning is no longer ‘telling’ and is taking the time to lean in, to listen, and to understand.

Browning is such a special place. No, it’s not exempt from challenges; however, there is so much love, excitement, and commitment to the work and the families we engage with. As a Community School , we’ve launched neighborhood events, developed parent groups, leveraged new and existing resources, and invited partners such as UWM Community Nursing Center, Silver Spring Neighborhood Center, Safe & Sound, Westlawn Resident Council, and Housing Authority City of Milwaukee (HACM) to the table. We’ve crafted the makings of a united school narrative that has helped us to rethink the ‘why’ in order to be more intentional with ‘what’ we do. We’ve given ourselves permission to embrace our school’s culture, to trust the process, to trust the setbacks, and to feel it all. We know the fight is not easy; however, the movement is worth it. Here at Browning, we’re dismantling our barriers, we’re adjusting our plans, and we’re showing up each day united as one band, one voice, one sound.

I charge everyone -- every Community School, every voice -- to fight. Fight with passion, purpose, and a power so strong that it encourages even the naysayers to take a listen. Every day, we are faced with challenges at the local and even national level that try to silence us simply because we’re headed in a new direction. However, with each new ‘why’ and each new story, we will rise. Those in disbelief may try to end our fight, but we will rise. Those too afraid to speak up may try to discourage us, but we will rise. We’re like seeds and though they may try to bury us, we will rise. We will rise.

Cheers to Community Schools. Cheers to Community School Coordinators. We rock!


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Life Happens!

September 17, 2018

Written by Greg A. Brigowatz CLF, LUTCF, Managing Partner, Financial Solutions Group

September is Life Insurance Awareness Month. If your death would have both an emotional and financial impact on others, making sure your life insurance coverage is adequate should be at the top of your “to do list”.

Unfortunately, having a conversation about life insurance is usually at or near the bottom of most people’s list of things to do. An experienced, well rounded, and educated Advisor can go a long way to help you establish a program that will protect the ones that you love and make sure your plans don’t die if you do.

Life Insurance and the Life Insurance industry has changed a great deal over the years. Obtaining life insurance has become easier with advances like fluid-less underwriting (no needles!), algorithmic underwriting (using technology such as databases available via the internet), and a wider portfolio of products.  Other than procrastination, there really is no good reason to not have the appropriate amount of coverage to protect the people and things you care about the most.

In addition to advancements in the types of products available, the ease of obtaining a policy, and the underwriting process, a couple of innovative and unique programs have been created to help serve a greater variety of people.

MassMutual has created three unique programs that define “out-of-the-box thinking” when it comes to helping people get the life insurance they need…..LifeBridge, SpecialCare, and CoverPath.

LifeBridge is a corporate responsibility program designed to provide free life insurance for income qualifying, working families….yes, I said “free” life insurance for qualifying individuals.

LifeBridge will help give income-eligible parents and legal guardians peace of mind. Under the LifeBridge free life insurance program, MassMutual will issue a $50,000 term life insurance policy for a period of 10 years. If the insued parent or guardian dies during this time, $50,000 will be put in a trust, administered by the MassMutual Trust Company, to pay the educational expenses of his or her eligible children. MassMutual pays the premiums; there is no cost to the insured or their children.

If you or someone you may know may be eligible, please follow this link for more information on LifeBridge and to view the eligibility form! http://bit.ly/LifeBridgeForm

The SpecialCare Enhanced Underwriting Pilot Program can provide insurance coverage to those individuals that were historically considered uninsurable under current guidelines. The objective is to offer an underwritten policy to enhance the special care program and to make a modest amount of life insurance available to a select group of individuals with the most common disability diagnoses. Life Insurance is now available for those with the following impairments:

  • Down Syndrome
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Autism

To learn more about this program, please visit our website at http://bit.ly/MassMutalSpecialCare

CoverPath is a program that incorporates fluid-less and algorithmic underwriting to provide people with an opportunity to go online to secure life insurance coverage quickly, and easily. Qualified candidates can get a quote for coverage and a policy approved in under 20 minutes.  Click here to learn more http://bit.ly/CoverpathMassMutual!

If you would like to make sure your life insurance program is correctly designed to have the appropriate amount of benefits, the right type of coverage for your situation, and is structured with the correct ownership and beneficiaries designations, contact a qualified Advisor to assist you. If it has been a few years since you reviewed your coverages, invest the time to review what you have. It will be time well spent.


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Blog Categories
  • Financial Stability
  • Health

United Way Kicks Off 2018 Community Campaign!

From left: Cory Nettles, Mary Lou Young, Don Layden, David Gay, Amy Lindner, Mike Rowe, Cristy Garcia-Thomas, George Oliver, Mark Irgens, and Jay Magulski proudly announce United Way's 2018 Goals: $56 million fundraising and 40,000 volunteer hours!

August 31, 2018

Written by Katie Kuhn, United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County

For the first time, United Way kicked off the annual Community Campaign right here at our Milwaukee office! More than 350 community members gathered to hear from our 2018 campaign co-chairs, celebrate our $56 million fundraising and 40,000 hour volunteer goals, and tour the brand-new Johnson Controls Volunteer Center.  

Now it’s time to get to work, and we can’t do it without you! Here are some fun and easy ways to get involved with United Way this season:

Did you attend the event? Check out the facebook photo album and don’t forget to tag yourself!

Get those tissues ready! Watch the 2018 United Way success story videos and share with your friends and family.

Or read and share the 2018 stories here.

Caring is always in season! United Way’s newly-expanded Seasons of Caring connects individuals, workplace and professional teams, school groups, and entire organizations to meaningful volunteer work through 15+ signature events and agency partner projects. Find a volunteer opportunity.

Never miss an opportunity to impact your community. Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram (@UnitedWayGMWC). Use #LiveUnited.

Your gift to United Way's Community Fund, strategic focus areas, or community-wide initiatives ensures that your donation is invested where the need is greatest. Donate today.

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  • Events
Categories: Events

“They Teach Us Something, Too.”

August 22, 2018

Written by Katie Kuhn, United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County

When Oby Nwabuzor, a community volunteer, entered James Madison Academic Campus for her first Women United Mentoring Session, she intentionally went in without expectations. “I knew it wasn’t going to be about me,” remembers Oby. “It’s about the girls.”

Since 2015, United Way’s Women United donor group has hosted quarterly mentoring sessions with sophomore girls at James Madison, a Milwaukee Community School. This program is designed to engage and provide role models with a focus on mentoring around issues to help the girls succeed in career and life.

Volunteers are matched one-on-one or one-on-two with students and have candid conversations around professionalism, resume building, and interview skills. The goal of this program is to help prepare these young women for success in life after high school.

Oby works with the same students at each session: Linda and Myonna. When they met, Linda had recently transferred to James Madison from another school and was struggling to achieve enough credits to pass on to the next grade. Both girls wanted to improve their grades and find part-time jobs for extra money.

“Linda and Myonna are bright and receptive to advice to help them do better and become leaders of tomorrow,” says Oby. “However, it took awhile for us to get there.”

Many of the students at James Madison have experienced challenges that can make it difficult to succeed in school, such as poverty, homelessness, and trauma.  

“The ideal approach to mentorship in this case is to build a relationship,” says Oby. “As you build that relationship, you help build these young people up. And then, as you build people up, you’re able to expose them to things they may not have been exposed to. That’s when the mentoring comes in.”

Both Linda and Myonna identify as Black, which is one of the reasons Oby felt motivated to mentor in this space. “I wanted the girls to see someone professional who looked like them. I don’t think young girls of color often see other women of color in that perspective.”

United Way is proud to connect the dots between volunteers willing to share their time and talents, and community members - like students at JMAC - who could use a helping hand. In 2018 alone, volunteers contributed more than 42,000 hours giving back to their community through United Way.

Over the course of four sessions, Oby, Linda, and Myonna talked about everything from professionalism and how to conduct yourself in an interview. They also discussed the unique challenges women experience in work and life, like dressing for your body, dealing with emotions, and the expectation that they play the role of caretaker for the family.

“There are things you can talk to another woman about that you probably wouldn’t talk to a male mentor about – just things he hasn’t experienced,” says Oby, who has faced similar situations in her own professional life. “That’s where the relationship forms, in those candid interactions with other women.”

By the third session, both Myonna and Linda had gotten their grades up, and were working hard on the other goals they had set together with “Miss Oby.”

“These sessions have gotten me started thinking about careers,” says Myonna. “I am working on setting financial goals, ways to get a good job, and how to present ourselves in a professional way.”

“I put my goal sheet on the refrigerator so I remember to stay on track,” says Linda. “I know that, next year, I can aim for higher goals.”

For Myonna, the sessions have helped her with her current job hunt: “I learned I can put volunteering on my resume, and to incorporate language from the job description into it when applying for a job.”

Oby is overjoyed to see her mentee’s progress, and reflected on how the experience has also been impactful for her. “While we are there to mentor them, they teach us something, too. They have taught me to always be in a learning state of mind. It’s an honor to be able to do this, and so rewarding to come back again and again.”

Make an impact on the life and career of a local young woman by signing up to mentor with Women United.

Learn more about how you can help Women United make an impact in our community.

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Blog Categories
  • Women's Leadership
Categories: Women's Leadership

Sobelmans and United Way – a Delicious Partnership

August 13, 2018

Written by Melanie Sobelman, Co-president, Sobelmans

Give as much of yourself as you can so that others have a chance to blossom.

Something that has always been dear to my heart is giving, which is why I feel so fortunate to be able to incorporate that into my business. Sobelmans embraces the chance to help others in every way possible no matter the circumstances. If we can be of any help at all, we are in.

Connecting with the United Way and various other organizations has been one of the most exciting things we have done. Their mission is the same as ours: to help others, see the good in every situation, and give the most you can.

In so many ways, Sobelmans is that long branch on a tree that extends itself outward with the mission of picking someone up when they’re at their lowest, regardless of the circumstances.

That is exactly why I personally love United Way. They're on the same page as us, with a willingness to give to anyone and everyone continuously for the greater good.

Needless to say, I hope Sobelmans and United Way’s partnership will continue for many years to come and that we will do great things for people who are in need.

Sobelmans is a longtime partner in United We Dine, a delicious, one-day even where restaurants all over the region donate 10% of their sales to United Way’s Community Fund. Learn more and join us in 2018!

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  • Events
Categories: Events

Podcast: Meet the P5! August Ball

August 8, 2018

Produced by Katie Kuhn, United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County

Listen Now (00:21:57)


Welcome to our “5 with the 5” week of podcasts interviews with our amazing 2018 Philanthropic 5 award winners. Each year, United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County Emerging Leaders honor five community leaders for their commitment to the community through their Philanthropic 5 awards.

The awards, created by United Way’s Emerging Leaders Council, recognize five community leaders in their 20s, 30s, and 40s who give, advocate, and volunteer for change throughout our region.

Today we talk with P5 winner August Ball, founder of Cream City Conservation. August is passionate about giving diverse youth opportunities to explore their interests in environmental fields as well as encouraging diversity in local workplaces, so she combined these interests into her dream job.

Register to attend the Philanthropic 5 Awards Event...one of our most popular events of the year!
Thursday, August 16, 5:30pm at The Ivy House

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Blog Categories
  • Emerging Leaders
  • Philanthropic 5

Podcast: Meet the P5! Dan Sweeney

August 7, 2018

Produced by Katie Kuhn, United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County

Listen Now (00:18:21)


Welcome to our “5 with the 5” week of podcasts interviews with our amazing 2018 Philanthropic 5 award winners. Each year, United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County Emerging Leaders honor five community leaders for their commitment to the community through their Philanthropic 5 awards.

The awards, created by United Way’s Emerging Leaders Council, recognize five community leaders in their 20s, 30s, and 40s who give, advocate, and volunteer for change throughout our region.

Today we talk with P5 winner Dan Sweeney. Dan works in community development at Wells Fargo – a job he loves and one that allows him to partner with organizations such as Habitat for Humanity to strengthen the communities in which Wells Fargo operates. Dan is also a board member of LISC and Historic Milwaukee. We had fun chatting about why he gives his time to these causes, his love for the water, and who he would most like to invite out on his boat.

Register to attend the Philanthropic 5 Awards Event...one of our most popular events of the year!
Thursday, August 16, 5:30pm at The Ivy House

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Blog Categories
  • Emerging Leaders
  • Philanthropic 5

Podcast: Meet the P5! Kris Havlik

August 7, 2018

Produced by Katie Kuhn, United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County

Listen Now (00:17:59)


Welcome to our “5 with the 5” week of podcasts interviews with our amazing 2018 Philanthropic 5 award winners. Each year, United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County Emerging Leaders honor five community leaders for their commitment to the community through their Philanthropic 5 awards.

The awards, created by United Way’s Emerging Leaders Council, recognize five community leaders in their 20s, 30s, and 40s who give, advocate, and volunteer for change throughout our region.

Today we talk with Kris Havlik, one of our 2018 Philanthropic Five award winners. An estate planning attorney with Foley & Lardner, Kris was part of the effort to bring Wills for Heros to Wisconsin. Wills for Heroes is a national program started after September 11, 2001, to provide free estate planning to first responders. Kris is a proud mom of two and enjoys leading her daughters Girl Scout Troop and coaching her local middle school forensics team. 

Register to attend the Philanthropic 5 Awards Event...one of our most popular events of the year!
Thursday, August 16, 5:30pm at The Ivy House

>>Continue Reading

Blog Categories
  • Emerging Leaders
  • Philanthropic 5



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