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United Way soon to be implemented at UWRF

December 11, 2008

UW-River Falls students are in the process of starting a new chapter of the United Way on campus, a national organization started in 1887.

It was founded in Denver, Colo., by a group of religious leaders in the city. The goal of the foundation was to improve the well-being of the people living in Denver. The founders began the organization’s first campaign, which was intended to raise funds for charities in the area and to organize relief and emergency aid resources for the community. That campaign took place in 1888 and resulted in $21,700 in raised funds for the newly formed United Way.

Today, there are almost 1,300 local United Ways across the United States. Each is governed by a board of volunteers from each specific community. The United Way works with aspects of education, income and health of the communities it serves. Its mission is to enable children and youths to receive a quality education, to empower adults and families to become financially independent and to assist in the development of public health, according to the organization’s Web site.

Katelyn Smith, a senior who is majoring in marketing communications, is the president and founder of the new chapter of the United Way at UWRF. Smith started her work with the United Way when she worked as an intern at the local St. Croix Valley location this past summer. During that time she found out about a new national focus which would highlight the United Way’s fundraising, volunteering and advocating. She said she thought about the students on campus and realized that the University would be the perfect place to start a new chapter.

“What I thought of was well ‘what about the students at the University?’ That could be like a really good resource. We don’t have a lot of money to give, but we have time,” she said “This would be perfect to try to get the students more involved with the United Way.”

Smith said that the student group on campus is still in the primary stages of its development. The group submitted the paper work to make the chapter official. The objective of the group is to support the goals of the local United Way in Hudson.

“The three areas that all United Ways focus on are education, income and health. So we want to strengthen our United Way’s initiatives in those areas,” she said. “They have a food resource center, an early childhood program called success by six and also housing that they work on primarily in addition to the fund raising.”

Linda Alvarez, multicultural services coordinator of the academic success center and faculty advisor of the chapter, said that student groups are relatively new on college campuses and that they were growing in popularity. She said the new chapter will provide students with opportunities to get involved in the community.

“The chapter’s main focus is probably going to be the community and I can’t think of anything better then to be involved in making the place you live a better place for all people to live,” she said.

Alyssa Olsen, a senior who is majoring in geography, was working with Alvarez on another project when they both started working with Smith. Olsen said that the group is planning to place donation boxes in the residence halls over finals week.

“We are looking to do boxes in the dorm halls at the end of the semester during finals week to collect clothes and food and such for Christmas,” she said. “Hopefully we’ll get some full boxes. We’ll be dropping them off at the United Way, so hopefully everything will work out and we’ll get quite a bit of donations for people in need.”

Olsen said the student organizations are relatively new on college campuses across the country. The group at UWRF is trying to recruit members and get the young people in the area involved.

“We are just trying to get our generation involved because a lot of people notice that our generation is really willing to go out and help other people,” she said. “It’s been a really big success on other campuses, so hopefully we’ll have a lot of success on our campus.”