Originally Published: April 23, 2023
Honoring our past, looking forward as United Way of the Midlands hits milestone
In 1923, extraordinary local citizens banded together for a common cause and formed what is now United Way of the Midlands (UWM). Initially called The Community Chest, the organization was designed to pool community resources and invest in critical health and human services nonprofits that directly supported local needs.
In the earliest days, funds were raised from across the community and allocated to 32 nonprofit organizations. And in the 1930s, the organization temporarily changed its focus to serve individuals who were unable to receive any government relief.
While much has changed, much remains the same. UWM is still a trusted steward for donor dollars and an agent of change. As needs have continually evolved over the years, we have focused resources and expanded the network of organizations we support — while also mobilizing people and resources in times of economic crisis, health emergencies and natural disasters.
We continue to thrive today because of the strategic leadership of our Board of Directors, and the amazing partnerships we’ve created with local businesses, state and local government, individual donors, nonprofit agencies, volunteers and others. Together, they all serve to inspire philanthropy, strengthen the health and human services infrastructure in our community and support the work we do.
Thanks to this ongoing support, UWM now invests in more than 150 nonprofit programs, and has stepped up to fill unmet needs through direct services — including the 211 Helpline and JAG Nebraska:
• The 211 Helpline is an essential service offered to the entire state of Nebraska — as well as Iowa on nights and weekends. It provides free information and referral services to people who may not know how to find or access local programs to address their needs. Connected to more than 19,000 programs and services across Nebraska and Iowa, the 211 Helpline is open to provide assistance 24/7, 365 days a year in over 240 languages.
In 2022 alone, the 211 Helpline recorded more than 364,000 contacts — a nearly 40% increase from 2021 — with callers’ top five needs being: housing, utility assistance, employment, healthcare and food.
• Created through a partnership with the State of Nebraska’s Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services — JAG Nebraska is dedicated to empowering students with personal and professional development training and support to succeed in high school, higher education, the workplace and life.
Since 2019, JAG Nebraska has grown to serve over 1,000 students at 24 middle and high school programs across the state. With the support of Governor Pillen, and UWM’s Emerging Leaders group, future goals for the program are to continue to expand statewide programs — increasing capacity to serve all students that would benefit from JAG Nebraska.
A certified JAG Career Specialist in each school provides attention and support to students through hands-on instruction and realistic learning experiences where they master a minimum of 37 and up to 87 core competencies identified by business and industry as essential to successful employment and positive outcomes in life.
When organizations like ours achieve 100 years of making a positive impact, it is easy to look back and marvel at what has been accomplished. Instead, UWM is using this milestone as an opportunity to look forward and see how our organization can continue and expand its work for our community over the next 100 years.