The summer solstice on Saturday will offer some extra time to bask in the sun but instead of spreading out the beach towels, thousands of volunteers across the nation will participate in the first annual United Way Day of Action.
More than 150 communities in 45 states – from Boston to Anchorage – are joining in as a part of the LIVE UNITED campaign. Each United Way participating chooses its own agenda for a variety of events – from the United Way of San Diego’s plans to stuff a vintage Volvo bus with toys for abused and neglected children to United Way of the Greater Seacoast, based in Portsmouth, N.H., that will host a four-mile community road race.
“People are able to build off of the important focus around education, income and health and yet really make it tangible and meaningful for their local community so it has the greatest impact and makes a difference,” said Mei Cobb, volunteer engagement consultant for United Way of America.
United Way Day of Action will highlight the $4-billion organization’s refocused health, income and education goals stemming from its “Goals for the Common Good: The United Way Challenge to America.” The report, released at the United Way’s annual conference on May 15, expresses three core goals that United Way wants the nation to reach by 2018 – cut high school dropout rates in half, reducing by half the number of financial unstable working families, and increase the number of youth and adults that are healthy by a third.
The three initiatives require United Way to establish ways to improve kindergarten readiness and learning in school systems, help people budget their income and create long-term financial goals, and increase health coverage and reduce peoples’ risky behaviors, such as abusing substances.
“Our aim is to ignite a social movement around this. And so Day of Action is the first invitation to get involved in our LIVE UNITED campaign, which has give, advocate and volunteer as calls to action,” said Cynthia Round, United Way of America’s executive vice president of brand leadership. Round hoped that the Day of Action would not just be an annual event, but would grow into events and actions throughout the year, and mobilize partnerships across the nonprofit, corporate and government sectors to induce change. “It’s an invitation for everyone to be a part of the change and to help create the change that will lead to these goals by 2018.”
United Way outlined several suggestions on its Web site on how volunteers could participate in the day, in the areas of education, income and health areas. Suggestions ranged from preparing tax returns to giving blood, and from distributing emergency preparedness packages to building an early education-learning trail as a part of the Born Learning initiative.
United Way also tried to extend the Day of Action to individuals – providing a Day of Action in a box, complete with LIVE UNITED T-shirts, buttons, thank you notes and more. United Way also took action to the Web with Facebook and a virtual petition to make 2-1-1 systems, which helps direct people to community services and information, available throughout the country.