Community Initiatives

United Way of Southwest Minnesota brings the following school readiness and literacy programs to young children and their families in Lyon, Lincoln, Murray, Yellow Medicine and portions of Cottonwood, Lac qui Parle, Nobles and Redwood counties.  Each program is available free of charge because the cost of each of these programs is covered by donations to United Way of Southwest Minnesota, through partnerships with other organizations and/or grant funding.

  • Sponsorship of the Dolly Parton Imagination Library Program - More than 2,575 children in our service area (ages birth – 5 years of age) receive an age and developmentally appropriate book in the mail each month.  These children gain valuable school readiness skills each time an adult in their life takes 15 – 20 minutes to read books to them.  Since we began sponsoring the program in 2005, more than 4,600 local children have graduated from the program, and more than 285,000 books have been delivered to homes throughout our service area.
  • Stuff the Bus - In 2015, we provided more than 45,000 school supplies to approximately 3,250 students throughout 25 area schools. We engaged dozens of volunteers to collect, sort, pack and distribute supplies/backpacks to elementary, middle and high schools throughout our service area. Because of this effort, children were able to enter school with the supplies needed to learn and be successful. Barriers were removed for parents unable to supply materials needed for student success. Stuff the Bus allows youth to focus on their academic goals with supplies needed to facilitate learning.
  • Wild About Kindergarten School Readiness Kits - The goal of these kits is to encourage children and their parents/caregivers to work on school readiness skills over the spring and summer in preparation for kindergarten in the fall.  Bags are provided to every child who attends Kindergarten Round-Up in all schools in our service area.  Each kit includes a book, activity booklet, whiteboard and marker, crayons, scissor, glue stick, notepad, modeling clay, toothbrush and various worksheets for children to use for practice.  
  • We dispersed Student Emergency grants to twenty applying area schools. More than $8,000 was granted to assist the districts’ neediest students with everything from school trip/activity fees, socks/underwear, snow pants, eyeglasses, school supplies, etc.
  • Mobile Learning & Literacy Enrichment Activities

    • Summer Wild About Reading – This event is a 45 minute reading and active learning program held at area parks in June and July.  Seventeen sessions are scheduled for summer 2016.  The events feature learning activities, music and literacy skill building.  In 2015, 186 children and/or daycares participated in Wild About Reading.

    • Read for the Record® - United Way of Southwest Minnesota has coordinated Jumpstart’s Read for the Record locally for the past five years.  120 volunteers across southwest Minnesota participated in Read for the Record in 2015.  Volunteers read Not Norman:  A Goldfish Story at twenty-one schools, twelve libraries, six childcare/preschool centers and one radio station in Lyon, Lincoln, Murray, Yellow Medicine, Cottonwood, Lac qui Parle, Nobles and Redwood counties on Thursday, October 22, 2015.  Read for the Record is an annual reading celebration that highlights the need for quality early education in America by mobilizing adults and children to set a record for the largest shared reading experience.

    • 1000 Books Before Kindergarten – We work in partnership with all libraries in our service area to offer the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program to local families.  The program encourages parents to read aloud at least 1,000 books with their child(ren) before they enter kindergarten to build early literacy/vocabulary skills. Children receive a canvas library bag, reading folder with a reading log, program information and frequently asked questions. Graduation celebrations are held at respective libraries. .

    • Born Learning Trails - are designed to help parents, caregivers and communities support early learning by helping boost children’s language and literacy skills – and encouraging families to get active. They are a great way to elevate awareness of early childhood education, encourage outdoor play and promote active learning in nature. Born Learning Trails include ten fun, activity-based learning stations. We have installed permanent trails in Currie, Cottonwood, Fulda, Granite Falls and Lake Wilson and recently purchased a portable trail to be used in various ways year round.