United Way of Southwest Minnesota (UWSWMN) manages several internal programs aimed at ensuring children enter school developmentally on track in literacy, social, emotional and cognitive skills and that students, K-12, have the tools needed to succeed and thrive. Each program is available free of charge because the cost of each of these programs is covered by donations to UWSWMN, through partnerships with other organizations and/or grant funding. We serve 24 public, private and charter schools across southwest Minnesota.
- Imagination Library book program is for children (ages birth – 5 years of age) who live in our service area. Every child who is enrolled receives an age and developmentally appropriate book in the mail each month. Children gain valuable school readiness skills each time an adult in their life takes time to read books to them. Since we began sponsoring the program in 2005, 6,959 local children have graduated from the program, and 425,137 books have been delivered to homes throughout our service area. At this time, 2,389 local children receive a book delivered to their home on a monthly basis (stats as of June 2020).
- Student Emergency Fund Grants totaling over $12,000 were distributed in July, 2020 to 22 local schools that applied for funds. Funds are to be used at the schools’ discretion to support their neediest students. Participating schools reported that during the 2019-20 school year funds were used for items such as: activity/band/field trip fees, clothing, socks and shoes, lunch assistance, hygiene items, emergency food support, eyeglasses and vision exams, winter apparel, specialized school supplies, etc.
- Stuff the Bus engages dozens of volunteers to collect, sort, pack and distribute supplies and backpacks to elementary, middle and high school students. Stuff the Bus means that students can create and learn to their full potential without the worry of not having the basic tools needed to reach their academic goals. In 2020, we provided 52,075 school supplies to nearly 3,800 students attending 23 area schools.
- Jumpstart’s 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. In November, 2019, we organized 134 volunteers for this one day literacy event to read the book Thank You Omu! by Oge Mora in 153 classrooms in 21 schools; 8 libraries; 15 childcare centers/pre-schools/headstarts; and on KMHL radio. A copy of the book was donated to each classroom by UWSWMN for continued use. The 2020 event was held on October 29 and featured the book Evelyn Del Ray is Moving Away by Meg Medina. While we were unable to send volunteers into the various locations we normally would, the book was provided to any location requesting it.
- Born Learning Trails are designed to help parents, caregivers and communities support early learning by helping boost children’s language and literacy skills and encourage families to get active. Trails include 10 fun, activity-based learning stations and are a great way to elevate awareness of early childhood education, encourage outdoor play and promote active learning in nature. We have installed permanent trails in Cottonwood, Currie, Fulda, Granite Falls, Hendricks, Lake Wilson, Balaton, Walnut Grove and Dawson. Our first bilingual Trail was recently installed at the SW Amateur Sports Center in Marshall. We also have a portable version of the Trail which can be used at both indoor and outdoor events throughout the year.
- Wild About Reading is a 60 minute reading and active learning program held in June and July that focuses on literacy development while incorporating movement and hands-on activities. In 2020, UWSWMN offered five online STEM learning classes with do at home activities. Click here for access. We hope 2021 will allow us to travel to our Born Learning Trails for children and/or daycares to participate in person.
- Little Red Bookshelf is an early literacy effort that places red bookshelves at key locations where children and families often visit. Take. Read. Share. Children can enjoy the books where they are or take a book home to use. The program aims to foster a love of reading and provide access to books for all children. We currently sponsor 40 shelves in 19 communities throughout southwest Minnesota.
- 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten encourages parents/guardians to read aloud at least 1,000 books with their child(ren) before they enter kindergarten in order to help build early literacy/vocabulary skills. We work in partnership with all 16 libraries in our service area to offer this program to local families. Each library offers incentives along the way and a graduation celebration upon completion.
- Beyond the Book is an online resource that provides extension activities for 19 popular books including some Imagination Library titles. Extension activities allow children to work on their comprehension and literacy skills. Learning activities can be accessed by visiting our website (www.UnitedWaySWMN.org/BTB) under the Community Initatives tab.