Community Initiatives

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 25 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, 6,160 local children have graduated from the program, and 382,156 books have been delivered to homes throughout our service area.  At this time, 2,628 local children receive a book delivered to their home on a monthly basis (stats as of February 2019).
  • 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 ( under the Impact tab. 
  • 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 2018, we provided 67,003 school supplies to 3,794 students attending 23 area schools.
  • Wild About Kindergarten School Readiness Kits are distributed to encourage children and their parents/guardians 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, pair of scissors, glue stick, notepad, modeling clay, toothbrush, practice worksheets for children, parent/guardian resources and new this year a Numbers Go Fish card game.  We distributed 800 kits in 2019.
  • 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 2018, UWSWMN traveled to 10 Born Learning Trails for children and/or daycares to participate.  As a way to encourage ongoing reading, daycare providers in attendance are given a free bag of books to use in their daycare.  Additionally, each child in attendance receives a free book.
  • 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.
  • Student Emergency Fund Grants totaling over $13,000 were distributed in July, 2019 to 24 local schools that applied for funds. Funds are to be used at the districts’ discretion to support their neediest students. Participating schools reported that during the 2018-19 school year funds were used for items such as: activity/band/fieldtrip fees, underwear, clothing, socks and shoes, lunch assistance, hygiene items, emergency food support, eyeglasses and vision exams, winter apparel, specialized school supplies, etc.
  • 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.
  • 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 October 2018, we organized 146 volunteers for this one day literacy event to read the book Maybe Something Beautiful in 144 classrooms in 18 schools; 8 libraries; 14 childcare centers/pre-schools/headstarts; and on KMHL radio. A copy of the book was donated to each classroom by UWSWMN for continued use.  This year’s event will be held on November 7, 2019 and will feature the book Thank You Omu! by Oge Mora! WATCH FOR DETAILS!
  • 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.