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Making a Mark

Now more than ever, communities need help and hope. We offer both through our programs, while connecting people with critical resources and delivering solutions at scale.

Character Starts in the Classroom

Success in life starts with a strong foundation. That’s why United Way is committed to educating today’s youth, preparing them for good jobs and keeping them healthy as they build their futures. An integral part of these efforts is our dedication to character development; specifically, social-emotional learning. Research shows programs that emphasize this important part of a student’s development are proven to increase their academic performance by 83 percent, and yet in communities across the nation, this type of programming is difficult to find—until now.

United Way and the National Football League (NFL) teamed up to launch Character Playbook™, an interactive program powered by digital-learning innovator, EverFi, that uses evidence-based strategies to educate students on how to cultivate and maintain healthy relationships during their critical middle school years. The program’s digital curriculum, which offers six modules in graphic novel form, helps students discover conflict-resolution strategies, learn coping mechanisms and gain confidence in the classroom. For students like Donald, Character Playbook has been invaluable.

“I never thought a program could help me with my social life, outside and inside my house, but it helped me through a lot of problems,” said Donald, who engaged with Character Playbook through United Way of Essex and West Hudson. “I would get mad over little things, and it helped me calm down. It taught me to surround myself with the kind of friends who can build me up, instead of tearing me down.”

Character Playbook is making a significant mark in communities across the nation, engaging 98 United Ways and working with nearly 1,000 schools to set students up for success. Adopted by the hometown communities of all 32 NFL teams, the program—provided free to schools—has helped more than 82,000 students complete nearly 282,000 modules, a testament to our shared goal of elevating character education in the classroom.

To learn more about Character Playbook, visit www.characterplaybook.com.

Supporting Those Who’ve Served

Pride. That’s what Francisco Martinez (pictured at left) felt after enlisting in the military. Deployed overseas to fight for our freedom, Francisco faced the stark reality of combat in war-torn regions. From dodging danger in the field to witnessing the plight of hungry children, life in the military was challenging but rewarding for the soldier from Florida. It wasn’t until Francisco returned stateside that he was confronted with his biggest opponent yet—civilian life.

Having given up everything for the military, Francisco came home to little opportunity and even less support. With no job and meager savings, he struggled to make ends meet. A chance encounter at a veterans’ hospital led to the help he needed. As he was receiving medical attention for an injured hand, Francisco learned about MISSION UNITED™, a United Way program that helps military veterans and their families successfully acclimate to civilian life. A single phone call connects veterans to a dedicated case coordinator ready to assist. By ensuring veterans receive the services they need—from therapy to financial management—MISSION UNITED helps people get back on their feet.

When Francisco was hungry, broke and living in his truck, United Way of Broward County and its partners, through MISSION UNITED, helped him find a place to live and put food on his table. When he was struggling to find a job, Francisco was invited to a career workshop, where he worked with a coach to update his resume and develop interviewing skills. As a result, Francisco landed a job as a delivery driver for UPS, where he has since been promoted three times. Now the military veteran has a steady income, a roof over his head and a bright future.

“Without United Way and MISSION UNITED, I would still be struggling,” said Francisco. “To know there are people out there who have my back, who can help me with certain things out of the goodness of their heart, it makes me happy. I wish all of the veterans that come back know that, too."

With 21 locations (and counting) in communities across the nation, MISSION UNITED is helping veterans like Francisco find their footing. Since the program launched in 2013, more than 12,000 current and former soldiers, as well as their loved ones, have gotten help. That includes 1,177 homeless families who found safe, permanent housing, and 463 unemployed veterans who obtained jobs in parts of Florida, Virginia and New York. We are proud to serve those who have served us by ensuring they have access to the health, education and financial stability services they’ve earned.

Help is Just a Phone Call Away

MISSION UNITED relies on 2-1-1 to provide veterans and military-connected individuals with easy, 24/7 access to help. A free and confidential service that helps millions of people across the United States—and in many parts of Canada—2-1-1 is a solutions provider for everything from health and housing, to disaster assistance, human trafficking and employment. This year, 2-1-1 operators responded to more than 13 million requests, connecting people with critical solutions to everyday problems. And our coverage across America expanded to almost 94 percent of the entire country. In many parts of the nation, 2-1-1 is a program supported by local United Ways, one that plays a key role in the collective fight for every person in every community.

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Not All Heroes Wear Capes

The Hero EffectTM, a 10-episode docuseries showcasing stories of ordinary individuals who are making extraordinary differences in their communities, premiered on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network in November. Presented by United Way and created by Dolphin Entertainment, the show seeks to inspire viewers to take action in their communities. The series spotlights real-life stories that build on our mission to fight for the health, education and financial stability of every person in every community.

The Hero Effect covers a broad range of issues, from connecting veterans with housing and jobs in Florida, to building children’s reading skills in Iowa. The second episode featured chef Chad Houser (pictured at center), who is empowering youth in Dallas through his restaurant, Café Momentum. Created through GroundFloor, a social incubator housed by United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, Chad and Café Momentum are transforming the lives of teens who have been recently released from juvenile detention centers. Employment at Café Momentum also provides these employees with important social, vocational and financial skills. Chad is giving youth the ingredients they need to live healthy and successful lives.

To learn more about The Hero Effect, visit www.HeroEffect.com.