Vail Daily column: Rallying to help our neighbors in need |

Vail Daily column: Rallying to help our neighbors in need

John Genova
Valley Voices

As we kick off our grant season, its good time to reflect on our United Way and its role in our community. Your United Way of Eagle River Valley is a critical community convener that mobilizes local businesses, county-based charities, community residents, leaders and public officials to create new and expanded opportunities to help our neighbors in need. We work to empower members of our community to achieve their human potential by:

• Improving education and reducing the number of school drop-outs. Currently, 23 percent of our students do not graduate from high school. This is one reason why we support The Literacy Project — Raising A Reader, as it creates a home-school connection that engages parents as full partners in their child’s development.

• Helping people get on the road to financial stability. In Eagle County, our unemployment rate is above the national average at 8.1 percent while 14 percent of our children live in poverty. As an example, we provide financial support to Swift Eagle who provides financial assistance to Eagle County residents for living and personal expenses during times of crisis or hardship.

• Promoting healthy lives and reducing risky behaviors. More than 20 percent of Eagle County residents have no medical insurance and 23 percent engage in excessive drinking. Another important agency receiving our support is the Eagle Care Clinic who provides high-quality, affordable primary health care to uninsured patients who live in Eagle County.

In our community, education, income and health are the building blocks for opportunity — individually and collectively. Education is essential to getting and keeping a job with wage and health benefits that can sustain a family. An income that can cover living expenses today and save for tomorrow builds a family’s solid foundation. Good health helps children stay on track at school and helps adults be productive at work. Remove any of these building blocks and the other two topple. Establish and fortify each building block and the foundation for individual and community prosperity is strong.

Our board consists of a group of volunteers with the passion, expertise and commitment to make a difference. We aspire to make a difference by driving collaborative and positive community change with the overall objective being to serve our greatest needs in an extremely effective and efficient way. United Way of Eagle River Valley grants funds to local nonprofit organizations who have demonstrated success in addressing the most pressing issues of our community while positively impacting forward movement and change.

We are seeking to leverage our role as a funder of worthwhile charitable agencies and programs to build relationships between organizations rather than to just fund them individually. During this year’s agency grant application process, we will be expanding the scope of our existing, extensive evaluations by seeking opportunities for more inter-agency collaboration to reduce costs, increase effectiveness and to fill gaps in servicing our community needs. We are now accepting grant applications until May 31.

I am proud to be a board member of our United Way. In this role, I see what we do, how we raise funds and what impact the donated dollars truly and significantly have in our community. Contributions that come with no additional marketing or administrative burdens can be funneled directly into programs that deliver real results. With just one part-time staff member, an all-volunteer board and some in-kind services donated by local businesses, we are able to keep our administrative costs very low.

We can’t do it alone. We need your help — whether it is as a donor or advocate or volunteer. No gift is too small. Now is the time for all of us to do our part. Our community faces difficult challenges, but we can make a difference. Please give, because together we can inspire hope and create opportunities for a better tomorrow. I invite you to visit our website at, tell your friends why you donate or even ask your employer for the benefit of payroll deduction as an easy way to give.

Live United with me and see how easy it is to bring hope to those who are in need.

John V. Genova is president of United Way of Eagle River Valley

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