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Self-sufficiency, graduation rates improve in United Way report


In Central Iowa, a child’s early reading proficiency — a key factor in whether he or she will graduate from high school — still has a lot to do with the child’s ZIP code and family income. 

According to the 2018 Community Impact Report released today by United Way of Central Iowa, fewer than 6 in 10 Greater Des Moines third-graders who qualify for the free and reduced lunch program are able to read proficiently — just 57.4 percent. By contrast, among third-graders in families that don’t qualify for free and reduced lunches, almost 90 percent are reading proficiently. 

One of United Way of Central Iowa’s top goals is for all third-graders to reach 90 percent proficiency within the next two years. To help reach that goal, more than 400 people have volunteered to read with kids through United Way’s Read to Succeed campaign, which is still seeking to meet a goal of recruiting 500 volunteers. 

Among other findings of the report, 11,000 more Central Iowans were financially self-sufficient in 2016 than in the previous year, the first uptick in the rate of income self-sufficiency since 2009. 

The 2018 Community Impact Report was released during the annual Live United luncheon held today at the Meadows Events Center. The report highlights the differences that United Way campaign contributions from more than 32,000 employees and over 10,000 volunteers have made. A snapshot of the progress being made toward United Way’s major goals: 

Income: Goal  Increase the percentage of Central Iowans who are financially self-sufficient to 75 percent. The percentage who were self-sufficient in 2016 was 65.9 percent, up from 65.2 percent in 2015 — an increase of 11,000 people who were able to afford basic needs, build assets, and thrive at 250 percent of the federal poverty level or above.

Education: Goal — Increase the percentage of Central Iowa students who graduate from high school to 95 percent. The percentage who graduated within five years is 93.6 percent, according to 2016 data just released by the Iowa Department of Education. This is up nearly 1 percentage point from the previous year, and up more than 10 percentage points over a decade.  

Health: Goal — Central Iowa’s Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index decreased to 62.6 this year, similar to the decline in the national index. In particular, Central Iowa remains nearly last in consuming produce and exercising at recommended levels. In the past year, United Way of Central Iowa, with several partners, launched 5-2-1-0 to promote healthy habits and has reached more than 51,000 kids and families with its strategies and messaging. 

For the first time this year, the Community Impact Report highlights progress the community is making to ensure residents have access to basic needs such as food, shelter and legal services. Among the highlights: Three mobile pantries were launched in Polk and Dallas counties to increase access to nutritious food through the OpportUNITY initiative to fight poverty. 

“Central Iowa still faces significant challenges we must address to create a stronger community, but our results show that our work has helped thousands of individuals on a path to a better life,” said Tom Mahoney, chair of United Way of Central Iowa’s board of directors and chairman and CEO of ITA Group. “This is what we mean when we say ‘collective impact.’ It’s thousands of individuals and organizations giving their time, expertise and resources through United Way to meet our goals for 2020.”

During the luncheon, Bankers Trust was honored with the Spirit of Central Iowa Award for its commitment to the community. The bank’s employees logged more than 18,000 volunteer hours last year, and nearly 100 percent participated in the annual fundraising campaign, which raised over $500,000 for United Way. The company also provided $100 to each of its employees to donate to their favorite cause. 

Other award recipients included: 

Individual Hand-Raiser Award  Pam Schoffner was honored for her extensive commitment to volunteering for more than 20 years, most notably with HCI Care Services and Visiting Nurse Services of Iowa. 

Individual Impact-Maker Award  Kellie Markey was recognized for her dedication and hard work to create Dorothy’s House as a safe campus for youth survivors of extreme abuse and human trafficking.

Individual Trail-Blazer Award  Glen Hall, chief technology officer at Athene USA, was honored for being a champion of United Way’s Tocqueville Society and leading the United Way campaign at the company. In two years, Hall’s efforts have increased the number of Tocqueville Society givers at Athene from six to 20.

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