Feb 132013


By Michael Abramowitz

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Pitt County United Way Chairman Steve Kiess knew the organization was taking on big challenges when it committed in 2011 to focus on the high school dropout rate, unemployment and county safety net services, issues that county residents selected as their most pressing.

The issues remain, but he and Executive Director Jim Cieslar presented examples Tuesday of lives positively changed by collaborative efforts funded by the United Way and its community supporters.

The success stories were shared with business partners, volunteers and board members during United Way’s annual meeting at Greenville Country Club.

Today’s urgent issues require new strategies, best found through collaboration, Kiess said.

“Supporting organizations used to work in silos and competed for the rewards of their own successes,” Kiess said. “We recognized that sometimes it’s not the traditional approach that works. By setting those three focus areas, our partner organizations understand what we’re trying to do collectively for the county. It’s hard to imagine anyone who wouldn’t look at them as worthy of support. And it’s not just the money. Problems are solved by people.”

Ray Franks of the Eastern North Carolina Council of the Boy Scouts and Deborah Brady of the Girl Scouts N.C. Coastal Pines Council talked about their collaboration with the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Belvoir area to bring Scouting and STEM education to the area’s elementary school-aged youth of all races, expanding engagement by black children.

“We met with United Way leadership earlier in the year, and it was clear each had resources that would help the other equip youth to be more successful students,” Franks said. “We developed deeper bonds of trust and I look forward to working together to reach more minority youth in Pitt County and decrease the dropout rate.”

Brady talked about the programs her organization has conducted for girls at the Boys & Girls Clubs.

“The valuable resources that United Way provides help us eliminate barriers girls face in getting to us because mom and dad are both working,” she said. “We also extend their horizons through STEM but more important, we teach them to care about each other and their community and we challenge girls to discover, connect and take action.”

Karen Vines, a career readiness instructor at Pitt Community College, talked about high school students who receive career readiness certification through the United Way-funded program at PCC that prepares high school graduates for employment upon graduation.

purplearrowRobin Dailey of the Student Success Academy spoke about the collaborative educational and youth development effort offered at East Carolina University’s Lucille Gorham Intergenerational Community Center to middle-school students. The program goes beyond tutoring to increase children’s commitment to learning, build positive life skills and empower them for future success, Dailey said.

John Olguin is a program graduate and Ayden-Grifton High School junior planning for college at ECU.

“Summer Success Academy really made a positive difference in my life,” Olguin said. “Their fun activities helped me learn to get along well with others. I remember gaining more confidence with my abilities and talents. I thank United Way of Pitt County and the other sponsors of the program for rising sixth-grade students. It definitely made a positive difference in my life.”

Kieslar said he was pleased with the direction United Way and its partners are moving Pitt County residents.

“A year or two from now, if someone asks what United Way of Pitt County is about and what it does, I’ll tell them it strengthens families at every level and in every neighborhood,” he said. “That’s our focus and that’s what it all comes down to.”

In other business, Paul Anderson of Southern Bank and Trust, John Angster and Jason Parson of NACCO, Brad Flowers of BB&T, Denisha Harris of the city of Greenville and Abigail Jewkes of East Carolina University were elected to the 2013 United Way of Pitt County Board of Trustees.

Contact Michael Abramowitz at mabramowitz@reflector.com or 252-329-9571.

via The Daily Reflector.


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