United Way Hosts Opportunity Summit

Working toward goal of creating opportunity for all

United Way Hosts Opportunity Summit

The Opportunity Summit: Creating Prosperity for All brought together more than 115 diverse, dedicated people to learn through data and stories about the realities of living in poverty. Participants heard about the amazing opportunities and the daunting challenges of many who live in our community. The energy in the room was palpable, and the common understanding that it is possible to create change to reduce poverty now provides the path for interested members of our community to continue the work in the months ahead.

The Summit was organized by the United Way of Central Iowa, which itself has set bold goals for the region in education, income and health. The income goal is to increase the percentage of central Iowans who are financially self-sufficient to 75 percent by 2020, but that percentage has slipped from 68 percent in 2008 to 64 percent in 2012.

Facilitated by Paul Born of the Tamarack Institute, the Summit gathered Central Iowans from four sectors to seek a breakthrough: business and philanthropy; government and schools; nonprofits and faith communities; and our neighbors who know poverty by living it. A Leadership Team has been identified, representing these sectors, and they will continue to meet regularly during the summer to help us work toward a common agenda and identify strategies to meet our goals.  The Leadership Team includes:

Mary Sellers – President, United Way of Central Iowa

Mary Bontrager – Executive Vice President, Greater Des Moines Partnership

Brian Boyer – Director, Polk County Department of Community Family and Youth Services

Robert Brownell – Polk County Supervisor

Teree Caldwell-Johnson – CEO, Oakridge Neighborhood & Des Moines School Board

Marvin DeJear – Director, Evelyn K. Davis Center for Working Families

Gabriela Gallentine – Executive Director, Hispanic Educational Resources

Fred Hubbell – Retired, ING Group

Tom Narak – Government Relations Director, School Administrators of Iowa

Kris Schechinger – Director, Corporate Citizenship at Nationwide Insurance

Moving forward, efforts to reduce poverty will be known as OpportUNITY: Creating Prosperity for All, capturing one of the strong themes of the Summit which was: we need everyone to unify and join in this effort.  In addition, our vision is to Create Opportunity for All. 

Beginning in July, participants and interested members of the community will start receiving the OpportUNITY: Creating Prosperity for All monthly newsletters which will include information related to creating more opportunity in our community.  Over the summer, workgroups will be assembled based on the feedback from Summit participants, many of whom are willing to share time, expertise and energy.  The workgroups will begin meeting in the fall.

Anthropologist and author, Margaret Mead said, “Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.”  It is time to seize the opportunity to come together and commit ourselves to ensuring that every community member is prosperous. 

For more information, contact Helene Grossman at 515-246-6502 or hgrossman@unitedwaydm.org.