The scale and complexity of sweeping problems like poverty and graduation rates have defied resolution for decades. Why? Because their nature dictates that a single program or organization alone cannot fix a problem that’s been generations in the making. We know this from many years of trying.

Mission & Vision

Some time ago, United Way identified three issues as the building blocks to a better life: education, financial stability and health. All of these are complex, and the resulting problems appear at various points along a continuum. For example, in order to improve graduation rates, we need to address early childhood literacy and kindergarten readiness, as well as on-target reading levels, productive out-of-school time and other issues. Investing in a single program to fix only one of these will not work. We must tackle all of them at the same time in order to achieve the final result – graduating on time.

United Way has recognized that this “collective impact” strategy is the only way to create the lasting change we seek. That’s why we identify partners who can help us to address all of the salient points along the continuum. Our role with these partners may vary from administrative and/or fiscal agent to merely a seat at the table, but in all cases, United Way is a large part of the solution.

Our three major initiatives include:

  • Let’s Read 20

    Let's Read 20

    Let's Read 20 is a community-wide initiative that promotes early childhood literacy and positively impacts the culture of our community and the way it values reading and academic success. The program is dedicated to building a community of readers by encouraging everyone to read to a child for at least 20 minutes each day from birth through elementary school. Because access to reading materials is a major barrier for low-income neighborhoods, Let’s Read 20 also provide free books for children and their families.


    Gear Up

    The purpose of the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs or GEAR UP is to support early college preparation and awareness activities in order to increase the number of students who graduate on time and are prepared to enter and succeed in post-secondary education. This federally funded program is designed to work with Marion City School’s students in grades 7-12 to support early college preparation and awareness through various academic, career and culturally woven events and activities. Those activities include tutoring, mentoring, academic preparation, financial education, and college scholarships.

  • Employee Resource Network

    Marion Matters

    The Employer Resource Network (ERN) provides employers with job coaches to help low-income working employees deal with and overcome the crises that routinely cause job absence, low performance and high turnover. The ERN process has proven successful in other cities, including outcomes such as employee retention rates of 85-98% and contributing employer ROI of 175-330%. Keeping employees on the job and earning wages also directly impacts their financial stability. Because this initiative is in its beginning stages, United Way is assisting Marion Matters to recruit employer partners across the county.