At United Way of Goodhue, Wabasha & Pierce Counties we partner with over 30 different programs through our Community Investment Process. This is where the bulk of the money we raise during our campaigns is allocated by community volunteers in response to written applications submitted by the programs. Long before I ever worked for United Way I volunteered on a Community Investment Panel. At the time I was a fund development person for another non-profit organization, submitting a grant application to United Way and I wanted to learn the ins and outs of what United Way did to help get my own grant request filled. It was a wonderful experience and I learned far more than I thought I would.
As a Community Investment Volunteer you are asked to go on a couple of site visits. You are assigned where to go and you and a partner contact the program, set up a time and head there for a visit. My first year I was so lucky to assigned to visit ProAct Employment Services. They had requested funding to help support their work in job training for clients who were not eligible for government funding but still needed the services of ProAct. Since that visit, ProAct staff and clients have been great United Way partners. Their clients serve as volunteers for our Packing for the Weekend and Summer Food programs and each time I work with them I learn something new.
Last week we discovered that ProAct clients who have not yet found or are not quite ready for a job in the community, have added craft projects to their repertoire.
Gloria Bechel, Project Manager, explained that ProAct clients began their work in crafts in 2008-09 when jobs were scarce and they had many clients who wanted to work but few jobs to fill. At that time they began making pendants from old bowling balls. The pendants are beautiful and each one is unique. With the success of their pendants they ventured into other projects. They create Red Wing magnets that are sold through the Red Wing Chamber of Commerce and have added a delightful assortment of wood crafts.
"All of the people on the crew can paint decoratively so we search for products that involve painting" Gloria explained. She also stated that they work with as many discarded and recycled materials as possible to keep costs low. They do season specific projects using old pallets, and posts that often require cutting, sanding and painting. Our staff at United Way spotted the snowman trio in the ProAct newsletter and purchased a set for our window. Gloria did mention that they have new seasonal products coming out and they will allow us to display some of the pieces in our big front windows so be sure to check them out the next time you find your self following that heavenly aroma of baking bread to Hanisch's or delicious coffee treats at Mandy's.
You may have seen some of the ProAct clients project's at Peg Danielson's craft show and sale. Peggy has been a big promoter of ProAct and the work of their clients.
ProAct helps people who might not be able to find a job do just that and from what I've seen on my visits there, everyone ends the day feeling good about being contributing members of our community, working hard for the money they earn.
United Way is a very proud partner of ProAct.