The mission of Metro United Way is to improve our community by engaging people to give, advocate and volunteer. Their vision is a community whose people achieve their fullest potential through education, financial stability and healthy lives – the building blocks of a good quality of life.
Education is the organization’s primary focus, because studies show that better education leads to better income and a healthier life. As Metro United Way celebrates its progress and success over the past year, President and CEO Joe Tolan shares his insight about the organization’s work to advance the common good over its nearly 100-year history.
LORI KOMMOR: Metro United Way has established a new, bold vision for the community. Tell us more about that.
JOE TOLAN: We’ve undergone a transformation at United Way that we believe is absolutely essential to meet the challenges we all face in this community, across the country and around the world. Metro United Way can have the greatest impact on our community by being much more strategic and deliberate in how we work; if we are going to create opportunities for a better life for all, we have to focus our energies on those areas that will lead to significant, lasting change. And we believe that if we help improve education, financial stability and health, we will have strong communities and stable, independent families – because we all succeed when a child succeeds.
Our community aspirations are for: No. 1, all children to enter kindergarten ready to learn; No. 2, all youth complete high school on time prepared for college, work and life; No. 3, parents and caregivers have the knowledge, skills and abilities to maintain family stability and help their children succeed; and No. 4, a sustained network of services that address basic and core needs.
KOMMOR: What is one significant way Metro United Way has changed its approach in supporting the community?
TOLAN: We now embrace collaboration and partnership with various entities throughout the community that align with our defined strategic goals. To succeed, we must collaborate across all sectors – big businesses, small businesses, elected officials, nonprofits, academia, the faith community, the labor movement, the media, parents and neighbors.
We’re proud of our success to-date with our Early Childhood Excellence Academy, funded through the Lift a Life Foundation for the educational benefit of pre-school teachers and their students in 14 early learning centers. The Out-of-School Time Coordinating Council, a partnership between us, Metro Government and Jefferson County Public Schools, leads the way in creating new quality learning opportunities for students during out-of-school time – that time of day after school, or even summer break, when students are not in a supervised, educational setting and are at higher risk of getting into trouble and learning loss.
KOMMOR: What do you see in the future for Metro United Way?
TOLAN: There are so many ways people are working through Metro United Way to support our community, and we know that the measure of our success is in the ways we are impacting our community – in connecting people across the region, and in improving the foundation of our community. There are many opportunities to join us: You can give, you can advocate and you can volunteer.
In the areas of education, income and health, people with passion and expertise from all across our community are getting things done. That’s what it means to Live United.