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A different way of making a difference
Rick Bussler, Publisher

Through my role in the community, I often enjoy educating readers about what great things Steele County and the surrounding area have to offer.

This often involves writing stories and taking photographs of various events and profiling the various groups throughout the greater community of Steele County. Mostly, I find myself in the role of being a reporter. But every once in a while such was the case last week I get to be involved directly in making a difference.

On Friday, I volunteered for the United Way of Steele County to assist in helping to determine how the organization should disperse its funds for the coming year. I was part of the partner agencies representing education.

Five education agencies receive funding from the United Way. They include: Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southern Minnesota, Blooming Prairie Youth Club, Medford Tiger Club, Somali American Cultural Society of Owatonna and Workforce Development, Inc. 

Several other community volunteers and myself acted as a jury so to speak in determining what funding level the agencies should receive. Representatives of the groups came in to give their pitch for why the United Way should fund their nonprofit organization.

The same routine took place earlier in the week with other volunteers listening to presentations from groups in the income and health categories.

United Way supports 25 direct services programs being serviced by 15 partner agencies.

Through this experience, I have gained a new appreciation and understanding of the United Way, which is one of the largest nonprofit fundraising groups in the country. On the local level, United Way has raised nearly $800,000 from individuals and businesses in the county to give out for the coming year.

The actual amounts that the groups will receive won’t be announced until next month.

But what I can say at this point is how proud I am of the nonprofit groups that represent Steele County in improving the health, education and financial stability of every person living in the communities of Blooming Prairie, Ellendale, Medford and Owatonna. The groups are led by passionate people truly committed to enriching the quality of life, economic opportunities and self-sufficiency of people in their communities.

It also provided me with a stark reminder that we live in a society where not everyone is equal when it comes to financial stability. There are disparities between people that bring the realities of poverty into focus. We need organizations like the United Way to help all community members meet their basic needs and to make them productive members of society.

I think sometimes many people get oblivious to the fact that there are hurting people out there, often times through no fault of their own. So I encourage everyone to think about supporting the United Way in some way in the future whether it’s financial or otherwise.

As for the United Way itself, Annette Duncan is the right person to be leading this organization. She has done a remarkable job in making sure our greater community of Steele County is being taken care of for the long haul. 

Together we can make a difference. And I’m proud to have gone in hot pursuit of having a small part of that.

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