One of the three pillars of the United Way mission is education, and a part of that education is to ensure that the public is aware of what United Way does in the community, said United Way of Central Kansas Executive Director Gaila Demel.
For many years, UWCK has started that process early on, with the annual Poster Contest for local fifth grade students. To this end, Demel has been visiting elementary schools in Great Bend, Larned, and Hoisington to talk to them about what United Way does.
“One of the main topics of conversation is volunteering,” she said. “Even as fifth graders, these students can start giving back to their community.”
Also discussed is the fundraising piece of United Way, she said. United Way raises funds for 22 non-profit organizations in Barton and Pawnee counties to help alleviate some of the financial strain as well as the time and effort that is required to hold fundraisers.
“They raise money for them so that they can focus on helping our community,” Demel said. “We also talk to the students about Living United and that by coming together as a community, they can make an impact every day.”
By reaching out a hand to one, people can influence the condition of all, she said. “Even if it is nothing more than a smile. By instilling these considerations at a young age, we can impact the future of our communities.”
She also focuses on the importance of staying in school and literacy.
After a short discussion about United Way, the students are asked to draw a poster depicting what they learned and how they interpreted what United Way does. With the help of their teachers, each student will submit their poster for the 2020 UWCK campaign contest.
These will be finished by the end of the school year. After all the posters have been collected, a panel of unbiased judges over the summer go through them all and select the top 15-20 posters, and volunteers will frame them and get them ready for presentation.
During football games and school assemblies in September, the students will then present their poster to local businesses and individuals who epitomize United Way. “We pick those who have supported us in the past,” she said.
“This project would not be possible without the coordination of the fifth grade teachers, school principals, and Poster Contest coordinators Jenna, Sarah and Paula Mauler.