United Way of the Greater Chippewa Valley, along with Clear Vision Eau Claire and Vision 2020 Chippewa Falls, held public forums in the communities of Augusta, Bloomer, Cadott, Chippewa Falls, Cornell, Eau Claire and Lake Hallie during the summer of 2012. Called “community conversations,” these meetings were open to the public and the information gathered has been an important part of United Way’s community mobilization and its emphasis on addressing education, income and health in the Chippewa Valley.
116 public participants attended, and another 126 residents participated through an online survey. These sessions were held to further United Way’s community impact mission by getting direct feedback from the general public on issues affecting education, financial stability and health in their communities. Data gathered from this public feedback is being used to form specific community action plans with the hope of creating real, lasting change in our area.
An extensive amount of feedback was recorded—over 1,000 unique issues/concerns were gathered and organized under the categories of education, income and health to reveal the top 4 challenges/concerns of community residents. These are listed below (T denotes a tie).
COMMUNITY CONCERNS REGARDING EDUCATION
1: Funding from the State of Wisconsin to support education is reduced and future is uncertain/unknown
2: More vocational education emphasis at K-12 level because 4-year university is not the right career track for every student
T3: Early childhood and elementary level programs are critical for kids to experience continued success in school
T3: Literacy skills (e.g., grammar, spelling, punctuation, reading, and writing) are lacking and need to be improved
T3: Parents lacking skills/need training to help their kids be successful in school, especially at early ages when preparing for school system
4: Extra-curricular activities (e.g., arts, music, sports) are being cut and that has a negative effect on a child’s overall development
COMMUNITY CONCERNS REGARDING INCOME
T1: Financial literacy is lacking in the school curriculum (should start in grade school) and similar resources are needed in the community to help people with tasks like budgeting, managing money, and dealing with interest rates
T1: Transportation--cost of fuel, limited public options, and not having reliable vehicle limit mobility for jobs, where people live, and/or access to services
2: Affordability of living becoming a greater concern due to rising costs, which has resulted in a downward spiral in financial stability for families and certain age groups
T3: Too many low-paying jobs, especially for the levels of education and experience some people possess
T3: Too many people are just one bad circumstance away from financial disaster (e.g., car breaks down, medical emergency)
T3: Young people need jobs in the summer to help support increased costs for their family
T4: After finishing college (UW-EC or elsewhere), people do not return to the area because there aren’t enough jobs or the pay is so poor
T4: Childcare services need to be more affordable
T4: Health care insurance--many people have lost benefits or can not afford the premiums
COMMUNITY CONCERNS REGARDING HEALTH
T1: Access to health care not possible for many individuals in this area, especially the poor, elderly, and uninsured
T1: Cost of health care is still too high for most people, especially in the Chippewa Valley, despite advances in medicine
T1: Mental health provider services needed for all ages, especially for people living outside of Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls
T1: Mental health should be a high priority: Alarming statistic that 1 in 5 people have mental health issues, but 2/3 of them get no treatment--especially a problem for those who are poor or uninsured
T2: Alcohol use and abuse evident in all age groups, yet this state’s culture seems to accept the problem (e.g., binge drinking and driving under the influence)
T2: Dental care needs to be affordable and accessible to everyone
T2: Obese or overweight children and adults is becoming an increasing concern, especially since that condition often leads to other chronic problems like diabetes and hypertension
3: Free clinics are a valuable resource and there should be more of them or hours extended for existing ones, especially to give staff additional time to focus on wellness
T4: BadgerCare cuts have had a major impact on access to health care for low-income individuals and families
T4: Health care demands increasing, but resources decreasing
T4: Transportation access to health care facilities limited or non-existent
In addition, 537 distinct responses from people were gathered regarding what they valued most in a community. This information will be used specifically by Clear Vision Eau Claire and Vision 2020 Chippewa Falls as they continue their initiatives for collaborative development of a vision for business and community advancement.
Why is United Way and our volunteers so committed to this concept of community impact? Because it is already showing impressive results from other United Ways across the country, including our own state. A few examples are given below:
EXAMPLES OF COMMUNITY MOBILIZATION FROM DANE COUNTY UNITED WAY:
United Way of Dane County discovered that dental pain is one of the top reasons children miss school. In 2005, in coordination with partner agencies and organizations, dental care to over 1,300 children was provided, helping them feel better and do better in school.
In 1995, a 29% achievement gap existed in Dane County between white students and students of color. Through advocacy work and a long-term volunteer mobilization effort lead by United Way of Dane County, the racial achievement gap was virtually eliminated in nine years.
By tackling the root causes of problems, United Way of Dane County is reversing negative trends and creating lasting solutions. This is what we are beginning in the Chippewa Valley. CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE >>>
EXAMPLE OF COMMUNITY MOBILIZATION FROM UNITED WAY OF GREATER MILWAUKEE:
United Way of Greater Milwaukee spearheaded a community-wide initiative to reduce Milwaukee’s alarming teen pregnancy rate. Despite the hard work and dedication by many individuals and organizations, past efforts have not been successful. After an intensive awareness campaign and facilitation of government, educational, medical and private sector organizations, in October 2011, the City of Milwaukee announced a 13.6% drop in the teen birth rate to its lowest level in decades. The current trend indicates that Milwaukee should be on track to reach United Way’s goal of 30 births per 1,000 by 2015. CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE >>>