United Way of Greater Lorain County Honored as Ohio United Way of the Year

4.14.16 - United Way of Greater Lorain County was honored Wednesday as Ohio United Way of the Year at an annual Legislative Luncheon in the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus. The award was presented by Ohio United Way, a state association of United Ways across Ohio that promotes the public policy interest of members, provides educational opportunities and leads statewide initiatives designed to improve Ohio communities.

“We’re truly honored to receive this award. It’s been a banner year for us in terms of recognition and for the work of our Community Collaboratives, but we know we’re far from achieving our goals. It is our responsibility to do our part in making Greater Lorain County an extraordinary place to live - for everyone - and we will continue learning, growing and improving so we can make that a reality,” said United Way of Greater Lorain County marketing and development director Ryan Aroney.

Following the award ceremony, State Sen. Gayle Manning, R-North Ridgeville, recognized the local United Way on the Senate floor with a resolution honoring the work done in Lorain County.

“I am tremendously proud of the work of the Lorain County United Way as they continue to improve lives and strengthen our community,” Manning said. “This recognition is well-deserved, and I commend them for the positive impact they are making by helping Lorain County area residents.”

United Way staff members Aroney and Marco Cuevas accepted the award alongside United Way board member Orlando Jones from Invacare Corporation.

“We want to thank Senator Manning and her staff for this recognition,” said Aroney. “Not only are we here representing our staff and Board of Directors, but also our collaborative partners and all of Greater Lorain County, as this is a reflection of a tremendously supportive community and it’s something we can all be proud of.”

A national trend in philanthropy, a trend that United Way of Greater Lorain County is leading locally, is a belief that organizations that coordinate their efforts and work together around a clearly defined goal achieve the best results, through what is known as Collective Impact. The key to Collective Impact is the commitment of a group of individuals from different sectors to a common agenda for solving a complex social problem.

United Way of Greater Lorain County now organizes and supports group of cross-sector organizations called Community Collaboratives to achieve greater results while working more efficiently around clearly defined goals.

The organization has publicly declared five targeted outcomes that include ensuring children are prepared to succeed in kindergarten, equipping early-adolescents with the tools and resources needed to flourish in high school and beyond, building pathways from poverty to financial stability, keeping families strong by providing emergency financial assistance to people in crisis, and promoting health and productivity through diet and exercise.

Each of the Community Collaboratives launched by United Way targets a different outcome and in a different area or sub-population of the county.

Community Collaboratives organized by United Way include kindergarten readiness initiatives Oberlin Kids and Ready Set Go to Kindergarten (Elyria), middle school initiatives Common VIEW (Midview and Clearview districts) and YES Zone (South Elyria), emergency financial assistance initiative United Community Assistance Network (county-wide) and health initiatives Keystone Empowers You and North Ridgeville Heart and Sole.

United Way and its partners are close to launching three additional collaboratives focused on middle school success in South Lorain, financial stability for working single-mothers county-wide and access to healthy living in southern Lorain County.

To help achieve and sustain positive results across the Community Collaboratives, United Way created and leads a new professional development program called the Collaborative Improvement Advisor, or CIA. The CIA program works with the partners leading or participating in United Way’s Community Collaboratives to provide the knowledge and skills necessary to achieve improvement results in their work across Greater Lorain County, both within the collaboratives and their own agencies.

CIA is based on similar programs used in the corporate sector known as black belt or improvement advisor programs, which are based on improvement science to enhance the quality of service and products delivered to customers. The CIA program seeks to use improvement science to bring about systems change in complex social environments.

United Way is also directly involved with free tax preparation and filing as lead agency of the Lorain County Free Tax Prep coalition, free exercise classes as a partner of United We Sweat and advocacy for public transportation as part of the Mobility and Opportunity for a Vibrant Economy (MOVE) community organization.

In additional, United Way operates a free 24-hour information and referral service for Lorain County called 2-1-1 First Call for Help and has a strategic partnership with HandsOn Northeast Ohio called the Lorain County Volunteer Connection that offers a flexible way for people to volunteer while helping local agencies get more work done.