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We know it’s not all about the numbers, but…

In an effort to communicate with YOU on a more year-round basis, on September 9, 2009, the Greater Kalamazoo United Way (GKUW) publicly announced the launch of our first-ever Facebook fan page.

Since then, we have witnessed tremendous growth in our fan base and at the time of this post we are thrilled to have the support of 496 fans; giving GKUW the second largest Facebook following of any United Way in Michigan. Currently GKUW is second only to the United Way of Southeastern Michigan United Way (744 fans), which obviously draws from a much larger population.

While we are thrilled with the outpouring of support and the growth of our fan base, one of the purposes for creating these new and unique social media spaces was to provide communal spaces to promote dialogue around improving our communities and helping to improve lives.

With all of that being said, as we approach this historic mile marker of 500 Facebook fans (which is certainly worth celebrating), we thought it would also be a great opportunity to once again reach out to our fans. We want to hear from you. Please share with us… Do you have one of those LIVE UNITED “moments” from this past year?

If so, please share your experience with us by commenting on this blog post before the end of the day next Wednesday (12/16). We will share the winning entry next Thursday (12/17) and the winner will receive a LIVE UNITED re-usable grocery bag stuffed with a LIVE UNITED t-shirt and handful of other exciting miscellaneous items.

Mindful of Challenges, We Pause to Give Thanks

Mindful of challenges, we pause to give thanks

From December 2007 through May 2009, Kalamazoo County experienced a 97 percent increase in unemployment, going from 5.2 percent in December 2007 to 10.3 percent in May 2009.[1] An estimated 1,533 Kalamazoo County unemployment recipients are expected to exhaust their claims by January 8, 2010.[2]

Another indicator of the impact of the recession on Kalamazoo County is the increase in people receiving food assistance through the Department of Human Services Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. From December 2007 through May 2009 there was a 23 percent increase in people receiving food assistance, from 30,847 to 37,936 individuals.[3]

According to the 2007 American Community Survey, an estimated 39,079 Kalamazoo County residents (16.4 percent) live below poverty.[4]

These statistics alone are startling, but even more alarming is that these are just a few of the many that demonstrate the increased needs people are facing in Kalamazoo County.

We are all well aware that we have been experiencing one of the most challenging economic periods in recent history. Some of you may have even already seen, heard and/or read some of the figures listed above. My intent is not to belabor the point, but instead, to remind us, to raise awareness, and to cause us all to reflect on just how well-off we are and how much we have to be thankful for.

For those of us fortunate enough to have a job, shelter, food, clothing, transportation, independence and access to quality and affordable education and healthcare, it is important to realize and to give some thought to the fact that there are many in our own community that are not as fortunate.

While we here at the Greater Kalamazoo United Way remain keenly aware and mindful of the challenges facing many in our community, we want to pause briefly to give a very much deserved and heart-felt thanks to all of our partners and supporters who remain committed to making a positive impact. We want to specifically thank an extraordinary network of member agencies, hundreds or caring corporate partners, tens-of-thousands of generous donors, thousands of dedicated volunteers and our organized labor partners. We are humbled by your incredible generosity, your selfless acts of kindness and we are proud to partner with you.

Together we are making a measurable difference, positively impacting lives and inspiring hope here in Kalamazoo County. And for that, we should all be thankful.


[1] Bureau of Labor Statistics, Local Area Unemployment Statistics, Kalamazoo County, Michigan.

[2] State of Michigan Department of Human Services Memorandum regarding Exhausted Unemployment Compensation Benefits dated May 14, 2009, attachment UIA Recipients by County: Claim Exhaustion Rollup.

[3] State of Michigan Department of Human Services. Assistance Payments Statistics. December 2007. Table 23. Prepared by Bureau of Accounting and State of Michigan Department of Human Services. Green Book Report of Key Program Statistics. May 2009. Table 24. Prepared by Department of Human Services.

[4] U.S. Census Bureau, 2007 American Community Survey. Kalamazoo County, Michigan. Selected Economic Characteristics, 2007.

How are YOU going to finish?


Deriba Merga of Ethiopia crossed the finish line and wins the mens 2009 Boston Marathon with a time of 2:08:42  (Photo credit: John Tlumacki/Globe Staff)

I’m sure at one time or another, we’ve all wanted to give up on something we started. We’ve trained for a race, but hit the wall a mile from the finish line. We’ve felt overwhelmed by a new task at work or school and start to question throwing in the towel in favor of something “easier.” Times like these, we might feel a bit hopeless. Maybe we even begin to second-guess ourselves and our ability to push through.

But then we witness something that has the power to change our whole perspective.

For me, it was a video on YouTube I’d like to share today. With less than two weeks left in the 2009 Greater Kalamazoo United Way Community Campaign, I couldn’t help but be stirred by Nick Vujicic’s inspiring message about getting up in the face of unfathomable circumstances.

You see, Nick has no limbs. Anyone else in his position might have given up on life, given up on hope … but not Nick. Take a look at his incredibly moving video. (2 mins, 41 secs): 

Given the challenges we continue to face this campaign season, we could give up and say the task of raising $9.11 million to meet growing needs in our community is daunting. We could cite the obvious (“times are tough for everyone”) and excuse ourselves from what is needed and what is being expected of us.

Or, we could – like Nick – refuse to give up and finish strong. We could heed his message of hope and continue to persevere against the odds placed before us during these tough times. We could all recommit ourselves to reaching that $9.11 million goal, by giving what we can, when we can.

The truth is, there are men, women and children living here in our very own community that desperately need our help. Another Michigan winter is just around the corner, and without adequate food, clothing, shelter and access to health care, the lives of thousands in our community are at risk. We can’t afford to let them fall.  

Nick is surely an inspiration to us all, but not everyone has the same inner strength. Sometimes we, as a community, need to reach out a hand and lift someone else up. Sometimes we need to step up to the plate and give more of ourselves.

There are less than two weeks remaining. Together, as a community, we can—and should—make the most of them.

Will you help us finish strong?

New Video: Give5

Times are challenging, and people are turning to community services more than ever.

Imagine what a difference you could make if you gave just $5 and got five friends, family members, neighbors or coworkers to give… Imagine the potential ripple effect.

Think about it for a minute. There are more than 246,ooo+ people living in Kalamazoo County. Just imagine the enormous impact if everyone gave just $5. Continue reading…

The Purpose of Life

While watching ABC’s Extreme Makeover – Home Edition, I recently heard a cast member say, “The purpose of life is a life of purpose.”

The quote stuck with me and I found myself Googling the quote the next day trying to determine the source, exact wording, etc.

Think about it. No really, take a minute and think about it.

What really is your purpose in life?

What do you do because you have to and what do you do because you want to or should do?

Are you more concerned with running the rat race or finishing first? Are you more concerned with amassing your own personal treasures or as the say “keeping up with the Jones’s”?

Or, do you want to reach out and do something to help? Do you want to lend a helping hand to someone who is struggling or someone who is less fortunate?

At the end of the day… When it’s all said and done… What really is going to matter? What really is going to mean something?

What really is your purpose?

You’re not a bystander, are you?


According to Wikipedia, the bystander effect is “a social psychological phenomenon in which individuals are less likely to offer help in an emergency situation when other people are present.”

This phenomenon suggests that during an emergency, bystanders monitor the reactions of other people to see if they think it is necessary to intervene.

Since everyone is doing exactly the same thing (nothing), they all conclude that help is not needed.

While it might not be the most direct correlation, it’s worth asking: “Could this phenomenon exist for people when it comes to contributing their time, talents and resources to United Way?” Continue reading…

Blogging for Change

One of the things we have been trying to do over the past year is to communicate with YOU – our loyal GKUW donors, advocates, volunteers and the community at large – more often. With our monthly e-newsletter, quarterly inserts in the Kalamazoo Gazette and our Facebook fan page, we’re now able to reach you beyond the campaign season.

Yet we know there are always new opportunities to connect with our supporters.

After our exciting launch on Facebook earlier this fall, we saw the enormous potential of social media, which are connecting people and driving powerful grassroots movements all over the world.

We created this blog to keep our supporters up to speed on our latest local happenings, as well as to create a communal space to share ideas from other nonprofits and community service organizations around the globe that are doing some really cool stuff. Continue reading…

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