Resolve to work together, get involved in community

The feature below, written by Ann Murtlow, was featured in The Indianapolis Star on Sunday, January 10.


The new year is a time for resolutions — eating better, exercising regularly, spending more time with family and friends.

These personal commitments are important, but we can and should think bigger. We’re part of a metropolitan area of more than 1.5 million Hoosiers, neighbors who share common aspirations. At United Way of Central Indiana, we set goals for the region: Helping families in need meet daily necessities and pursue long-term financial independence. Preparing every child to succeed in school, and raising standards of health and wellness for young and old alike.

We face daunting challenges across these “impact” areas of income, education, health and basic needs. But we’ve built a network of more than 90 partner agencies and the region’s largest community of dedicated volunteers and donors — if you’ve resolved to make a difference in 2016, United Way offers the surest route to maximize every hour you spend or dollar you give.

Let’s look at a couple of ways you can resolve to do good as part of a broader team.

It’s clear that education equals opportunity in today’s economy. College graduates earn nearly three times the annual income of a high school dropout, who is also three times more likely to experience unemployment, and the key to graduating high school and pursuing higher education is a strong foundation at an early age.

United Way has been a consistent advocate for quality early-childhood education, and we continue to champion statewide access to affordable prekindergarten programs for all. We also offer ways to make a difference starting today.

Reading is the skill that makes all learning possible; it becomes increasingly difficult for students to catch up after falling behind in literacy. Our ReadUP program enlists volunteers to help early school-aged kids who are struggling to get — and stay — on track.

Students who are tutored through ReadUP perform better in reading, vastly improving their odds of finishing high school and beyond.

As we help young people toward a brighter future, we can’t neglect the struggles of the present. Census data tells us that more Marion County residents are living below the poverty line than ever before — and far from being confined to the central city, we’ve seen double-digit growth in poverty across the region over the last decade. With the support of donors and critical funding from the state, we’re connecting at-risk families with much-needed resources through the Connect2Help 2-1-1 hotline, and tackling long-term causes of poverty through job training and financial literacy programs.

But sometimes, a boost to the family budget comes from simply filling out the right form the right way. Many deserving taxpayers don’t receive their earned income tax credit— a refundable credit that provides tax refunds to lower-income households. An EITC refund of even a few hundred dollars makes a big difference for working parents living paycheck to paycheck.

Volunteers with some financial savvy and paperwork patience can see their work pay off by getting involved in the United Way’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, offering free tax preparation to individuals and families with a combined household income of $60,000 or less.

ReadUP and VITA are just two ways that volunteers can make a difference, face to face — one child, one family at a time — while knowing their efforts are expanding educational and economic opportunity across Central Indiana. There are dozens of other worthy programs and initiatives at our partner agencies that make similarly valuable contributions. Tell us what you are passionate about, and we’ll find a way to help you make a big impact.

Let’s make 2016 a year of working together, aiming higher and resolving to make Central Indiana a healthier, more prosperous and generous place to live.

Ann Murtlow
President and CEO
United Way of Central Indiana