Who is United Way? United Way of the Wabash Valley is Tiffany Cherry. Tiffany is patience incarnate and kindness that is hard to find. She’s an active seeker of what is best for children. She is what gives the phrase “it takes a village” a good name.
She’s worked hard for United Child Care. The daycare/preschool is a Level 4 Paths to Quality childcare provider. They work to make sure families of all income levels and sizes are able to afford childcare. The school itself is fairly structured. Children have different activities that they must complete throughout the day, similar to kindergarten. They even have homework twice a week. The homework is usually nothing more than “Bring something that starts with the letter O”, but it’s exercising children’s brains to understand visually what the alphabet sounds like and even helps them begin to spell.
Quality and affordable childcare doesn’t come for free though, whether you are the parent or the provider. Tiffany knows this and has worked hard to bring in some help. I ask her what her favorite project with UWWV to-date has been.
“My favorite project was the literacy grants. That was the first thing that I worked on was working on writing on the Literacy Grant for my classroom. That involved actually writing the grant, developing the grant, and planning a whole family night for a whole preschool center and getting all the parents involved along with parents and families and staff and the children.”
Her smile covers her face. She’s still being patient and explaining things in ways that help me understand the foreign concept of trying to keep a daycare going and up to date, but this smile is one that makes it hard to not smile back. Tiffany is truly thrilled that she was able to do this for her classroom.
The Family Literacy Grants started in 2015. Their main goal was to increase the amount of family involvement when it came to reading in young children’s homes. Scientists aren’t joking when they say that reading fires synapses off like crazy when you read to a small child. It helps them learn faster and makes them use their imagination in amazing ways. That’s why the Family Literacy Grants were founded, to get those synapses firing and help children grow with the ability to critically think at a young age. Critical thinking leads to better lives.
These grants aren’t large reform your school things. Their purpose is to create events that families can do together for some quality and fun family time, but there just happens to be a book that goes along with it. Clever!
Tiffany explains how United Childcare did their family night.
“What we did was we had a garden to get the children involved in planting a garden and incorporating some of the foods and learning new words of fruit and vegetables and getting them to actually realize that their food comes from the garden and getting them interested in planting a garden at home and trying new foods. We were able to do that through a United Way grant. And learning how to write a grant (was good). So, all of that incorporated into one thing, and United Way was able to give us that opportunity to do that and, in the process, put books in the hands of children.”
Every year United Way of the Wabash Valley gives out 6-15 of these grants. Last year 13 of these grants were given out. They aren’t just going to classrooms though, some of them are going to organizations. Any organization or classroom that can legitimately organize an event to advocate for reading more with kids can apply. Last year the Swope Art Museum joined in the fun. They hosted a family craft night where their project centered around the book that they would all receive.
Tiffany knows that United Way is one of the reasons classrooms survive around the Wabash Valley. I ask her what United Way is to her.
“United Way to me is that agency that gives the community opportunities that otherwise wouldn’t be there. In the early childhood community, it ranges from grant opportunities (to) literacy opportunities just (to) provide so much for us and just for things we just wouldn’t have. That is what United Way is to me.”
United Way of the Wabash Valley is more than a not-for-profit organization. It’s far more than a fundraiser. It’s not just a charity to aimlessly give money to and hope for the best. UWWV is people in our community who have dedicated their lives to better the community. These people either have given in completely and work for UWWV or they are people who work in our community that hold jobs that help and then they give more by working alongside UWWV.
Find someone close to you and see if they have ever volunteered in the community. Getting involved is easy. All you have to do is want to give back. United Way of the Wabash Valley is a group of people much like yourself. What can you bring to the table?