Community Connections: Make a difference in community | SteamboatToday.com

Community Connections: Make a difference in community

Kate Nowak/For Steamboat Today







Every day, Routt County United Way is working on answering and addressing one question: What are the most effective long-term solutions to the most critical health and human issues in our community?

We believe this question can be answered by addressing four critical impact areas:

• Early childhood education — getting small children on the right track that will make a difference for the rest of their lives.

• Youth success — ensuring our marginalized youth have the opportunity to be successful);

• Income stability — helping people understand they can have a successful, positive life, no matter their circumstances, and giving them the tools to do so.

Recommended Stories For You

• Health and crisis — providing better access to health care and providing assistance in mental and physical crisis situations.

To address these four critical impact areas, Routt County United Way partners with nonprofits, local investors, business and government to bring the whole community together to determine real, effective strategies and solutions.

Today, Routt County United Way is digging deeper than ever before in an effort to better understand the roots of our community problems.

Early childhood education

Research is clear that early childhood education is critically important to future life success. So, what are the barriers preventing all children from attending preschool? To better identify these barriers, we are conducting a preschool survey and inviting all parents of young children to take the survey in October on our website, routtcountyunitedway.org.

Youth success

What can we do to better ensure our youth are successful and safe, no matter their life circumstances? There are many excellent youth activities and programs available for our young people in Routt County, but unfortunately, not all youth participate and, in some of our smaller towns, activities and access to them are limiting. United Way is conducting listening tours in all Routt County school districts in an effort to gather more feedback from teachers, principals, teen councils and counselors as to the greatest needs of our children. We will then be able to better focus on solutions that meet the unmet needs of our community’s youth.

Income stability

What can we do to ensure our seniors are able to live the final years of their lives in safety and comfort? Data forecasts that Routt County will see a quadrupling of the number of low-income seniors in the next 10 years. It needs to be a priority in our community to keep seniors self-sufficient and safe, which will, in turn, benefit us all. We are working hard with partners, such as the Routt County Council on Aging, to address this through our Senior Caring Volunteer Group launching in November.

And what can we do to make our low-income families and citizens more self-sufficient and not reliant on government assistance? Our Routt-to-Work program collaborates with LiftUp of Routt County and the Routt County Department of Human Services. Already, the program has shown to be very effective, helping eight families in 2015 reduce or eliminate their need for public assistance. The program works by helping low-income families through a year-long program, followed by nine months of mentoring, during which time participants are actively taught and coached to learn the proper tools and tactics to be successful and self-sufficient in life. When that happens, our whole community benefits, because its families are more stable.

Health and crisis

What can we do to address our community’s real and pervasive drug- and alcohol-addiction problem? We are supporting community efforts to bring light to the prolific drug and alcohol addiction problem in Routt County. This nationwide epidemic does not exclude Routt County. We — coupled with the diligent efforts of the Rx Task Force — are supporting local partners to tackle this multifaceted issue.

Together with our investors and partners, we will continue to do the hard, but necessary, work of monitoring and addressing the most critical health and human needs in Routt County and work in partnership with community members to improve the lives of all Routt County residents.

Kate Nowak is executive director of Routt County United Way and has lived in the Yampa Valley for 19 years. Routt County United Way's mission is to inspire, lead, and unite people, ideas and resources to advance community impact in four core areas: education, income stability and health.