Tanner Koons is used to children visiting his office at T.O. Smith.
Parents don’t always have a lot of time and money to spend on their children, and that’s why Tanner’s work through United Way of Northern Utah and the Ogden School District is so important. At the school’s Sunshine Closet, Tanner helps provide students with coats, hats, boots, school supplies and food through contributions given by the community.
He’s used to helping children in need, and that’s why he was so surprised when some students told him they had a Christmas gift for him. They’d been working on it for a long time, they told him, and they had even wrapped the present.Inside a taped plastic shopping bag, Tanner found the children had given him toys they’d saved for him for Christmas.
“This was one of the most humbling things that ever happened to me,” Tanner says. “These kids have practically nothing, yet they were so excited to give me a present.”
Sometimes the recipient receives more than the giver. For United Way of Northern Utah, it isn’t just about feeling good about ourselves when we donate our time or money. It’s about making life better for the people who live in our communities so they, in turn, can contribute to their communities. It’s about systematic change.
United Way of Northern Utah, serving Weber, Box Elder, Morgan and Oneida counties, leads community-wide efforts to solve complex problems so that everyone becomes stronger and more effective together. Their five-year strategic plan focuses on four main objectives:
Community Leadership – Lead community-wide efforts to achieve whole community change
Education – Prepare children to succeed in school and life
Income – Build a community of financially stable and independent families
Health – Develop a community of healthy individuals
United Way of Northern Utah cannot do this work alone. They recruit volunteers, receive donations and distribute contributions to other organizations. Volunteers spend countless hours in schools, homes, and communities throughout United Way of Northern Utah’s service areas. Some of their initiatives include: United Partnership Council, Americorps (AEIOU) tutor/mentorship programs, Welcome Baby home visitation, Year of Action community events, Community School Coordinators (like Tanner), 211 Utah and more.
UWNU also partners with local organizations to solve community problems by pooling resources to maximize impact and avoid duplication of efforts. Partners include government, business, and non-profit organizations.
At T.O. Smith, for example, where 100% of students qualify for free or reduced lunch and 45% of students are learning English, students in need receive free haircuts, dental cleanings, free eye exams and glasses, pantry packs, Sunshine Closet donations, attendance support, and community resource connections. All these initiatives require the support of multiple non-profit agencies, local businesses, and community members to meet students’ basic needs so they can focus on school.
Throughout the coming year, United Way of Northern Utah will share its efforts to implement its strategic plan and achieve better education, income and health in our community. We hope you will support them and their partners in their efforts to make Northern Utah a stronger, better, and happier place to live.
For more information, visit uwnu.org.