Manager Vocational Rehabilitation
Last spring, my employer WCF Insurance, asked us to attend a site visit at a United Way of Salt Lake Community School as part of the kick-off for the annual employee workplace giving campaign. My team and I went to Lincoln Elementary School. I admit, I was a bit irritated at first. I’m happy to volunteer, but I was so busy at work, and I just didn’t feel I had the extra time for a site visit. I was wrong.
The tour was eye opening for us! I had no idea there were so many programs in place to help these children; many of whom are from refugee families with limited resources. The school was doing its best to make these children feel a part of the school and the community. There were flags flying for each nation of origin of the children in the hallways. The teachers and administrators were attuned to student needs and understood that if you are hungry, you can’t concentrate! If you can’t see well, your learning will be affected or you might be misdiagnosed with a learning disability.
We were told about programs to provide staple groceries for families, breakfast and after-school meals regardless of ability to pay, vision clinics for students to have their eyes checked and glasses that were provided free of charge, in addition to other health needs met through mobile vision vans and medical clinics. The school offers tutoring for reading, and volunteers are always needed to help these children. They are not only learning to read, but learning to read in a language they might not speak at home. We were excited to hear about all of these programs and the difference United Way of Salt Lake and its amazing partners are making in these children’s lives through Collective Impact work!
At the end of the site visit, there was one more program to learn about. The school offers a “store” for students – the Lincoln Loot Store. Throughout the week, students earn Lincoln Dollars for many different things and use their “dollars” to make purchases in the store. I assumed the things would be small toys, crayons, coloring books or other small treats children like. This was true; they did have things like that. But they also had shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, and other basic hygiene items. I thought to myself, what child would want to buy toothpaste over a toy? Then, the Community School Director, who guided us through the school, told me about one little girl from a refugee family who saved her dollars and came to the store to make her purchase. Did she buy a toy or crayons or a coloring book? No. Instead, she bought a big bottle of shampoo. Our guide told us she had been saving up for it and was very excited to be able to take it home and share it with her family as her way of helping to provide.
I left that day with tears in my eyes for that little girl and her family. I left amazed at all the programs offered to help these children to become strong, happy, healthy and productive adults and citizens. I left that day, knowing that my investment, and yours, to United Way of Salt Lake are truly making a difference in our community.