For more than 50 years, United Way of Skagit County has tackled numerous issues in the community, from hunger and homelessness to affordable housing and domestic violence. Of the many topics United Way deals with, perhaps none has a bigger overall impact than early childhood learning.
Nearly 80 percent of brain development occurs before the age of three-years-old, and proper early childhood nurturing can result in positive lifelong effects for the child, parents, future employers and society as a whole. That’s why Peoples Bank is partnering with the United Way to help meet its ambitious goal of having all Skagit County children entering kindergarten ready to learn by 2025.
Support from local businesses like Peoples Bank – which has supported United Way for more than 20 years – is critical and multi-faceted, says Bill Aslett, a United Way board member. “Not only do we get a significant financial contribution from Peoples Bank, but we also get a time commitment from their leadership team, and an investment in the community,” he says.
The support of Peoples Bank also creates a positive ripple effect through the community. When customers see their financial institution giving back, it makes them more likely to get involved in supporting a cause directly. It also makes other businesses want to join in.
“Everybody wants to join a winning team,” says Debra Lancaster, executive director of the United Way of Skagit County. “When a non-profit is able to say, ‘We’ve got 10 or 12 organizations who’ve already committed a third to half of a specific goal,’ that inspires other businesses to want to do the same.”
Ensuring that young children and their families have access to proper resources for social and educational development, especially for those at lower income levels, requires broad community support, including the involvement of other local businesses, schools, libraries, non-profits, and government.
“Community partnerships are key to being able to reach our goal,” says Philip Prud’homme, United Way’s resource development director.
In recent years, financial support for the early learning effort has provided a number of benefits to the community, including the development of “learning trails” – signed routes pointing out educational options for children like libraries and museums – in Mount Vernon and Anacortes.
Funding has also provided small group support for kindergarten and first graders to enhance social and emotional development. Other benefits for children have included developing a buddy reading program, a books and breakfast program, and a wellness program for young children to learn healthy lifestyle choices. United Way funding also helped support a summer day camp program offering meals, literary activities and enrichment opportunities.
Information about early education resources is available on United Way’s Bright Beginnings webpage. Aslett describes the resources as a “community-wide basket of learning opportunities,” making it easier for parents and caregivers to find what they need to help their children develop measurable skill sets for learning readiness.
Resources include Bright Beginnings play dates, Head Start and Early Head Start programs, child care resources, and early entry kindergarten programs through Skagit County school districts. Support from local businesses like Peoples Bank – which has supported United Way for more than 20 years – is critical and multi-faceted, Aslett says.
There are three primary ways to get involved in supporting United Way: donating funds, which can easily be done by clicking the “Donate Now” button on the non-profit’s website; volunteering in various capacities; and advocating in the community to ensure parents are aware they can and should reach out for help.
Kim Walley, vice president and branch manager of the Peoples Bank Burlington Office and a board member of the United Way of Skagit County, says Peoples Bank always lets employees know how they can help. The Bank offers paid time off for community volunteering, as well as multi-week programs where employees can donate funds to charitable causes through payroll deductions. The Bank’s United Way payroll campaign will begin in November, she says.
More immediately, Peoples Bank will serve as a table sponsor for United Way’s We’re Ready campaign kickoff event on September 13 at McIntyre Hall. The early morning fundraiser includes breakfast and keynote speeches. Next April, Peoples Bank will provide $2,500 of title sponsorship for United Way’s Family Palooza, an event full of resources and fun for expecting parents and families with young children.
“Peoples Bank’s desire to be part of the community and invest in it really stands out and makes a difference in providing the resources needed to achieve our goal and create both short and long-term benefits for Skagit County residents,” says Aslett.
Bright Beginnings Family Palooza
September 11: 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Skagit County Fairgrounds Buildings A,B and C
1410 Virginia Street, Mount Vernon
We’re Ready Campaign Kickoff
September 13: 7:15 a.m. to 9:00 a.m.
2500 East College Way, Mount Vernon