Behind the scenes: How our nonprofit partners are shaping our region
Our partner agencies are on the front lines of the fight to help people live their best possible lives.
From supporting kids with disabilities to providing enrichment for seniors and helping families to thrive, they work to address our region’s most pressing needs.
It can be hard to understand everything that these agencies do – that is, unless you get a behind-the-scenes look.
Follow along with United Way’s 2019 campaign co-chairs Tim Wentworth, president of Express Scripts and Cigna Health Services, and Greg Smith, chairman of Husch Blackwell, as they tour some of our nonprofit partner agencies and meet some of the people helped along the way.
Illinois Center for Autism
The tour’s first stop was at the Illinois Center for Autism (ICA), a mental health treatment and education center serving children and adults with autism spectrum disorder. Its goal is to help participants achieve their highest level of independence in their home, school and community. ICA offers a day school, adult services and family support.
Tim and Greg were able to see this impact firsthand when they met Thomas, a 15-year-old ICA student who led a tour of the campus.
In addition to showing off ICA’s classrooms and highlighting several programs, Thomas also let the group in on some secrets – from his favorite foods in the cafeteria to his passion for reading. He hopes to work in ICA’s library next year, where he can keep track of all the books and pick up valuable work experience.
Thomas’ enthusiasm for his school and determination to reach his goals were infectious!
“It was inspiring to see this young man so involved in his school community and so passionate about sharing that with us,” Smith remarked after the visit. “This is just one of the great examples of how United Way helps individuals across our region reach their potential.”
St. John’s Community Care
A United Way supported agency since 1991, St. John’s Community Care improves the quality of life for older and disabled adults living in the community, keeping their sense of independence alive.
Tim and Greg saw firsthand how St. John’s Community Care’s Adult Day Center is more than just a place for participants to go – it brings them back into the world of the living. Participants can engage cognitively, socially and physically through games, music and art therapy, exercise and dancing.
When the tour arrived at the Adult Day Center in Collinsville, Illinois, the center buzzed with activity as program participants played balloon volleyball. Players used pool noodles to toss balloons back and forth, practicing their communication and motor skills.
Other participants were busy working on crafts like needlepoint and crochet, creating handmade gifts for a longtime participant who would be turning 104 later that month.
Children’s Home & Aid
The final stop of the afternoon was Children’s Home & Aid, a child and family service agency serving nearly 40,000 children and families each year in over 60 counties in Illinois. The agency partners with at-risk children, youth and families to create hope, opportunities and bright futures.
After meeting with agency leaders to learn about their work, Tim and Greg met a young family who shared their story about how Children’s Home & Aid has helped them grow and thrive together.
Noah has KIF1A Associated Neurological Disorder, a rare genetic disorder that causes cognitive and other delays. A teacher from the agency regularly visits Noah, his 3-year-old brother Kayden and his mom Cassie. The teacher brings educational games and parenting resources that not only help both boys learn and grow, but they also help the whole family build a stronger relationship. Noah and Kayden excitedly showed Tim and Greg what they have learned about colors and animals.
With help from the agency, Cassie will attend a conference in New York to learn more about Noah’s disorder, meet other families impacted by the disease and connect with specialists and resources.
“When you see the direct impact United Way has on the people and agencies it supports, it is truly awe-inspiring,” Wentworth said. “Because of United Way’s support, Cassie and Noah are able to travel to a symposium in New York to hear from the one expert in the United States who knows the most about the disease. That absolutely would not have happened without United Way.”
Take action now:
- Volunteering is a great way to learn about our community’s needs. Discover the perfect opportunity for you with United Way’s Volunteer Center.
- Learn more about the nonprofit agencies we support.
- Share this story with family and friends.
Emily Becherer is a proud native St. Louisan, writer and lover of stories in all their forms. Faced with a captivating question, she will research her way down a rabbit hole and emerge with words that educate and inspire. You can probably find her taking in a musical, bingeing through a new podcast series, exploring the trails at local parks or curating her extensive library of Spotify playlists.