Through generous local donations, the United Way of Steele County makes a significant impact on the community each year. In 2017, here are the organization’s favorite projects.
- Preschool transportation
United Way of Steele County partnered with Owatonna Schools, Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation and SMART Transit, along with the support of state and federal grants, to purchase a new school bus to provide transportation to preschoolers in Owatonna. This new service, including scholarships for income eligible families, is already helping 68 preschoolers get to and from preschool – children who may not have had the opportunity to go without this great resource. Starting in January of 2018, we will be adding an additional bus and expanding service to a larger geographic area and more families.
- Job readiness for young people
In collaboration with Workforce Development Inc., Owatonna Public Schools and the Chamber of Commerce, United Way of Steele County has helped to bring more resources to our local high schoolers and college students to help them gain job skills and local employment. A counselor focused on post-graduation job readiness works with High school students in Owatonna at OHS and the Alternative Learning Center, in Medford and in Blooming as well as Adult Basic Ed young adults. United Way also is part of the Steele County Works initiative.
- Meals in Motion
In 2017, the Healthy Eating Collaborative facilitated by the United Way partnered in the launch of Meals in Motion a Mobile Food Shelf under the umbrella of the Steele County Food Shelf. This service is targeted to those community members who cannot get to the bricks and mortar food shelf and are experiencing food insecurity. Very quickly, Meals in Motion was serving over 100 households twice a month, including many homebound seniors.
- Dolly Parton Imagination Library
Led by the Women’s Leadership Council of the United Way of Steele County, local children receive a free age appropriate book in the mail monthly from birth to age 5. The free books are provided by the Dolly Parton Foundation, while the cost to the community for shipping is $25 per child. Since the local launch of the program in August 2014, over 1700 preschool children in Steele County have been enrolled into the program and have received their own books.
- Boots to Work
United Way of Steele County has coordinated with local staffing agencies, Owatonna Shoe and the Salvation Army to eliminate a critical barrier to employment in our community – steel toed shoes for manufacturing employees hired through staffing agencies. This year, they’ve put as many as 150 men and women into new or better-paying jobs.
- Cooking Matters
The ability to cook healthy and tasty meals on a budget and connect with others around good food is an important component of leading a healthy life. Through a partnership with University of MN Extension SNAP Education, United Way of Steele County has paid the cost of bringing cooking classes to many different community members and organizations, including youth at Blooming Prairie Boys and Girls Club, English Language Learners at Roosevelt Adult Basic Education classes and community members receiving services through Steele County Human Relations Center Supportive Housing.
- Afterschool Program Scholarships
In 2014, the United Way of Steele County began to provide numerous full-year scholarships for kids in need to attend positive, educational afterschool programs. These scholarships served Owatonna’s School Age Care and the Tiger Club of Medford. United Way also supports the education-focused programming at Somali American Cultural Society of Owatonna and the Boys and Girls Club of Blooming Prairie.
- Made in Owatonna Days
Helping to educate youth in Owatonna on the multitude of local employment opportunities, United Way partnered with Junior Achievement and the Chamber of Commerce on a program that got high schoolers out into local businesses for “Made in Owatonna” events. These tours took students through Federated Insurance, JC Press, Owatonna Peoples Press, Owatonna Police Department, Kids Korner, City of Owatonna Parks and Recreation, Fernbrook Family Center, South Central Human Relations Center, Wenger, Owatonna Heating and Cooling, Mike’s Garage, R and K Electric and Bosch.
- Summer Lunch at the Owatonna Library
In 2017, the Healthy Eating Collaborative facilitated by United Way got together to purchase a vehicle to be used to bring healthy food to different groups in our community. The FRED (Food Resource and Education Delivery) van was used this summer to bring free federally-funded Owatonna Schools Nutrition Services summer meals to children ages 1 to 18. Throughout the summer, children in and near the library could also get a free picnic lunch. 1578 meals were served at the library this summer.
- Safe and Drug Free Coalition
Steele County Safe & Drug Free Coalition is dedicated to keeping our youth free from the harmful effects of underage drinking, drugs and tobacco use. A key community collaboration is the Take it To the Box campaign, which collects prescription drugs for disposal, keeping it out of the hands of anyone it was not prescribed for. There are two collection boxes: Law Enforcement Center lobby at 204 E. Pearl Street, Owatonna, and Blooming Prairie City Hall 138 Hwy Ave. S. Blooming Prairie. Since 2011, Take it to the Box has disposed of over 5000 lbs of unwanted prescription drugs.