United Way makes impact in town

Jamie Anderson

Jamie Anderson

The Brookings Area United Way provides services for almost everyone. However, not everyone knows where to look to find them.

Lisa Bender, executive director of Brookings United Way, wants to make people aware of everything they offer.

“There are quite a few students who use different services,” said Bender. “Some have kids so they use the Boys and Girls Club or the daycare at URC (United Retirement Center), while others use BATA (Brookings Area Transit Authority).”

The United Way provides basic services such as food, heat, shelter and child care, said Bender.

“The agencies that are especially active right now are the Food Pantry, Harvest Table, Salvation Army and Project Joy, which is part of the Child Protection Team,” said Bender.

The Brookings United Way has been around for about 54 years and Bender has been a part of it for about two and a half years.

Consumer Credit Counseling has advising for students who just graduated and need to pay off loans, buy a car or house, etc. The mental health services help pay for medication, said Bender.

“We also do service learning projects, and we help provide understanding for students,” said Bender.

The United Way is a national non-profit organization. The Brookings Area United Way is locally based and almost all the funds go back into the local chapter, said Bender.

There is an annual community fundraiser for the United Way that starts in early September and is usually finalized by Christmas.

“It’s [the fund raiser] support for the agencies that United Way works with,” said Bender.

The dental van is a unique service that the United Way provides once a year for a week.

“It helps ages 0-21 years and is priority based on pain not on income,” said Bender. “It is free dental care.”

It will be open in April 2010 and is a different time every year, but it has been scheduled for spring the next two years, said Bender.

The Dolly Parton Imagination Library sends out hardcover books once every month for kids up to age five. Their parents just need to enroll them in the program.

“It promotes reading and knowledge and loving to read,” said Bender. “The more you read, the more successful you will be in other parts of life. It’s a snowball effect.”

If students want to volunteer with United Way, then the spring would be a good time to do that.

“The only time we need volunteers is helping fill out forms for the dental van,” said Bender. “It has been difficult to find Spanish-speaking volunteers. We do have quite a few parents that speak Spanish and their kids are bilingual and have to help translate.”

The Brookings Area United Way provides all kinds of services. It is up to each person to branch out and find them.

“We just really want people to be aware of everything available and become familiar with the services,” said Bender.

Check out more information on the Web site www.brookingsunitedway.org.