The Putnam Examiner

United Way Seeks Volunteers for ‘Community Conversations’

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Communit-conversation-logoResidents can help identify problems in their communities and be part of the solution.

Every four years United Way of Westchester and Putnam looks to the community to help guide its important work in the areas of education, income and health. Thousands of people who live or work in the area will get a chance to prioritize top concerns through three online “Community Conversation” surveys.

The results will help United Way determine the areas of focus within the local communities for the next four years.

The first is focused on education and will run through February 28. The financial stability survey will launch in March and the health survey will run in May.

“We can’t do our work of advancing the common good unless we ask the community what makes life better in their town, “ said Naomi Adler, United Way of Westchester and Putnam CEO and president. “Education is a great place to start. There are a lot of issues that students of all ages are experiencing in the community. Through the survey results we will know which ones are seen as most critical and will then direct our support through advocacy, volunteerism and grants.”

United Way’s goal is to have 1,000 people representing every community in Putnam and Westchester take each of the surveys. To do this, it needs help in the form of volunteers.

“The core of our organization is our volunteer force, and they make all the big decisions regarding where funding and resources are allocated,” said Adler.

United Way is also encouraging teachers, parents, students, grandparents and administrators to participate in the education survey.

There are two ways to help. First, take the survey itself. Second, spread the word so that others take the survey. Those interested in getting others involved are welcome to become a Community Conversation leader, or by using United Way’s online resources to share the initiative through social media and email.

“The United Way of Westchester and Putnam has long been an essential advocate for Putnam and a vital resource for funding programs that are of the utmost importance to our residents,” said Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell. “I strongly urge everyone to participate in this Community Conversation, as we will all benefit in the long run.”

As an added incentive, every time someone completes a survey online he or she is entered into a drawing to win a free iPad mini. A person can only be entered one time per survey, so a maximum of number of three entries per person is possible.

During the last Community Conversations in 2008-09, more than 1,500 members of the community responded to surveys indicating what they considered to be the most pressing issues and service shortfalls in Westchester and Putnam. A task force of experts and volunteers was then created for each of the three focus areas to identify how to work toward solutions. Nonprofits then applied to be part of the solution through grants and worked closely with United Way and other nonprofits to measure progress on a quarterly basis.

An overarching goal of the education initiative is to increase high school graduation rates through school readiness programs, support for at-risk students and inter-generational mentoring, as one in 10 students in Putnam does not graduate with their peers.

Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer Community Conversations leader can contact Shannon Conn at or 914-997-6700, ext. 720.

The Community Conversation surveys can be found at . There is also a link on the Putnam County website.

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