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United Way kicks off fundraising drive, showcases success stories

Christy Brady, left, talks about her life experiences being a single mother as she speaks about Climb Wyoming during the United Way of Laramie County luncheon Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017, at the Radisson hotel in Cheyenne. Blaine McCartney/Wyoming Tribune Eagle

Sep 13, 2017

CHEYENNE – Kristen-Erin Anderson’s relationship with United Way began as her marriage dissolved.

She found herself at Safehouse Services, which supports victims of domestic violence, a newly single mother of four.

Once she got her feet back underneath her, she started working again, waiting tables and bartending after years as a stay-at-home Army wife.

But while wages, tips and government aid might have been enough to live on, it wasn’t enough for a life with four kids.

So when she saw something about Climb Wyoming on a state Department of Family Services bulletin board, she called the number.

She started job training in its workflow specialist curriculum and eventually found her way to the Wyoming Family Home Ownership Program, where she works to help people go from poverty to owning their own homes.

But that new job was just the nominal reason she was onstage Tuesday at the United Way of Laramie County’s annual event kicking off its fundraising drive.

She appreciated the tens of thousands in grant money coming to her current organization, of course. But she also wanted to thank United Way for funding all the other programs that got her to where she is today.

“In talking about investing in your community, you guys are investing in me,” she said. “And now I’m investing in my friends and my neighbors and helping them out of poverty.”

Anderson wasn’t the only one to get teary-eyed about United Way’s impact. And she’s not the only one inspired to get involved in its service, either.

United Way of Laramie County Executive Director Connie Sloan-Cathcart said this year’s campaign has already netted $483,000 through dozens of local employers and their early pacesetter campaigns.

That’s a 5.6 percent increase from last year’s early haul, and she said she hoped it would mark a bounce back toward the record-setting heights of 2015, when pacesetters contributed more than $550,000.

But she also put things in perspective.

“We’re budgeted for $1.2 million this year,” she said. “But we got requests from nonprofits totaling $2 million.

“We make tough decisions to make the most of what we have, but we can always do more good,” she continued.

United Way grants to area nonprofits totaled $885,236, roughly two-thirds of total expenses in 2015 – the most recent year for which financial data is publicly available.

United Way divides those grants between three core missions: helping kids reach their full potential in schools, bolstering community health resources and fight poverty.

Among more than 20 recipients in 2015 were the COMEA House homeless shelter, the Cheyenne Health and Wellness Center and the Boys & Girls Club of Cheyenne.

Anderson is especially grateful for that last one now. In addition to her new job, she’s found a new man with a child of his own, adding to her four.

“Thank God for the Boys and Girls Club,” Anderson said. “They keep me sane.”

She also mentioned that before she met her partner, he got help from Family Promise, another United Way partner.

Tears flowed.

“My family would not be what it is without you guys,” she said.

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