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Char-Em United Way

Promoting literacy in Charlevoix & Emmet Counties - Vista Blog

Hi, Everyone! My name is Missy Wright, and I am serving with Char-Em United Way (CEUW) in Petoskey, MI. Looking back on the first six months of my service, I’m amazed by the number and variety of things I’ve been involved in through CEUW. I went into this looking to gain experience and I have already gotten so much more than I anticipated. I’ve written grant proposals, newsletters, press releases, and newspaper articles, recruited, trained, and coordinated volunteers, planned events, helped coordinate a silent auction, run social media accounts, and designed flyers, posters, and banners. I have been considering a career in nonprofit work of some kind, but had no experience, and now I feel like I’ve experienced a little bit of everything and have a much better understanding of the role of United Way in the community. The two-person office at CEUW is amazing and they work nonstop to help the people of Charlevoix and Emmet Counties.

One of the largest parts of my job at CEUW is Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, a program that distributes free books to children under age five. I have a master’s degree in literature and wrote my dissertation on children’s books, so I am in favor of any program that gives books to kids, and am thrilled to be helping with DPIL. I travel to local schools and early childhood events to talk to parents about the program as well as running the administrative side of registration and helping acquire funding. As part of that I recently helped with our annual fundraiser for DPIL, the Toast to Literacy. This event took months of planning and I was responsible for acquiring and keeping track of auction items, helping promote the event, and recruiting and coordinating volunteers. Luckily, our committee is made up of volunteers who’ve been doing this for years and are all incredibly dedicated and hardworking, and with their help this was the most successful Toast to Literacy yet. We netted over $13,000 to help pay for the Imagination Library!

I am also responsible for most of the volunteer coordination at CEUW. This means that I recruit and train volunteers for a variety of projects including fundraising events like the Toast, research opportunities within the office, assisting with DPIL, and many others. The largest volunteer project so far was the Literacy Corps; this is a group of volunteers that Brooke (the previous VISTA here) and I recruited and arranged training for and I am placing in schools all over our two-county area. Getting them placed has been tricky, but it’s very rewarding knowing that they are out there making a difference for so many kids in our community.

I’ve also planned a Show Me the Money Day financial services fair, helped arrange for Bess the Book Bus to come give away books to local kids, helped with the Season of Caring volunteer projects, and worked at the Stuff the Bus school supplies drive.

There is so much more to this position than what I’ve described, but these are some of the highlights. I’ve learned a lot and gotten to know so many really lovely people throughout the past six months and I’m looking forward to even more new experiences and challenges over the next six.