United Way of Northern Arizona Celebrates 50 Years

United Way of Northern Arizona Celebrates 50 Years

One of Flagstaff’s most recognizable charitable organizations is celebrating fifty years of giving back.

2017 marks the fiftieth anniversary of United Way of Northern Arizona, and to celebrate, they are doing what United Way does best- making a difference in the lives of those in need and improving lives in their community.

The nonprofit organization is hosting a special fundraising drive for one of its major programs, the KinderCamp initiative, an innovative school readiness program that ensures all children enter kindergarten ready to learn and succeed.

Although their general fundraising campaign will start in September, they have already kicked off their special “50 for 50 Drive,” which hopes to raise $50,000 for the KinderCamp program in honor of the organization’s golden anniversary.

The program can easily change the lives of local children, and is a prime example of the programs United Way offers to improve quality of life for those in need.

Originally called the United Fund of Flagstaff, what is today known as United Way of Northern Arizona was incorporated on June 24, 1967 by a small group of determined citizens wishing to raise funds via workplace campaigns for local nonprofits. Funds benefitted the American Red Cross, Big Brothers, and  The Guidance Center. During it’s first annual campaign in 1967, the organization raised $60,000, a figure that quickly grew over time as did the amount of agencies benefiting from these funds. In 2017, 34 agencies in Flagstaff received funding, in addition to another 17 groups based in Page and other areas in the northeast part of the state.

The organization continues to carefully select partner organizations and beneficiaries that align with their mission of creating lasting, positive changes that improve the education, financial stability and health of local residents.

Throughout it’s fifty years, the organization has facilitated the creation of new programs, including the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, the backpack program to fight chronic hunger in schools, and the KinderCamp initiative. 

In 2005, the organization conducted a community needs survey that ultimately identified early childhood learning as a major concern, prompting the creation of the KinderCamp program. United Way joined forces with early childhood advocates such as Head Start, Flagstaff Unified School District, Coconino County Public Health Department, Northern Arizona University and the Arizona Community Foundation. With the help of a major grant from the Administration for Children, Youth and Families’ Childcare Bureau (part of the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services),  KinderCamp became a reality. The program gives children in need the resources to develop social and academic skills to prosper in kindergarten. The program has been so successful because it gives students who did not attend preschool the chance to progress significantly in the four-week camp. Students are less likely to suffer separation anxiety on their first days of school, develop a budding confidence with their peers and in the classroom, and become more comfortable with the school day schedule.

United Way of Northern Arizona has expanded the KinderCamp program into Page, Williams, Winslow and Lakeside in Navajo County. Children aren’t the only ones who leave the program with a smile; parents appreciate it too because it gives them the chance to ask questions, meet with teachers, and take home a literacy kit filled with school-prep activities and books.

Support KinderCamp and United Way of Arizona by donating to the “50 for 50” drive. For more information, please visit the official website. 

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