Much of life is too complex to go it alone. This is the driving force behind the United Way of Greater Mercer County (UWGMC). For 81 years, they have gathered local businesses, non-profits, and members of the community together to provide assistance and resources for area residents in times of need.
“The key to success is creating a collective impact,” says Interim CEO Sandra Toussaint-Burgher. “Our mission is to empower the community to take a leading role in helping achieve personal and family self-sufficiency, by applying proven strategies and measuring their effectiveness. We strive to seek partnerships in addressing the complex issues in Mercer County and to communicate our collective impact to the community at large.”
United Way is focused on what are considered to be the three pillars of self-sufficiency: Education, Financial Stability, and Health. These have a dynamic effect on society and provide the foundation that advances our community as a whole.
“Our Reading Oasis program is indicative of our emphasis on education,” Toussaint-Burgher begins. “It is a partnership between the community, your local United Way, and Scholastic to provide books and other resources to schools needing to improve early grade reading. Studies show that children who are not reading proficiently by third grade are four times more likely to experience academic failure than proficient readers.”
The newest Reading Oasis, recently opened at the Robbins Elementary School in Trenton, is also meant as a community space that organizations such as the PTO can use for meetings and teachers may use for student programming.
Addressing the second pillar of financial stability, Toussaint-Burgher notes that upwards of one-third of working Americans do not earn enough money to meet their basic needs. For families walking a financial tightrope, unable to save for college, a home, or retirement, United Way of Greater Mercer County is here to help.
“By providing assistance with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, which provides free tax filings, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), credit counseling, debt management, and budgeting; we help families meet their basic needs while gaining the financial capability to accomplish their long-term financial goals.”
Spearheaded by UWGMC, The Barbershop Prostate Initiative exemplifies the third pillar of health. It is a free program for all men throughout Mercer County with a heavy focus in Trenton. “We and our partners train barbers on the importance of prostate screenings and early detection, health promotion strategies, and, if needed, treatment. Barbers then learn how to educate and navigate the health system for men at elevated risk of prostate cancer. This brings health issues to the heart of the community and into the camaraderie of the barbershop.”
“Our organization continues to build on the history of our partnerships, forward thinking, and collaborative efforts. Together we are making a difference,” declares Toussaint-Burgher.