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Op-Ed: Region's Generosity Impressive, Impactful, Inspiring

If a neighbor needed your help, would you give it to them?  Based on my experience, you’d say “yes.”

In the winter of 1992, I moved to Greater Cincinnati. I didn’t know anyone but my brother, who was a newlywed at the time and understandably not so keen on having his little sister around, so I set out on my own to figure out my new home. Beyond the fact everyone I met was curious as to where I graduated high school, what impressed me immediately about our community was the overflowing generosity.  

Anywhere and everywhere I turned. Good, caring people. When someone was down on their luck, needed a leg up, or experienced a tragedy, people joined together and reached out to lift them up. Our community’s generosity is inspiring and remains so; from family foundation underwriting, to corporate philanthropy, to your neighbor extending a hand.

United Way is where caring, community-minded people, organizations, and businesses can come together around key strategies to transform the quality of life for all in our region ‒‒ in the belief we can do more together than we can do individually. The strategies are United Way’s Bold Goals centered around education, income, and health. Together we’re working hard to get more kids ready for school, more families stable and self-sufficient, and more people healthy. United Way delivers on these strategies for lasting change.

Now, you may say, you can find good people anywhere. I will tell you,  our community is different. For a clear measure of this region’s generosity and the strength of our United Way, consider this: While the Cincinnati metro area is only the 28th-largest market by population in the United States, United Way of Greater Cincinnati is the sixth-largest campaign in the United States. This alone is a testament to how we take care of our own.

I agreed to lead our region's 100th anniversary campaign about six weeks before I learned of Toyota's headquarters consolidation to Plano, Texas, and the eventual relocation of our company's Erlanger operations. In the months since, I’ve worked more closely than ever with my counterparts nationwide.  

Doing so has only enhanced my appreciation of how fortunate we are in this region to enjoy a strong community partner in United Way. My counterparts and I share best practices as to what is working in our communities and how we are moving the needle on pressing issues. 

I will give you two examples of how our region excels:   

United Way Born Learning Academies are successfully getting kids ready for Kindergarten. The Academies are a series of parent workshops designed to support parents in their critical role as a child’s first teacher. The workshops provide early learning tools and practices for expectant parents, parents, and caregivers of children under age 5. Advances in brain research tell us that by age 5, more than 90 percent of the architecture of the brain is already in place. Economists have found that high-quality early childhood education offers one of the highest returns of any public investment – more than $7 for every dollar spent. Now in our fourth year of a five-year, $1 million investment in Born Learning, Toyota funds 42 of the 104 academies statewide. In Northern Kentucky, we support 19 academies with the help of PNC Bank.

United Way’s Partners for a Competitive Workforce is another successful model I am proud to share. Toyota’s 10 U.S. manufacturing plant communities are interested in innovative workforce solutions to ensure a talent pipeline for advanced manufacturing and strategies designed to increase the number of women engineers. I share with them one way we are addressing  workforce pipeline concerns is through initiatives lead by Partners for a Competitive Workforce, a tri-state regional partnership focused on meeting employer demand by growing the skills of our current and future workforce. By joining efforts, setting joint priorities and tracking progress under one collaborative umbrella, we can accelerate the pace of collaboration so that our region goes farther, faster in preparing our workforce to compete. United Way is a mighty convener. Not one employer could tackle these issues alone.  

These initiatives might not be how you typically think of United Way's work. These are BIG IDEAS. 

Effective strategies to meet Bold Goals. It takes many people working collectively to reach these goals, to create lasting change, to transform the quality of life for all in our region. Again, while there are good people everywhere, our community is different. I recognized it 23 years ago and still feel it today.

The 2015 United Way of Greater Cincinnati campaign goal is $62 million. Will you help us reach our goal? Our neighbors need our help; our community needs our engagement. So, I ask you to join us, lend your voice, volunteer, and please invest in United Way to help us create a stronger region.  Your dollars equal lasting change. Based on my experience, you’ll say “yes.”

Carri Chandler is assistant manager of external affairs at Toyota and resides in Ft. Mitchell