United Way of Story County is a leader in identifying areas of need within our community and then bringing together experts in those fields to develop solutions to meet the needs. This makes Story County a stronger, better community for everyone who lives and works here.

UWSC invests into three areas that are the building blocks for a good quality of life — education, income and health. With 45 percent of its investments going toward education and 32 percent going toward income programs, UWSC shows it commitment to finding solutions to issues that hinder the quality of life for low to moderate income families. It has long been involved in efforts to improve hunger and education for children in Story County.

“I think one thing that surprises a lot of people is that one in four school-age children in Story County goes hungry,” said Jean Kresse, president and CEO of UWSC. “During the school year, these children are able to receive healthy meals from the free and reduced lunch program, which is crucial to their families. But what happens during the summer months? That is another meal each day that they may not have, so summers can be a very difficult and stressful time for the children and their parents.”

Prior to 2013, UWSC supported summer activity programs for one of its partner agencies, the Boys and Girls Club of Story County, which included a free lunch for children in the program. While still supporting this program today, UWSC began to see a way they could tackle not only the hunger problem, but also summer learning loss among elementary-aged kids.

“Statistics tell us that children from families with low incomes lose 2-3 months of academic achievement over the course of the summer,” said Kresse. “They are also less likely to graduate, especially if they are not proficient readers by the third grade.”

According to the National Summer Learning Association, longitudinal studies indicate that the effects of summer learning programs endure for at least two years after participation. In other words, the impact the programs make in a child’s life far exceed the course of a summer.

In partnership with YSS, Raising Readers in Story County, Volunteer Center in Story County, Nevada Public Library, Kiwanis Club and many other organizations and churches, UWSC launched the summer enrichment program during the summer of 2013 in Nevada. The program was so successful that it expanded to Ames the following year, and then to Ballard in 2016. It also increased the number of partners working together.

After hearing feedback from staff members who worked at both the Nevada and Ames programs last year, the Collins-Maxwell School District approached YSS and UWSC about having a pilot program in their district. In June, a four-week summer enrichment program, which included breakfast and lunch, was implemented at Collins-Maxwell. It served 78 kids from grades K-8.

While most of the summer enrichment programs are still underway around Story County, UWSC and its many partners are on track to feed over 900 kids this summer. In addition to the summer enrichment programs and the Boys and Girls Club of Story County, UWSC supports a meal program at the Ames Public Library that serves lunch to anyone under 18, Monday-Friday, through Aug. 22.

For more information on the programs or how you can volunteer, visit www.uwstory.org or call 515-268-5142.