United Way of Midland County kicked off its 2017 Community Campaign on Monday, September 11 with Read to Succeed, an impact event that brought together community leaders from 23 local organizations to read to students in 162 Midland County classrooms. Over 160 volunteers read books about gardens, plants and vegetables to students in Kindergarten through third grade, impacting a total of 3,284 local students.

“Spending time with young children who are eager to learn is inspiring. It’s a reminder for us all to not only take time to learn, but to have fun doing it, too,” said Sarah Opperman, from Opperman Consulting and the United Way of Midland County Board of Directors. “Reading to these third graders was an opportunity to see the value of learning and of one-on-one interactions, and a reminder of the wonderful enthusiasm and passion of this generation in our community.”

Early grade reading remains an important area of focus for United Way. Studies show that third grade is the last year that kids are taught to read, and from fourth grade on, students need to be able to read in order to learn.

“This was my first year participating in the Read 2 Succeed program. Being a father of two, I know how important reading to children can be in their overall development and I was happy the United Way asked me to participate,” shared Aaron Hebert from Aptar. “It’s nice to see adults in the community giving up their time to be a part of a program that positively impacts young children. I am looking forward to participating in the program again next year.”

Volunteers read books such as Lola Plants a Garden, Eating the Alphabet: Fruits and Vegetables from A to Z, Grow! Raise! Catch! and National Geographic Kids: Seed to Plant. These books, which promote healthy, nutritious food, also align with Midland County Hunger Connections’ work around Community Gardens and the new Midland Fresh mobile farm stand.

“I had the wonderful opportunity of heading to Siebert Elementary to read to the second graders, and I was even able to include my wife and read in my own son’s classroom. Without the planning and organization provided by United Way, this wouldn’t have been possible, however, I’m so grateful it was,” shared Chuck Carn from The Dow Chemical Company. “We had a magical moment learning about all kinds of farmers, talking with the kids about reading, and being invigorated by their energy.”

The first week of the 2017 Community Campaign was strong, and United Way reported pledges of $891,115, which is 19% of the overall campaign goal of $4,800,000.

“We recognize that this year’s campaign will be very challenging as there are many uncertainties in our community. Our goal of $4.8m is a bold stretch goal that aligns to the need in our community,” stated Ann Fillmore, Executive Director at United Way of Midland County. “We have assembled an A-team of volunteers who are already actively engaged in the community spreading inspiration as to the impact achieved through United Way donations. We are grateful to the hundreds of volunteers that generously give of themselves to share the work of United Way and are working tirelessly to ensure a successful campaign.”

Diane Postler-Slattery, Campaign Chair and President and CEO of MidMichigan Health added “After visiting all 25 United Way partner agencies, I’ve been impressed by the talent and passion of everyone at these organizations who are working to change lives in Midland County. They’re working hard every day to meet needs that I never knew existed.”

The 2017 Community Campaign will continue through October 30. For more information on how you can change lives for the better in Midland County, visit unitedwaymidland.org.