Women United is a powerful, passionate network of women who influence change in our community through focused investment of their time, talent and resources. It is at the forefront of United Way’s movement to build stronger communities.

 

Igniting Change

Women United focuses on early learning and early childhood development. Quality early learning experiences for all children are vital to school readiness, academic performance, and the region’s economic success. Women United will spearhead initiatives that improve the availability and quality of early learning experiences for those most vulnerable in our region.

 

Case for Action

The early years of childhood matter. In fact, 85% of the brain’s development happens before kindergarten, and more than 1 million new neutral connections are formed in the brain every second in the first few years of life. These connections help children learn, control their behavior, and maintain physical and mental health. They are also critical for establishing social/emotional skills, communications skills, and other early learning skills- foundational skills that children will take with them when entering kindergarten, graduating high school, and establishing their career. Early learning experiences, often with a parent or caregiver, are critical to adequately developing these connections and skills.

Unfortunately, many low-income families struggle to access quality early learning opportunities, and their children are often behind their higher income peers in preparing for school. A parent is a child’s first teacher, but many parents don’t know how to engage their children in early learning or underestimate their contribution to their children’s learning. The effects are lifelong. Low-income children are 25% more likely to drop out of school, 60% less likely to attend college, and 70% more likely to be arrested for a violent crime. Low-income children are also more likely to experience a teen pregnancy, have mental health issues, and a shorter lifespan due to a lack of a quality early learning experiences.

United Way’s Women United will provide families access to the necessary tools, resources, and opportunities to engage in quality early learning experiences with their young children by investing in innovative programs and services. These investments will have a significant social and economic return. For every $1 invested in early learning, there’s a $4-$9 return on that investment in the form of increased earnings (and tax revenue) as well as reduced welfare, special education needs, and crime costs. Funding raised through Women United will be used to support high quality programming that promises to change this reality for low-income families.

 

Women United Programs

 

The Laundromat Project

In collaboration with the Birth to Grade 3 Partnership, United Way established the Laundromat Project. United Way sought book donations, installed a children’s book shelf at four local laundromats, and every month coordinated volunteers to deliver free children’s books.  These “reading corners” encourage young readers, improve their access to reading materials, and provide the opportunity for parents and children to have playful, yet meaningful interactions with literacy.  The average family spends 2.5 hours in a laundromat, and many of the families that use laundromats are low-income, so the Laundromat Project engages families that may be missed by traditional literacy programming.

This past March, to raise additional awareness around early literacy, we celebrated Dr. Seuss’ birthday with a free literacy event at one of the laundromats. Families participated in story times and various activities to encourage literacy, and they brought home many free books to build their own libraries.

In order to reach the project’s full potential, United Way recognizes there must be consistent, high quality, and free literacy programs available. Through an $8,000 grant to the New Bedford Free Public Library, a part-time role was created to build upon the Laundromat Project and provide ongoing early literacy efforts at the laundromats.

Participating Laundromats:

EZ Clean Laundromat – 80 Summer St. New Bedford

Lincoln Laundromat – 139 Ashley Blvd. New Bedford

Wash World – 2112 Acushnet Ave. New Bedford

Wash World – 2 Rodney French Blvd. New Bedford

 

 

Community Baby Shower and Baby Bundles
Low-income pregnant women and their families often do not have the financial, social, or educational supports in place to be fully prepared for their new arrivals. Many families struggle with day-to-day expenses, let alone the new expenses that come from raising a baby. Diapers, wipes, bottles, books and other goods can be costly- and sometimes impossible – for families to afford. From developmental milestones to safe sleep, there is a lot of new information for new parents to learn.

A virtual community baby shower and various Baby Bundle drives were held during the year to collect a variety of baby necessities to include in the bundles.

Women United members and their children were invited to take part in the Baby Bundles event.  In April, they packaged 100 Baby Bundles with baby essentials and information on resources available for first time mothers in our community. United Way partnered with Wareham Nurse Midwives and the Greater New Bedford Community Health Center to distribute the bundles to moms.

In 2020, United Way will host Baby Bundles again and we hope to increase the number of bundles we packages. To do that, we need your help! Host a Baby Bundle Drive or consider purchasing a few items off our registries at Target, Walmart, or Amazon. Contact Victoria at vgrasela@unitedwayofgnb.org or 508-994-9625 ext. 210 for more information in Baby Bundles.

 

Becoming a Member

Membership in Women United provides a way to invest in and impact the community, make it a better, stronger place in which to live, work and raise a family. It is open to females who invest at the leadership level of $1,000 or more annually to the Women United Initiative. If a woman donates $1,000 to any United Way of Greater New Bedford initiative she is automatically enrolled as a Women United member unless she specifically requests (written or verbal) to be removed from membership. Additionally, if a household gift is made of $1,000 or more the spouse will automatically be enrolled as a member of Women United unless she specifically requests (written or verbal) to be removed from membership.

Gifts can be made by check, credit card, workplace campaign payroll deduction, planned giving, stock transfer or qualified IRA charitable distribution. To make a donation by credit card and join Women United today, click here. Women United offers a special giving option known as the Step-up Program – This allows participants to make an initial contribution of $500, a $750 contribution in the second year and $1,000 in year three. Step-up participants will be recognized as members starting in year one. Contact Jennifer Bristol for more information: 508-994-9625 ext. 215 or jbristol@unitedwayofgnb.org.

 

Deepen Your Engagement

Expand your involvement with Women United of Greater New Bedford by being part of one of our dynamic committees:

  • Advisory Council – Provide direction and support for all Women United initiatives including, membership and recruitment, volunteering and mentoring and grant investment.
  • Events – Implement, plan and execute events to raise funds to advance the mission.

You don’t have to join a committee to deepen your engagement, there are still many ways to get involved:

  • Donate products and services to an event
  • Donate a purse for Power of the Purse
  • Host a house party
  • Host a book drive
  • Host a baby shower

Power of the Purse

Women United’s signature fundraiser Power of the Purse is hosted each April. This event is an amazing ladies night out featuring hors déoeuvres, cash bar, live entertainment, and a fabulous purse auction. The 3rd Annual Power of the Purse will take place on April 30, 2020. Check back for details.