The Need For Emergency Assistance


Emergency assistance is a crucial support to help families who normally make ends meet but need help in times of crisis. As the weather gets colder things often get harder for those living in poverty. Heating costs rise in the winter and United Way's referral system, 2-1-1, has already received 624 requests for utility assistance this winter. In the 2015-16 school year 812 children were homeless in Berrien County and 267 in Cass County.



Sometimes people need a safety net. That is why United Way believes it is important to invest in people during life's toughest moments. If people cannot afford to keep the lights on or put food on the table, that is going to affect other parts of their life dramatically. For example, it's hard to do well at school if you're always hungry or it gets hard to pay for transportation to work when all your money goes to keep your house heated.


Over a year ago, April’s mom was diagnosed with cancer and had trouble paying for food while absorbing the high costs of her medicine.  April utilized the Mobile Pantry Program through Feeding America of West Michigan, which allowed her mother to take the medicine she needed while eating enough healthy food.


United Way knows that crises happen and we believe that we must support each other during those times. People should have their basic needs meet: A safe place to stay, a full stomach, and a safety net for when life throws us a curve. That’s why we fund the programs below to insure that we have a firm backing for support for all.

Q&A with Great Start Collaborative's Amanda Williamson About Getting Your Child Ready For Success in School and in Life!

As parents and guardians you and your young child are about to begin a wonderful adventure…preparing for success in school and in life! You have the ability to help your child get READY for his or her future right now (even if your child just a few hours old). By measuring your child’s development, using the School Readiness Indicators found in this book, you will be able to work with your child on areas that need extra support. You will also be able to see where your child is doing well.

What is the GET READY GUIDE and how did it get started?

In 2013, Berrien County agencies interested in promoting a common, standards-based early childhood benchmarking system formed a work group through the Berrien County Great Start Collaborative.  The groups involved established the School Readiness Indicators that they believed would best determine a child’s readiness for Kindergarten at age three and at the start of Kindergarten.  These Indicators were discussed among professionals and early childhood experts and then shared with parents and other childcare providers through a series of focus groups.  The Indicators have been adopted as the Berrien County educational model to determine measurable growth expectations and to determine educational success.  As part of sharing the Indicators with community, the work group developed a marketing campaign, called Get READY, to help the community what the Indicators mean and will foster an expectation that all children in Berrien County should be working toward mastering the Indicators to best prepare them for success in school and life.  The Get READY Guide is a piece of the Get READY campaign, designed specifically for parents to have a better understanding of the Indicators.    

What is School Readiness and what are the key indicators?

 Click here to access the Get Ready Parent Guide

Click here to access the Get Ready Parent Guide

The Great Start Collaborative of Berrien County has created a list of goals they identify as being important “base skills.”  These skills, once learned, lend themselves to more difficult skills, which are often taught in school.  If children learn the base skills early, they will be more prepared to take on the harder tasks given to them in Kindergarten.  Being school ready does not just focus on the child.  Parents, schools and communities must also be ready to provide support to the child so that they can be successful.

4 Components of Success:

  1. 1.    Ready Children – a ready child has strong relationships, a strong mind, and a strong body.  Within each of those areas, key skills are developed so that children begin Kindergarten ready to learn and be successful.
  2. 2.    Ready Families – a ready family has adults who understand they are the most important people in their child’s life.  They take responsibility for their child’s school readiness by playing and interacting with their child in a positive way every single day.
  3. 3.    Ready Schools – a ready school accepts all children, has high expectations, and provides a welcoming transition to a high-quality classroom, where the child feels safe, comfortable and able to learn.  Children in ready schools are led by skilled teachers, who recognize children’s strengths and who are respectful of cultural values and individual differences.
  4. 4.    Ready Communities – a ready community plays an important role in supporting families as they help their child get ready for school.  Ready communities work together to support a child’s school by providing families with affordable access to information, services, high-quality child care, and early learning experiences.  

By following the Get Ready Guide, what type of results can a parent expect to see out of their child?

By measuring children’s development, using the School Readiness Indicators found in the Get READY Guide, families will be able to work with their child on areas that need extra support, as well as to see where their child is doing well.  Important Note: Do not expect children to meet every goal listed in the Get READY Guide.  The School Readiness Indicators should be considered a measurement of children’s progress.  If they do not meet a few of the indicators by 36 months, continue to work on it.  If children are not making progress, please ask for help.  Seeking help does not mean there is anything wrong with the child or the family asking.

How to we find out more about the work that the Great Start Collaborative is doing in our community?

You can find all the information you need by going to or by contacting me directly at  We can also be accessed through United Way of Southwest Michigan's website: