Academically, children growing up in homes without books are on average three years behind children in homes with lots of books, even when controlled for other key factors. One of the most successful ways to improve the reading achievement of children is to increase their access to books, especially at home. However 61% of low-income families do not have any age-appropriate books for their kids at home. You can change that by helping paint and install Little Free Libraries. Little Free Library inspires a love of reading and sparks creativity by fostering neighborhood book exchanges. Through Little Free Libraries, millions of books are exchanged each year, profoundly increasing access to books for readers of all ages and backgrounds. Whirlpool volunteers will paint and then install two of these wonderful libraries at Hall Park in Benton Harbor and the common area at Benton Manor. Help kids have equal access to books year-round by signing up for this fun opportunities. Artists and/or builders needed.
Throughout our area there are people experiencing homelessness, those trying to transition to new living arrangements and families living in shelters until they can get permanent housing. Most of this population is not in a financial position to afford extra food or personal care items. Since shelters do not usually provide meals, and resources are limited to one daily meal at a local soup kitchen, these food kits will help people eat in times when food not available anywhere else. The hygiene kits will help give needed basic & personal care necessities such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo, soap, deodorant, lotion, and a few face clothes to those who could use them. Kits will be directly distributed to the recipients through our partner, Salvation Army Benton Harbor & Niles Corps and The Avenue Family Network.
Mobile pantries are like farmers markets on wheels, delivering a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and baked goods to people in need, often on the same day the food is donated. A mobile pantry can feed between 100 and 300 households. Volunteers are needed to unload the food, set up tables, help distribute food, carry heavier groceries for people who may need help due to a disability, and give a smile to those that are currently experiencing food insecurity.
Back to school can be an expensive time for financially struggling families. When you add up all the back to school supplies needed, the backpacks themselves, and replacing any clothing, tennis shoes, and winter coats the kids have outgrown, the cost can add up to more than some families can afford. In May and July Walmart and Honor Credit Union collected backpacks and supplies for kids in need. Join us August 2 to pack these backpacks to get them ready for distribution in August to the kids in our community so they can start the school year off right.
United Way of Southwest Michigan and Be Healthy Berrien present Read Up! A new addition to the Meet Up and Eat Up Program. The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) Meet up Eat Up program was created to ensure that children in lower-income areas could continue to receive nutritious meals during long school vacations when they do not have access to the National School Lunch or School Breakfast Programs. This summer, we invite Whirlpool Employees to join us in making these days even more important to stopping the “summer slide” by holding a story hour for the kids at meal time. Volunteers will take a little wagon full of books as a mini mobile library to various meal time sites so kids can pick books to take home after story time and grow their reading skills.
Every year, food pantries across Southwest Michigan are fully stocked in the winter months thanks to generous holiday donations—but when summer comes, donations drop dramatically and pantry shelves become sparse. This can leave low-income, hard-working families with limited options during this time of year. So, for the third year in a row, United Way of Southwest Michigan asks local businesses and community members to participate in our “Christmas in June” event to stock local food pantries with items to get them through the warmer months.