Text of United Way of Greater Topeka’s 2014 Annual Meeting presentation (edited for length)

2014 Annual Meeting Script


Good afternoon and welcome to United Way of Greater Topeka’s 2014 Annual Meeting. I’m Miriam Krehbiel, president and CEO of United Way. Today, we’re pleased to share with you the story of how we are A Community Connected, and how your contributions to United Way are Truly Changing Lives for the Better.

I’d like to introduce Kent Townsend, Chairman of the Board of United Way of Greater Topeka.


Community problems rarely originate from a single cause. Solving problems requires that everyone works together – schools, nonprofit organizations, foundations, city and state government, and businesses. This is the focus of United Way’s work – bringing people together to create a vision for a healthy community and then to set goals, align programs, activities, strategies and partners, and then measure success by tracking and sharing data.

Our work is about change, not charity. Donors have told us that they don’t want band-aid solutions. The need to address issues in our community is growing, and the answer is to address the root causes of the issues rather than continually asking donors for larger amounts of money just to treat the symptoms.


Take getting young people to graduate from high school. It begins with early education.

Here are some statistics from Kansas Action for Children:

  • Children acquire the ability to think, speak, learn and reason during the first three years of life, making this a crucial time in the development of early literacy skills.
  • Studies show that children who do not read at grade level by third grade are significantly more likely to drop out of school before graduation.
  • Every dollar invested in early education saves $7 down the road.

Through our work with partners, we have learned that:

  • Children born into poverty may be read to a total of 25 hours by the time they start school. By contrast, children born into middle class families are read to a total of 1,000 hours. So, we partner with Parents as Teachers which works with low- to-moderate income families to model for parents how to read to their children and become part of their early education beginning at birth.
  • Children who don’t eat on weekends take until Wednesday to catch up to their peers cognitively. So, through our Basic Needs work, we partner with Harvesters which provides the Weekend BackSnack program to provide children with ready to eat meals to take home on the weekend. In our on-grade achievement work, we partner with Communities in Schools which connects families with food banks, puts socks and coats on children on cold winter days and helps solve other problems that are obstacles to kids succeeding in school.

We talk a lot about the success story of Pine Ridge Prep — a project that includes eight partners;  Topeka Housing Authority, Topeka Public Schools, one Head Start program and one Head Start association, Parents as Teachers, Topeka Community Foundation, Topeka Public Schools Foundation and United Way, which has made a $375,000 three-year investment in the preschool.

The efforts of these partners are not just helping students who had little chance of succeeding, they are transforming a community.

The story begins with a neighborhood where, once, street lights were shot out, pizza delivery drivers wouldn’t go and even the book mobile wouldn’t visit because their drivers were shot at. Through Topeka Public Schools and Topeka Housing Authority, Parents As Teachers moved into a building and began working with families. A preschool was opened next door and now occupies two buildings. A playground has been rebuilt, and includes a Born Learning Trail built by our Young Leaders Society. Other programs have been added to help the community.

Before the preschool opened in this neighborhood, a petite, young teacher went door to door in the neighborhood recruiting and enrolling children in the school. She is a person who believes that things won’t get better unless she directly participates in helping make them better.

We are very fortunate to have with us today Shanna Russell, the site coordinator for Pine Ridge Prep.

[ Shanna Russell presented special challenges of low-income children from homes with Adverse Childhood Events ranging from drug and alcohol abuse to physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect and more that all have to be overcome before children at Pine Ridge Prep can even being to learn. Yet, the children’s test scores on a pre-Kindergarten assessment rival those of at-risk children in much wealthier areas of Topeka]

Your contributions to United Way are making a difference in the lives of these children.


Pine Ridge Prep has been honored with a 2014 Magna Award. The Magna Award is sponsored by the National School Boards Association’s American School Board Journal and recognizes school boards across the country for outstanding programs that advance student learning and encourage community involvement in schools.

United Way of Greater Topeka is honored to have received a Friend of Education Award from Topeka Public Schools for our support of Pine Ridge Prep.

We also have a kindergarten prep camp that helps improve the student’s DIBELS scores upon entering kindergarten. Once the children finish kindergarten, we continue with our on-grade achievement strategies including tutoring, summer enrichment and support services to help students keep up with their peers.

Our community partners have served more than 1,000 children in on-grade achievement. In the first year, our tutoring and summer enrichment programs have shown improvement in reading and math among 84 to 99 percent of the students, depending on the program. In the mentoring program, 73 percent of children showed improved academic performance.

Those who keep up graduate. Students who fall behind often drop out of school.


(Example: Housing and Credit Counseling, Inc. HOPE program)

United Way and its partners are working to reduce the number of financially unstable families in our community.

Life’s changes can suddenly throw any of us into an unexpected financially difficult position. Such was the case for a young woman who has successfully completed Housing and Credit Counseling Incorporated’s HOPE program. United Way of Greater Topeka partners with HCCI and Kansas Legal Services on the HOPE Program and the JOBS Program to improve financial stability in our community. Arianne Gross has agreed to share her story to help others who find themselves in a situation similar to her own.

[Arianne Gross video] https://www.unitedwaytopeka.org/ci/goals/income/

Think about this – instead of needing help, here is a person who can now qualify for and pay for a home mortgage. This is great for our local economy because when one of us succeeds, we all succeed.

Participants in the HOPE program have paid down tens of thousands of dollars of debt. Many are saving money for the first time in their lives. A number are improving their credit scores to the point that they are refinancing their homes or buying homes. Clients are saying that the program has changed their lives. While the HOPE program was originally targeted to certain geographic areas, due to its success, it is going community-wide this next year.

Your contributions are making a difference in Arianne’s life and the lives of others like her.


(Eat, Move, Live )

Obesity leads to diseases ranging from diabetes to various forms of coronary heart disease among other illnesses. These are some of the expensive, chronic yet preventable diseases that account for 74 percent of our nation’s health care costs.

United Way of Greater Topeka invests in the HEAT Up Topeka Program run by Florence Crittenton. More than 500 people have participated in this free community exercise program which provides varying types of activities so that participants don’t get bored with a routine. HEAT Up Topeka also provides nutrition education to help people with weight control issues as well as fitness.

We received a copy of a letter from Melissa Dedonder, a mother and participant in the program.

She writes, in part:

“This opportunity came at a time when I needed it most. I had just delivered my second baby. With this pregnancy, I had gestational diabetes, which puts me at a greater risk for developing Type II diabetes in the next 5-10 years. In addition, the high blood pressure that I experienced at the end of my pregnancy did not [go away] on its own, so I was taking a high blood pressure medication. Within six months of attending two or three workouts each week, I was off of blood pressure medication and my blood pressure has been under control ever since.  I am also happy to report that my fasting glucose levels have been within the normal range as well.”

Melissa reports that, while she had always struggled with exercise and diet, she now finds the exercise classes easy and fun – something she never thought possible.

Your contributions to United Way are making a difference in Melissa’s life and the lives of others.


Basic needs remains a foundation of our work. Basic needs include food, shelter, rent and utility assistance, health care and prescription assistance and shelter from domestic violence. Without having basic needs met, children can’t learn in school, families can’t be financially stable and individuals and families can’t enjoy good health.

This past year, 31 percent of United Way’s investment in the community went to Basic Needs. Our Basic Needs partners served 22,595 individuals and families in the areas of domestic violence, rent and utility assistance, and shelter. Our partners also distributed more than 3 million pounds of food, served 228,000 meals, helped fill 41,427 prescriptions and provided 6,784 trips to medical appointments.

While our desire is to solve the root causes that create a demand for social services, we recognize our current community need for services. On a one-time basis, United Way has allocated an additional $100,000 for Basic Needs in 2014 and an additional $100,000 for our Community Impact work beyond what is available through the workplace campaign.


Most important to note is that, under United Way’s community impact model, what matters most is what we have shared with you today – we are changing lives for the better. It is no longer just about money. It is about impact – creating positive, sustainable change in our community.

United Way brings together many partners to address our community’s priority issues.  Some of these partners receive funding through United Way, while others do not receive financial support. But, all of our partners are working toward positive, sustainable change.

Addressing root causes of problems ultimately improves the quality of life in our community.

What we have reported to you today is just a sample of what we accomplished in 2013. These are the successes that your contributions have made possible. But, change takes time. This is a 10-year effort which will require a decade-long investment of both time and money.

Turning now to our investment into the Greater Topeka community, Brian Gallagher, CEO of United Way Worldwide, recently called the workplace campaign one of the greatest innovations of the 20th century. The steady flow of donations it has provided for United Way and its partners has made United Way the largest provider of human services in America.

In 2013, between pledges raised through our workplace campaign, private gifts and outside grant funding, United Way of Greater Topeka invested $4.7 million into Shawnee, Jefferson and Jackson counties.

United Way of Greater Topeka began serving Jackson County in 2012. In 2013, our board allocated an $18,000 investment for Basic Needs. Volunteer review panels have awarded grants to five Basic Needs partners serving Jackson County. We also contributed $5,000 this past year to Jackson County’s Christmas Bureau. In Jefferson County, we also fund A Child’s World Daycare and the Jefferson County Service Organization. Residents of both counties receive services from other United Way Basic Needs partners.

Obviously, the amount of dollars that United Way invests in the community depends in large part on our workplace campaign and we appreciate everyone’s generosity this past year. We also generate more than $2 million in income from outside grants and from our investments.

There is also a return on our investments. In one case, the $5,000 investment United Way provides to K-State Research and Extension to operate the VITA tax preparation service returns more than $10 million dollars back into our community in tax refunds and savings on tax preparation fees. From another perspective, using the Independent Sector’s value of an hour of volunteer service, United Way volunteers last year provided 52,173 hours of time which equates to more than $1,155,000 worth of service to our community.

In our 2013 workplace campaign, we were heartened by sizeable campaign increases among several large employers. We are also grateful to several organizations that ran outstanding campaigns, but were affected by restructurings by their parent companies. Our campaign pledges to date total $3.9 million. We still have late incoming pledges.

Running the campaign takes a tremendous amount of energy. We’d like to recognize some very dedicated and important people whose leadership makes our work in the community possible.

First is our Campaign Leadership Committee whose names you see up on the screen.

We couldn’t conduct our campaign without our Campaign Ambassadors most of whom are loaned or sponsored by local businesses. Thank you to each of these groups and to the businesses that loaned us their staff members or sponsored our campaign ambassadors.

Finally, we would like to call forward and recognize our 2013 campaign chair, Wendy Wells of U.S. Bank. (Shelley takes photo as Miriam presents Wendy with engraved artwork.) Wendy, thank you for your leadership.

Outlook for the future:

When we introduced the Community Impact model, we made clear that this is a long-term effort. It starts slowly, with the type of successes we shared with you today and then picks up momentum as greater and greater numbers of individuals and sectors of our community are served. Other United Ways that are ahead of us in this work report seeing their greatest gains toward the end of the 10-year cycle.

While we have shown you what we have done this past year, let me turn now to what this effort will require in the future.

  • Shared vision – This is not the effort of a single organization. We are coming together as a community to develop a shared vision, strategy and goals to make our community stronger. We are seeking the best solutions as a community, for the betterment of our community.
  • Community commitment – We need each person, business and government entity to continue to work together to achieve the best results.  We work to leave agendas at the door, so to speak, and try to bring the best, proven, solutions to Topeka.
  • Financial commitment – When attacking a problem as a community, money is no longer the singular focus – changing the community is. However, we cannot achieve our goals without a sustainable investment of dollars. We say thank you for your support in 2014 and express our need for your future support.
  • Volunteer commitment – We need mentors, tutors and other volunteers to help children learn to read, model positive behavior and sometimes to simply have a healthy, positive relationship with an adult. We need people to help pack food boxes and weekend BackSnacks so school children can eat on the weekend. We need volunteers to help with each of our strategies and to help with monitoring our progress toward our goals.  These opportunities provide each of you the ability to make someone else’s life better.

Board member recognition: 

At this time, I would invite the members of the United Way Board of Directors to stand. This is a group of people who have dedicated many hours of their leadership and talent to United Way and our greater Topeka community and we thank them for their service.

As is our custom at this meeting, we would like to recognize our board members who have completed their terms. Fellow board members, as your name is called, would you please join us in front of the podium?

  • Melissa Hungerford, Executive Vice President, Kansas Hospital Association and CEO of the Kansas Hospital Research and Education Foundation – Melissa has served on the United Way board for 11 years, beginning her time with us in 2003.  Even prior to her board membership, Melissa was heavily involved in the United Way’s investment process.  Prior to serving as the board chair in 2009, Melissa felt it was critical for her to know each part of our organization and volunteered to be a campaign ambassador for the 2008 campaign.  Melissa has served on countless grant review panels, the community impact committee and the finance committee.  We look forward to her continued committee involvement.  Thank you so much.
  • Diane Pavelka – Diane began her service on the board in 2012.  She and her husband Darrel have been long time supporters and Key Club and Alexis de Tocqueville Society members.  She has served on grant review panels, the community impact committee, and the strategic planning committee.  Diane also just completed her role as chair of the Volunteer Engagement Committee where she helped us think strategically about the role of volunteers in community impact.  Thank you so much for all you do for United Way.
  • Cherie McGinnis of Stormont Vail Healthcare – Cherie succeeded Kim Konecny as chair of the Young Leaders Society. Cherie has been the force behind the development of Topeka’s first Born Learning Trail. In fact, she has put several years’ effort into bringing the project to fruition. The Born Learning Trail enables parents, grandparents and teachers to engage in fun, interactive learning exercises with children to aid in their early learning and development. The concrete is poured, most of the landscaping is in and we can’t wait until the weather warms up so the trail can be completed behind Pine Ridge Prep. Cherie, thank you.

We would also like to recognize the following outgoing board members who are unable to be here today:

  •  Joe Aleshire, recently retired from Capitol Federal
  • Jeff Beasley, Vice President of Customer Care at Westar Energy
  • Kim Konecny, Recruiter for Westar Energy
  • Dave Kuzanek, manager, research systems, Hill’s Pet Nutrition
  • Jim Ogle, General Manager of WIBW channels 
  • Janet Stanek, Stormont Vail Healthcare

On behalf of the United Way, the board and the community, I would like to extend a sincere thank you to each of you for your dedicated service on our Board of Directors.

I would now like to introduce our officers for 2014:

Chairman:                    Kent Townsend, Capitol Federal
Chair-Elect:                  Larry Robbins, Topeka Public Schools
Past Chairman:            Scott Griffith, INTRUST Bank
Treasurer:                    Bebo Lowery-Born, retired from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas

Our recommended slate of board members for 2014 includes:

3-year term:

  • Patrick Woods – Westar Energy
  • Rick Anderson – Washburn University
  • Marshall Meek – St. Francis Health Center Foundation
  • Gary Doyle — Retired I.A.M.&A.W. Local Lodge 378
  • Becky Holmquist – US Bank
  • Jacque Taylor – Capitol Federal
  • Rex Tessendorf – Payless ShoeSource

2-year term:

  • Mark Ault – Alliance Bank

Every person, corporation, business or association making a contribution to or for the benefit of the United Way of Greater Topeka is a member of the organization. If you are a member, you may vote on the board slate. All members in favor of the recommended board members please signify by saying aye. Any opposed? The Board members are approved as recommended.

The next group I would like to recognize is the dedicated staff of the United Way of Greater Topeka. Our staff serves as the backbone of our efforts, working with all of you who Give, Advocate and Volunteer for the United Way as it serves the community. (Ask the staff to stand.  LEAD APPLAUSE)

In closing, our Senior Resource Development director, Sean Frost, likes to include in his emails a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question: What are you doing for others?”

There are many ways you can answer this question and at United Way we answer: GIVE, ADVOCATE, VOLUNTEER.

If what you have seen and heard today is not evidence enough that we are creating positive change in our community, let me encourage you now to open the envelope at your places marked, “Please do not open until instructed.” The envelope contains a letter from Molika Jenious, the mother of two sons who have attended Pine Ridge Prep. I’ll let the letter say the rest.

In closing, let me thank each of you for all that you have done for your community this past year. We are a Community Connected. Through your support of United Way of Greater Topeka, you truly are changing lives for the better. We look forward to continuing to work with you.