United Way Announces Grant Award, Neighborhood Wellness Initiative

For Immediate Release

Donna Swaffar, Communications Manager
Phone: 785.228.5111
E-mail: donna.swaffar@unitedwaytopeka.org

TOPEKA, KAN.–Representatives from United Way of Greater Topeka and Topeka Housing Authority gathered today to officially introduce their Neighborhood Opportunities for Wellness (NOW) initiative, a neighborhood-based impact effort that will be funded in part by a multi-year grant from the Kansas Health Foundation. Larry Robbins, Chair of the United Way Board of Directors, spoke about the new undertaking, as did United Way CEO Miriam Krehbiel and THA Executive Director Trey George.

NOW will focus on three THA neighborhoods—Pine Ridge Manor, Echo Ridge and Deer Creek Village. The Pine Ridge neighborhood has already seen positive changes triggered by more than three years of early education collaboration among United Way, THA and the Topeka Public Schools. The NOW initiative will broaden United Way’s community engagement work, adding resident-led initiatives to improve overall community health.

The Kansas Health Foundation defines the Community Engagement Initiative as “an approach in which community members make decisions and take action based on self‐determined needs and priorities.” Such a process “is essential for achieving positive public health outcomes.” The long‐term goals of the Community Engagement Initiative are to increase healthy eating and active living in participating communities. By addressing community‐identified objectives, United Way anticipates improving outcomes such as access to and consumption of affordable healthy foods and improved student outcomes (academic, health and fitness) in neighborhood schools.

Krehbiel said, “We will frame our efforts as what we are for—health and wellness—versus what we are against. We will help people realize their dreams; not solve what we see as their problems. Our experiences with the Pine Ridge Partnership have shown that no cookie cutter approach will work for all neighborhoods. The residents’ Community Action Plan will determine how to achieve neighborhood level access to a wide range of community services and projects, ultimately creating a culture of giving back.”

Work on NOW has already begun with the hiring of local resident Heather Crowley as the initiative’s Community Liaison. Crowley will work closely with staff from United Way and THA in engaging residents and coordinating neighborhood meetings, community visioning conversations and other activities designed to engage and inform the neighborhood. Each community will create a pilot project based on its needs assessment, and that pilot project will guide the long-term transformation of each area.

More information about NOW and the Kansas Health Foundation grant are available from United Way Senior Director of Community Impact Kim Ribelin (kim.ribelin@unitedwaytopeka.org).

United Way’s work in education, financial stability and health is supported by contributions to its Community Impact Fund.  The fund provides the critical foundation for continuing, enhancing and expanding community changing work in greater Topeka. Investments in this fund help boost the reach of UWGT’s initiatives to the next level, expanding service areas and enhancing programs to lift even more children, families and neighborhoods to new levels of success and achievement.


United Way brings together people, companies and nonprofits to create positive sustainable change in our community. By focusing on education, income and health, we help more children graduate and get stable jobs, help families become financially stable and improve the overall health of our community. United Way remains dedicated to Basic Needs including food, shelter, rent and utilities, health and prescription access and safety from domestic violence.

For more than 80 years United Way of Greater Topeka has been improving and changing lives. Since 1980, United Way has invested more than $110 million into the community


The Kansas Health Foundation is a philanthropy dedicated to improving the health of all Kansans. For more information about the Kansas Health Foundation, visit www.kansashealth.org.