Women United’s February Member Update
February 17, 2023
Dear Women United members and friends,
My name is Kimberly Simard and, after a year as chair-elect, I am honored to be Chair of the Women United Steering Committee in 2023. In my day job, I am a Vice President in Human Resources at WEX.
I have supported United Way for as long as I can remember and was even fortunate enough to have been a Loaned Executive after college when I lived in Atlanta.
My connection to UW is very personal. I became a single mom when my kids were 8 and 11, and we found a safety net in United Way agencies that supported us. As a single mom, supporting other single moms is something I am passionate about. I had my own personal support group around me and, even with that, I remember all the services I needed. I see so many other moms who are not as fortunate as I was. That’s why I was immediately drawn to the mission of Women United when I learned about it five years ago. Seeing the work being done through our investments and hearing stories of the impact on these women’s lives inspires me and makes me want to be able to do even more.
We want to hear what YOU are looking for from Women United. Please take this 2-minute survey!
Since our inception, our focus has been on investing in programs that are aligned with Thrive2027’s 10-year community goals and utilize two-generation strategies for reducing poverty.
Most recently, Women United invested in programming for children ages 9+ who have aged out of early care and education services in the community. For two years now, we invested in Anchoring Youth to Succeed, a program run by Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Maine and A Company of Girls that provides youth/teen programming for low-income families in Portland’s Bayside area. A recent report demonstrated the program’s impact and makes me excited about what they will achieve in the next year.
- The program reached 49 youth in the Bayside neighborhood; 21 are in the Project WIN cohort.
- Events for Anchoring Youth to Succeed included: an African dance class workshop, open houses, meet-and-greets, spring and summer vacation camps, and a series of spring art enrichment opportunities.
- 86% of students demonstrated growth in their social-emotional skills.
- The program extended to Moms with “Time out for Moms,” which provided a break for moms to socialize and build community through the sharing of creative expression while enjoying a dance class at Mayo Street Arts.
GIFT DRIVE RECAP
It was another successful year for our winter gift drive. Nearly 100 items (gifts, books, and winter gear) were given to the 16 Project WIN families, our primary investment and a cohort-based program that supports low-income single mothers and their families in Portland’s Bayside area. Each mom received a gift basket put together by the Women of WEX group.
One mom shared, “Incredible was the joy of my children opening their pretty gift. I have tears to see that. Thank you for your good heart and everything you’re still doing for us.”
It is amazing to see so many women show up for other women today while laying the foundation for a better tomorrow!
- The Root Cellar seeks volunteers for their Community Dinners on the second Tuesday of each month (upcoming dates are February 14 and March 14). Volunteers should arrive between 4:45 and 5 PM for the 5:30 PM dinner and plan to help by setting up, serving, and cleaning up. Sign up not required.
- Maine Immigrant Rights Coalition, a United Way community partner, is looking for volunteers for their ongoing culturally appropriate food program supporting unhoused asylum seekers at a hotel in Saco. Sign up for an upcoming shift.
- Several of our members are volunteer readers at East End Community School each week and have described the experience as fun and rewarding. Stay tuned for more volunteer reader opportunities soon!
The year ahead holds so much possibility as we look to grow our programs in Portland and expand our reach into York County (where I grew up!). Look for updates on expansion efforts in our next newsletter. I am excited by the possibilities ahead of us and can’t wait to see where this next year takes us. If you are a new member, I want to welcome you. Now is such an exciting time to be a part of Women United. I encourage you to reach out if you would like to become more involved. Thank you all for your commitment to helping women in our community!
Kimberly Simard, Chair