Establishing community outcomes involves focusing on specific changes in particular geographic areas or population groups within the community. Through our 2005 Community Assessment, in partnership with the Community Foundation of Central Illinois, we have research and statistics that are vital for making more informed and effective health and social service funding decisions.
Conducted by Bradley University’s Center for Business and Economic Research, the Community Assessment reviewed existing data from our six-county area that includes Peoria, Tazewell, Woodford, Marshall, Stark, and Putnam counties. Through this research, statistical trends emerged in the areas of race, age, education, income, and health, with key findings in the areas of population growth, poverty, employment, education, and housing.
The Heart of Illinois United Way focuses our funding efforts on four key issue areas: youth, families, self-reliance, and health. Each year, volunteers from diverse segments of our community spend numerous hours evaluating local programs to ensure the donor’s contribution is being well spent and making the greatest impact possible. These allocation volunteers also have analyzed and reviewed the findings of the Community Assessment and have determined programs we should be supporting to improve the quality of life in central Illinois. These recommendations include funding programs that:
• Provide effective early childcare.
• Increase literacy among youth and adults.
• Focus on at-risk students, families, and neighborhoods.
• Target youth ages nine to 14, including after school programs that improve grades.
• Increase programs and resources for the growing Hispanic population.
• Prepare the at-risk population for employment.
• Help the homeless population progress through life.
• Help make available housing more affordable.
• Maintain a quality of life for seniors living at home.
• Focus on preventing teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and substance abuse.
• Address health issues related to cerebrovascular disease, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and nutrition needs.
The Heart of Illinois United Way isn’t just a community fundraiser, but also a community problem solver. As we begin a new funding cycle that moves toward multi-year funding and establish new community-wide initiatives such as Success by Six, we’ll continually evaluate how we can make the greatest impact in the community. For the complete 2005 Community Assessment, please visit www.hoiunitedway.org, and look for more information in future columns. IBI