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Yes, we "officially" celebrate Black History Month in February, but it's never too late to shine a light on the important figures that make our community great! Working in the Ellis Heights Neighborhood, I drive by Lewis Lemon Elementary School often. I'd like to share a little history related to the school's name!

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Unemployment in the Rockford, Illinois area is almost twice the National average, which makes finding a job that more difficult. It's especially a major issue for young black men. In fact, nearly 70 percent of young black males between the ages of 18-24 years old are without a job. That's more than four times higher than the rate for young white men.

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Everyone experiences financial stress, whether you’re new to the workforce, trying to make big life decisions or looking towards retirement. Here in Rockford, IL region, we’re certainly not immune to that.

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United Way's Strong Neighborhoods initiative is focused on bringing health, education and financial stability resources directly to children and families living in Midtown and Ellis Heights neighborhoods. At the same time, we uncover assets in these neighborhoods that are beneficial to the rest of the Rockford-area community.

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The arrival of tax season represents a major challenge for many people without the funds to file their income tax returns. Meanwhile, messages of financial hope get lost amid advertisements and promotions offered by retailers. The IRS' Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program gives those who cannot afford to file opportunity, but many do not understand what the program is and how it works. So, you can help those in your community by knowing a few things about it.

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I had the pleasure to watch Anita Fricks, Parent Liaison at Kishwaukee Elementary, in all her altruistic glory yesterday. It was amazing to watch how joyful she was to simply help people. Ms. Fricks invited the Kishwaukee School community to a clothes closet that she had conceived, constructed, and cared for; the turnout was as positive as the spirit that created it.

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"If you give a pig a pancake, she'll want some syrup to go with it. You'll give her some of your favorite maple syrup, and she'll probably get all sticky, so she'll want to take a bath. She'll ask you for some bubbles. When you give her the bubbles..."

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When you finally land that job you've been hoping for, you don't let anything get in your way—not even being homeless. Things had finally turned around for Jesse and he was grateful to be working at a production warehouse, but he still wasn't able to afford an apartment. But when Jesse had his taxes prepared at United Way's Volunteer Income Tax Assistance site, he found out that he'd be getting the Earned Income Tax Credit. He and his wife Juana used their return to move out of their car and into a home.

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United Way is known for working to improve community health, bring neighborhoods together for a common good and make a difference in the lives of those in need. Thus, more businesses and organizations are turning to United Way to plan, host or participate in community service opportunities, and successful workplace campaigns can be a major stepping stone toward giving back to your community. However, planning a workplace campaign or hosting a company volunteer day, known as Day of Caring, can be complicated, so use this guide to ensure nothing is overlooked or forgotten.

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From third-party educational institutions to government resources, a mountain of evidence indicates job training plays a major role in achieving financial stability. As explained by the Federal Reserve Board, people with more job training and education in their field tend to have a higher level of financial stability, but financial stability is much more than simply having money in the bank. Consequently, you need to understand how job training leads to community empowerment Rockford residents in need can use for better job placement and attain financial stability.

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One of the biggest excuses people give for not working out during the winter is that it is too cold. Even if you do not love exercising, you should still work towards staying active and staying healthy. Here is a list of simple ways to stay active during the cold winter months:

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United Way does all kinds of wonderful things to help our neighborhoods and families in need. This does not just happen, though. It takes a lot of help from individual donors in the community as well as community grants/community development. There are many different community grants and corporate gifts that help United Way do great things in communities such as provide financial classes, literacy classes, and other types of helpful education that people need to be successful. These are just a few examples of grants received and what United Way has done with them.

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The first years of childhood build the foundation upon which a lifetime of learning is established. Early childhood education programs in Rockford supported by United Way are designed to make this foundation strong and stable. Time and again, studies have shown that quality early childhood education sets children up for success not only in kindergarten and grade school, but in later life as well. Early education has such a profound impact, in part, because the majority of brain development occurs by the time a child is five years old. Additionally, early childhood education sets children up for academic success by encouraging school readiness.

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United Way of Rock River Valley brings together partners, donors and volunteers to focus on the big picture and create long-lasting impact. Whether you’re looking to volunteer, donate or advocate on our behalf, here are five simple community service opportunities that benefit people right here in Rockford.

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Do you have a question about  United Way of Rock River Valley  in the Rockford IL location? Below we have taken some of the most commonly asked questions and provided detailed answers to help you get a better understanding of what we do and how we help the Rockford, IL community.

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When you think of a vegetable — let's say a sweet potato — chances are you can easily think of several ways to prepare it, or at least ways in which others have prepared it for you. Now think of what it would be like to have little or no knowledge of what a sweet potato is or how to cook it. Then apply that scenario to the most common vegetables we consume each day. This exercise may help you understand the experience that countless individuals go through each day. Many families, especially households with low incomes, do not eat the recommended daily amount of fruits and vegetables. This can be contributed to a limited access to fresh produce or knowledge of nutrition and how to prepare these foods.1 In Rockford, this is more common than you may think. For over six years, United Way has invested in a healthy living program that addresses this community need in a way that is fun, engaging and inspiring for all those involved.

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Income inequality refers to the extent to which income is unevenly distributed across the population. In the United States, income inequality has been steadily growing for the past 30 years. You can see a similar trend with income inequality Illinois. This unequal distribution of wealth in Illinois can have a number of negative effects on the community and impact the next generation’s opportunities for growth and advancement.

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Not everyone volunteers for the same reasons. Whatever your reasons are for volunteering, we at United Way of Rock River Valley in Rockford, IL, have a couple of suggestions to make sure that you get the most out of your experience.

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Have you ever heard the phrase, "It takes a village to raise a child?" The same is true when it comes to making sure that a child has a good foundation outside the home. For children to get the most out of youth development programs in Rockford, it's important for volunteers to be on the same page. If a child gets mixed messages from two different older influences, that can make it difficult for him or her to know whom to trust and which behavior to emulate.

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When it comes to team building, corporations have a lot of programs they can engage in. For-profit consultants can bring in a day's worth of fun and games, or a company may take its employees to an obstacle course. However, we at United Way of Rock River Valley know firsthand the benefits that a good corporate volunteering program can have on the community, on the employees, and, most importantly, on your business.

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