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With 1 in 5 children in the U.S. living below the poverty line, heading back to school after break can reveal just how stressful home life really is for young students. In How To Help Kids In Poverty Adjust To The Stability Of School After Break, NPR blogger Meg Anderson writes that for those students, being away from school can be a crippling time of insecurity when it comes to food and shelter. By leveraging community resources available and training teachers on how to recognize these signs and where to direct students and families, we can help to create a better learning environment for students.

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Last week, Congress passed legislation that makes permanent the expiring provisions of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC), two credits that help working families keep more of what they earn to pay for things like child care, food, and reliable transportation to get to work, and the IRA Charitable Rollover. The President is expected to sign the bill.

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This year, on Tuesday, December 1, United Way of Rock River Valley is participating in #GivingTuesday, a global day dedicated to giving smarter and greater. Similar to how Black Friday and Cyber Monday have become days synonymous with holiday shopping, #GivingTuesday, held annually on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, harnesses the power of social media to inspire people to collaborate in improving their local communities and to give back in impactful ways to the charities and causes they support.

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Instead of simply waving a flag on Veteran's Day and telling others to "support the troops," we can actually advocate for something that makes their lives better.

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Many have asked why we, here at United Way of Rock River Valley choose to spend so much time and resources helping low income families. We have a lot of reasons for our dedication to this cause. It strengthens families, improves the local economy, and raises property values to not have as many low income families in the area. All of that aside, however, the most compelling reason we have to continue this work is to help children. We are proud to be one of the main Rockford charities for children. Children born into these circumstances have some strong disadvantages in life. By helping these families, we can and have drastically changed the lives of children for the better. The following is a list of other agencies in league with us who are dedicated to helping children:

  • School districts: We have the support and help from many school districts. They offer after school programs, free lunches, and after-hours tutoring in some locations.
  • Local banks: Nothing we do is possible without the help of funding. Many local banks like BMO Harris Bank have generously offered to sponsor money to help us run these programs.
  • Winnebego County: The local government here truly understands the importance of helping people who can't help themselves. The children in these less than fortunate families definitely fit this description. Many community programs, food offerings, and housing assistance programs have been put in place because of the funding and man-hours offered by the county.
  • News stations: Many of the local new broadcasting stations have allowed us to run stories and messages about what we do and how we help. Through these news spots, we have been able to shed valuable awareness to the issue. Much of our local support and sponsorship from private citizens has come from these news spots.
  • Private sponsors: Every little bit helps. We can't stress that enough. If you have any extra money to spare or time to donate, then we would be happy to have you contact us so we can let you know how you can help us help the children.
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A new survey conducted by United Way of Illinois, the statewide association of 52 local United Ways, and the largest non-governmental funder of health and human services in the state, shows the significant impact the State of Illinois budget impasse is having on human services and citizens across the state.

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As we head into the fifth month without a state budget, the havoc and consequences that each day brings for human service agencies statewide continues to mount. And the Boys & Girls Club of Rockford and the youths we serve are feeling the effects of the chaos.

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Volunteering Opportunities with an Emphasis in EducationEducation is one of the most precious gifts you can give a child. United Way of Rock River Valley works hard to make sure that all children in our area get the educational opportunities they need regardless of their socioeconomic status. Here are some education-based service areas to consider as a good way to give back to your community:

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b2ap3_thumbnail_United-Way-of-Rock-River-Valley_Low-Income-Family-Assistance-in_Image-1.jpgHard times hit everyone, and sometimes it is harder for certain families to recover from those difficult times. Here at the United Way of Rock River Valley, we put our focus into helping families who are in need. We have programs in place that can help low-income families achieve 3 main tenets of a happy life.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_United-Way-of-Rock-River-Valley_Volunteering-Is-Good-for-The-Soul_Image-1.jpgWhen people think of self-improvement and making life changes, things like improving your career, reevaluating your exercise patterns and health, working on your sleep habits, and setting goals often come to mind. However, an important consideration and life-changing endeavor that often gets overlooked is volunteering. Read on as we explain the benefits of volunteering and why you should consider volunteering in your community.

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The Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) went into effect in 1997 to assist parents who participated in education activities to pay for childcare, moving them from welfare to work. Over the years, CCAP has evolved to serve non-welfare parents earning low wages pay for childcare. Eligibility for childcare subsidy is determined by income and work status. Payment is determined on a sliding fee scale based on income and family size. A series of conditions apply and re-determination is required every six months. CCAP has proven to keep people working and contributing to the economy of our State. CCAP made sense in 1997 when parents needed education to gain employment. CCAP makes sense now to keep families working.

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Promise is a big word. It either makes something or it breaks everything.

As you are aware, the State of Illinois is now entering its fourth straight month without a budget. Lack of a budget resolution means that the state's promise to our local human service providers has been broken. Many of our community's nonprofit agencies are experiencing severe reductions, or even elimination of state funding and are, out of financial necessity, cutting back or sharply reducing their services.

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Meet John and Jane. John and Jane were born in two towns of similar size with the same unemployment rate. But that's where the similarities stop. John grew up in a town with a higher household median income, more affordable housing and lower poverty rate, resulting in better opportunities for John to succeed in life. We can't change the circumstance of John and Jane's lives, and their talents and ambitions play a role in how far they will go in life. But looking at the right measurements and comprehensive information in our community, we can begin to understand the progress needed to boost economic mobility for American.

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Last week was National Tutoring Week (October 5-9). In case you missed the celebrations, Mei Cobb, Director of Volunteer & Employee Engagement at United Way of Worldwide, listed five reasons why someone would want to be a volunteer tutor:

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RAMP is a non-residential Center for Independent Living (CIL) serving individuals with disabilities in Winnebago, Boone, Stephenson and DeKalb counties, providing essential services to ensure some of the state's most vulnerable citizens are able to live independently and participate fully in society.

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Many Illinoisans think that the services provided by social service agencies are for the benefit of the poor only. We constantly hear that social service agencies take care of the "least among us". The truth is much more complex than the perception.

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There are many different challenges that our citizens face every day, such as struggling to find affordable health resources, financial training, or reliable child care. United Way 211, United Way of Rock River Valley is breaking down barriers between those who need help and those who can help them. 

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Purchasing school supplies for the new school year can be increasingly costly, especially for low-income families. According to the annual Huntington Bank Backpack Index, families with more than one child in elementary, middle or high school could expect to spend as much as $3,000 in school supplies and activity fees.

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It's important that young children hear language, and they need to hear it from people, not just from screens. But while we know that reading to a young child is associated with good outcomes, there is only limited understanding of what the mechanism might be. Blogger Perris Klass, M.D. shares two new studies that examine the unexpectedly complex interactions that happen when you put a small child on your lap and open a picture book.

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Last week we concluded the 2015 season of Strong Neighborhoods Days. Thanks to residents, City of Rockford police officers and human services organizations for coming out to Rockford Housing Authority Blackhawk Courts. We look forward to engaging with residents at a neighborhood school during the school year.

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