Joel Sheridan, United Way of Moffat County board president, discusses the community’s needs Wednesday with members of city and county government. The United Way is hosting several meetings as part of its Community Conversations initiative. The meetings are meant to identify community issues that need to be addressed.

Photo by Ben McCanna

Joel Sheridan, United Way of Moffat County board president, discusses the community’s needs Wednesday with members of city and county government. The United Way is hosting several meetings as part of its Community Conversations initiative. The meetings are meant to identify community issues that need to be addressed.

United Way of Moffat County exploring community concerns through Community Conversations

The United Way of Moffat County is taking a broader look at needs of the community it serves, board member Jaime Pearce said.

“Instead of putting on a Band-Aid, we’re looking for cures,” Pearce said.

Pearce, along with other members of the United Way board, began facilitating a series of meetings this month called Community Conversations.

This week, there were four such meetings. Additional gatherings are planned for April.

The goal behind the meetings is to identify issues within the community that have not been addressed. If any issues are identified, United Way will seek financial means or leadership to tackle them, board members said.

Each of the conversations have included representatives from different sectors of the community and been hosted at the Holiday Inn of Craig.

On Jan. 11, United Way met with representatives from Moffat County nonprofit organizations.

On Tuesday, organization officials met with Craig business leaders. A day later, they met with city and county government officials and health care professionals in two separate meetings.

Thursday’s slate included a discussion with Moffat County School District and Colorado Northwestern Community College educators.

At each meeting, the invited guests broke into small groups to discuss their thoughts with a United Way representative.

Pearce said a broad range of issues were raised, including a lack of transitional housing and public transportation, an overall unstable economy, the need to teach parenting skills, and a shortage of programs for substance abuse treatment and prevention.

“We also talked about the assets of the community,” Pearce said. “A lot of that was the people of the community, the caring nature and generosity of the community, the college, the outdoor lifestyle that we have.”

Corrie Ponikvar, United Way of Moffat County executive director, said community research is common in her organization, but the Community Conversations initiative is new.

“We certainly look at the information that the agencies provide us through the allocations process,” Ponikvar said. “We look at Yampa Valley Partners’ Community Indicators Report. It’s not like we’re just running along here.

“But, we thought it might be nice to hold some community conversations … and get some thoughts and ideas about what our community believes are our issues.”

Ponikvar said those conversations are the first step in a multi-step plan.

The second step, she said, could include broader outreach through a community survey.

Once all the concerns are gathered, Ponikvar said United Way would select three to five of the most pressing and begin researching to learn if there is hard data to substantiate the issues, or “reality matches perception.”

Afterward, Ponikvar said there will be a new round of Community Conversations.

“We will roll out that information in April,” she said. “We’ll re-invite everybody that attended these meetings to a meeting in April to have more discussions around those topics and decide if we can affect it … if United Way can affect the needs in our community.”

If it turns out there are no area organizations to tackle the issues, United Way will then turn to other avenues.

“If it’s something outside of what a nonprofit might take on, then we might convene people again and visit with people in the private sector, perhaps government and nonprofits to see if there’s a way to collaborate to achieve that impact,” Ponikvar said.

The Community Conversations, and any actions that may result from them, are separate from the typical annual fundraising and allocation duties United Way performs, Ponikvar said.

“We don’t want it to take away from the funding stream that we already have,” she said. “We want to make sure that’s clear to the community and especially our non-profits.”

Ponikvar said she wasn’t sure if the meetings would result in any action.

Nonetheless, she said it’s a worthwhile exercise.

“This is a good way for United Way to do a check to make sure that we’re aligned with what the community’s needs are,” she said.

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