Rise United Logo

United Way Launches Rise United Community Goals

United Way Quad Cities revealed its “blueprint” to ensure students graduate from high school prepared for success in college or career, families are financially stable, and Quad Citizens live long, healthy lives, during a livestreamed event on Thursday, May 6, at John Deere World Headquarters in Moline.

United Way President and CEO Rene Gellerman outlined the set of 10-year community goals known as Rise United to a socially distanced audience featuring members of the John Deere leadership team, educators, mayors and others representing the private and public sectors. 

“United Way has an unwavering vision that all Quad Citizens, regardless of race or ZIP code, should have the opportunity and access to achieve their full potential,” Gellerman said. “These specific, measurable goals will guide our investments, programs and partnerships for the next 10 years in order for us to deliver on this vision.”

Rise United is the product of a broad spectrum of community partners with the aim to advance racial equity in the areas of education, income and health. The plan calls for tackling root causes of systemic barriers to success, according to Mara Downing, incoming United Way Board Chair and Vice President of Global Brand and Communications at John Deere.

“We’ve all learned the value of human connection – perhaps even more so in the past year – the value of serving those in the world around us,” Downing said. “That’s why I support Rise United because it carries with it a message of more than hope. It is a set of achievable goals to build a stronger, more equitable Quad Cities.”

“When we Rise United, we give every student the education they deserve, help all students find a job that utilizes their talents and prove health is the greatest wealth of all.”

Levers of Change

Through 18 months of planning and research, United Way Quad Cities has identified three key levers to effect progress over the next decade. These long-term goals were formed in collaboration with corporate, civic, philanthropic and nonprofit partners, as well as community leaders and content experts, and is aligned with Q2030, our region’s community and economic development plan.

Rise United Education Goal: Increase by 30 percent the number of Quad Cities students reading on grade level by third grade.

By third grade, kids make the shift from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” Students proficient in third-grade reading are five times more likely to graduate from high school ready for college, career training and living-wage jobs compared to their nonproficient peers, according to Ohio Department of Education Research. Reading proficiency is also linked to students’ eventual ability as adults to save for the future and cover the costs of health care for themselves and their families.

Currently in Scott and Rock Island counties, United Way Quad Cities’ service area, 57 percent of Black third-graders are not reading on grade level, along with 43 percent of Hispanic students and 27 percent of white students. 

Rise United Income Goal: Increase by 20 percent the number of Quad Cities young adults who earn a living wage, adding nearly $116 million in wages per year to the economy.

Workers earning a living wage are able to meet minimum standards given local cost of living, according to MIT’s online research tool, the Living Wage Calculator. In the Quad Cities, for a family of four in which both parents are working, each adult will earn a gross annual income of about $42,500. A living wage allows working families to afford basic needs such as housing, food and child care, giving them the financial stability they need in order to plan for a comfortable retirement, cover emergency expenses and support the local economy.

Nonwhite Quad Citizens are less likely to be earning a living wage: only 41 percent of Black workers and 58 percent of Hispanic workers compared to 67 percent of white workers, according to ALICE Project Research Center.

Rise United 2030 Health Goal: Increase to 95 percent the number of Quad Citizens receiving routine health care. 

Rise United is targeting improvements to routine, preventative health care; physical and mental health and wellness; and prenatal and early health care. Women who receive prenatal care are one-fourth as likely to have fatal pregnancy-related complications than those who do not receive care, according to the Center for American Progress.

People of color in the Quad Cities are twice as likely to have difficulty finding health care services. Rise United will also focus on health problems more prevalent in communities of color, such as hypertension, diabetes, asthma, low birth weight and mental health issues.

Early Indicators of Community Support

In addition to the small group of socially distanced attendees, the United Way’s community goals launch event was streamed by hundreds of Quad Citizens, including United Way donors, volunteers and nonprofit partners.

Ryan Campbell, one of the event’s presenters, said the response so far to Rise United is an early indicator of how change happens when organizations and individuals join together to create the type of impact that improves lives long-term.

“One of the special values that binds us at John Deere is our commitment to make a positive and sustainable difference on the lives of those around us. Inspired by this shared value, tens of thousands of John Deere employees have supported United Way since its beginning nearly 50 years ago. Since that time the John Deere Foundation has awarded more than $30 million to United Way Quad Cities, making it the single largest recipient of the Foundation’s funds in its history,” said Campbell, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at John Deere.

“United Way is uniquely positioned to achieve the Rise United Goals because of its proven and effective model.” Campbell said. “They unite resources throughout Scott and Rock Island counties, serving as a connection point for corporations, civic groups, nonprofits and residents to make a collective impact on education, income and health outcomes.”

To kickoff fundraising for Rise United, John Deere announced at the event an initial donation of $2 million.  

“United Way’s goals are the community’s goals,” Downing said. “In the current environment, it’s more important than ever for corporations, constituents and all community members to join the movement and drive lasting change that benefits all residents of the Quad Cities region.”

United Way Quad Cities is seeking additional partnerships from all Quad Citizens interested in strengthening education, income and health outcomes through volunteerism, advocacy and giving. Click here to endorse the plan or get involved.

2021 Community Campaign Chairs Announced

Also on Thursday, May 6, Gellerman introduced United Way’s 2021 Community Campaign Chairs: Caitlin Russell, Senior Vice President at Russell; Chad Everitt, Managing Director at Deloitte; and Dr. LaDrina Wilson, Founder and CEO of Iman Consulting. The campaign tri-chairs will formally kick off fundraising efforts in August, announcing its fundraising goal to bolster United Way’s efforts to support Quad Citizens and meet the community’s need.  

“Every day, committed people and strong organizations throughout our community work to fight poverty, reduce violence and support people in their diverse paths to live their best possible lives,” said Dr. Wilson. 

“Yet our ability to move the needle on stubborn issues of racial inequities, youth violence and generational poverty are slow and small compared to what is possible, because we often work alone. We must do better together. We are all part of the same village.”

“It is up to us, together, as individuals and organizations, to get engaged. It will require everyone giving up something and working toward a common vision. A vision like Rise United.”

Additional Resources

Submit a Story