United Way’s Reeves/Sievers founders’ Award was presented to the Rodland family Thursday. Buzz and Carol Rodland also received the award in 2010. (United Way photo)

United Way’s Reeves/Sievers founders’ Award was presented to the Rodland family Thursday. Buzz and Carol Rodland also received the award in 2010. (United Way photo)

At United Way breakfast, focus is on helping whole families

The agency hosted a conversation about poverty at its annual awards event.

“Shifting Perspectives” was the breakfast theme Thursday as United Way of Snohomish County hosted a community conversation about its new whole-family approach to alleviating poverty. A $1 million donation announced at the event signaled continuing support for that work.

Near the end of the annual breakfast at Tulalip Resort Casino, Paul Hollie, on behalf of Premera Blue Cross, made the $1 million commitment, over three years, “to the CORE program.”

A year ago, Premera donated $250,000 to become the first corporate investor in the effort the local United Way’s calls CORE (Creating Open Roads to Equity). The new approach awards money to partnerships rather than single-program grants. Its aim is to break the poverty cycle by helping low-income families with children from birth to age 8.

Hollie, in corporate communications for Premera Social Impact, said that initial gift was meant to target poverty long-term and “build the structure needed to serve families in a much more holistic way.”

Allison Warren-Barbour, United Way of Snohomish County’s president and CEO, emphasized the two-generational approach and “leaving a legacy” of philanthropy when she announced that the Rodland family of Everett — Buzz and Carol Rodland and daughters Lindsay Rodland Crow and Allison Rodland Olson — were recipients of the Reeves/Sievers Founders’ Award.

Buzz Rodland, president of Rodland Toyota in Everett, and his wife Carol also received the award in 2010. It’s named for J.A. Reeves and Roy Sievers. In 1940, they founded the Everett Community Chest, a predecessor of United Way.

Sarah Rogers, who works for AT&T in Bothell, was honored with the Roger Bouck Award for Volunteerism. She led her work team in volunteering at a Youth & Family Wellness Fair in May, at ChildStrive and on other projects.

“I grew up in a culture of service,” said Rogers, 46, who moved here from California. There, she and her children volunteered for beach cleanups and at a Sacramento food bank. With co-workers, she has tried to make volunteering a monthly routine.

Keynote speaker Connie Collingsworth, of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, highlighted her thoughts on philanthropy in a sit-down talk with Warren-Barbour. Collingsworth is the foundation’s chief business operations officer, a member of its executive leadership team and an attorney.

In their conversation, they drew a distinction between charity and philanthropy. Charity may mean you “give at the office,” Collingsworth said, but philanthropy can bring about “systemic change.” She noted a trend of running philanthropic efforts “like a business.”

Noting the Gates Foundation dictum that “all lives have equal value,” Collingsworth said, “we have to partner with for-profits.” She spoke of nudging pharmaceutical companies in the foundation’s efforts to provide polio vaccines and contraceptives around the world.

In solving a problem as complex as poverty, there may be risks and even failures along the way, she and Warren-Barbour said.

The event became a kind of teach-in when people from United Way’s five “CORE Collaboratives” — groups of partners working to remove barriers for families stuck in poverty — took the stage for a panel discussion.

Launched in January, the five groups are: Casino Road Opportunity for All; Homeward House, serving parents and children with active dependency cases (largely drug-affected infants); Improving School Attendance for Homeless Families; Making Life Work, which helps low-income families in the Stanwood-Camano area; and North Counties’ Community Collaborative, based in Darrington.

Each group received United Way grants of up to $630,000 over three years.

“Looking down the road, we’re beginning to see a system forming,” said Jacob Nanfito, an instructor for English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) with Goodwill Industries, which is part of the Casino Road group. His hope is a support system “that will outlast all of us.”

At the start of the breakfast, artist Ricardo Barraza created images of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela while the crowd watched and heard excepts from the civil rights icons’ inspiring speeches.

Displayed on a screen were winners of the 2017 United Way campaign awards:

Positive Change Award: Scott Swanson and Stephanie Thomas, Campbell’s Fresh

President’s Award: Pat Thurman, Senior Aerospace AMT

CORE Visionary Award: Premera Blue Cross

Outstanding CORE Ambassadors: Jamie Benedix, Fluke; Tracie Ostman, Snohomish County PUD; Cindy Funaro, Pacific Crest Savings Bank; Kristina Rathore, Vine Dahlen PLLC; Kitty Kitnikone, Workforce Snohomish; Thom Drew, Jamco America.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

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