United Way

The Women United partnership between Iowa State University Extension and Outreach and the United Way of Story County received the statewide “Excellence in Partnership to Iowans” award at the annual Extension award ceremony.  The award was presented to ISU Human Sciences Specialist Barb Wollan, and reflects the joint accomplishments of the eleven-year collaboration to address financial literacy.
The Women United project began with 2007 focus groups to identify critical issue(s) in the community. The top priority identified was the need to enhance financial literacy and financial self-sufficiency among local women.
Extension and the United Way worked together to design an outreach model that begins with a multi-session basic financial management workshop especially designed to be engaging, interactive, and focused on participants taking action based on what they are learning. Based on Wollan’s extensive experience working with families, the planners chose to provide supper, child care, and also transportation assistance when needed.
Following the workshop series, participants have the option to connect with a volunteer mentor, a local woman who can serve as a support, a cheerleader and an accountability partner. Over half of participants opt to work with a mentor, and those who do are more likely to make progress toward their goals. Participants also have scholarship opportunities, and several times each year a “booster session” is offered for past participants on a topic related to making the most of your money.
Over the course of eleven years, Women United has reached more than 400 Story County women. Jerri Baumeister, who has served as the Women United Director for seven years, maintains regular contact with past and current participants, sharing information and resources and collecting success stories and data about the progress participants are making.  A survey compilation shows that one year after beginning the program: 78% report that their cash flow has improved; 72% report decreased debt; and 58% report increased savings.  
According to Baumeister, working with Wollan provides “current, unbiased content, effective teaching strategies, and a safe and comfortable environment for participants to learn new skills and gain confidence.”  She adds, “It is clear Women United is making a difference. I believe our program is a strong example of what community collaborations can accomplish.”
Anyone interested in participating in the Women United financial education program or becoming a mentor is encouraged to contact Jerri Baumeister or Bryann Sullivan at 515-268-5142. Those interested in other non-commercial financial education opportunities through Extension are encouraged to contact Barb Wollan, bwollan@iastate.edu or 515-832-9597.


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