Why do we choose to do the work that we do?
For Christine Benero, President and CEO of Mile High United Way, her why is personal. Growing up surrounded by great teachers and supportive mentors she says, “I had every opportunity succeed, but there are so many children that don’t. We do the work that we do here at Mile High United Way for those children, for the next generation. Together, we all change lives.”
At the most recent Tocqueville Society Breakfast, hosted at Mile High United Way, the theme of the morning was community change. As Christine noted, “When you build up a person, you build up a community.”
The morning was filled with Tocqueville Society members who have made a commitment to give back to the community with their finances and their time. Tocqueville Society Co-Chairs, Steve and Wendy Topalian shared that, “We are not just setting an example for our children, this work is part of who we are. We strengthen communities one neighborhood at a time, and we want to give back to where we live and where we work.” After 3 years of stellar leadership, Steve and Wendy are now passing on the responsibility of co-chairing the Tocqueville Society to two other upstanding members, Mike and Yun Hui Kehoe.
As they noted, everything starts with the neighborhoods we serve and there are currently neighborhoods in Metro Denver that are being left behind. Mile High United Way works to seek out neighbors who have big dreams, just like the rest of us, but are unfortunately being left behind with the upward development of the city.
“It’s a tale of two cities,” Christine said. “We know that we are great to responding quickly to the needs of Metro Denver, but we are also consistently learning about the types of long-term change that need to happen as well. Long-term change takes intentionality, strategy, and patience. We can help a family put food on their table, we can help a senior pay their rent, and we can help a teenager find a safe place to call home. But we also understand that the needs of an entire community are wide, vast, and diverse.”
Mile High United Way works in spaces where most organizations don’t. We fill the gap where people need a hand up, we build bridges to resources, and we create roads to opportunities.
Jared Polis, the new state Governor, attended this breakfast and echoed these sentiments.
“I want to thank Mile High United Way for doing work that empowers. The work that you all do makes a big difference in Colorado. Together, we believe in giving all children a strong start and that starts with full day kindergarten.”
Both the Governor and Mile High United Way shared the sentiment that investing early has a big impact long-term. In support of the idea that no child should be left behind, and that the whole family should be supported, Mile High United Way proudly shared its work in opening the first mobile preschool. This mobile preschool will be taken to families who need it most in under-resourced neighborhoods.
This is how change begins – by placing a stake in the ground. With a broad scope, seeing that long-term change for our communities takes a multi-generational approach and innovative thinking. That is how policy is ultimately changed. And it takes all of us banding together, as one united community, to make that change happen so everyone has a chance to succeed.
“Success is about giving a hand up to those who come after. All of you in this room are walking this talk by giving back to United Way. Together, we’re creating a Colorado for all where everyone can thrive,” said Governor Polis.
Christine continued by saying that, “This is why we have these events. In order to do the great work that we do, on behalf of our community, we need to engage in conversation with one another. We all share a common vision for our beautiful state and, together, we can get there.”
We can be the support that our neighbors need. We can say, “we see you and we are here for you.”