Jenni and Nancy Hero

The Power of Living United

Are the challenges people in poverty face in Madison County impossible to solve? Can these challenges be solved if organizations remain intractable, doing the same old same old, year after year? Former United Way of Madison County CEO Nancy Vaughan didn’t think so.
After nearly 25 years of service to Madison County’s United Way, my friend and mentor Nancy Vaughan has taken a much-deserved retirement. As those close to United Way know, she is a legend in the network for doggedly pursuing innovative approaches to meeting needs in the local community. During her time at United Way, she embarked on and led new ways to break the cycle of generational poverty.
In that spirit almost five years ago, Nancy convened a group of CEOs from across east-central Indiana to explore how we might come together to better meet the needs of our region and our local communities. This fired the imagination, and Nancy and I found great synergy between our United Ways as we considered how we might work together to leverage the talents of our teams and do more together.
By merging the best of United Way of Madison County and United Way of Delaware, Henry and Randolph Counties together, we forged a new organization—Heart of Indiana United Way. Over the course of the last fiscal year, we replicated and expanded the best of the best work we each did into new communities. And by coming together, we were able to try new things too.
Madison County’s THRIVE Network—United Way’s model to help people achieve and sustain financial stability, expanded. We now have more partners offering co-active coaching across Madison, Delaware, and Henry counties.
Delaware County’s successful Read United initiative will launch at Anderson Community Schools next school year. This program will pair caring volunteers with early readers to ensure kiddos are reading at grade level by the end of third grade, a critical measure of success in school and life. This program is being brought to Anderson thanks in part to a grant from the Madison County Community Foundation.
Heart of Indiana United Way has worked more holistically, addressing the interconnected issues of health, education, and financial stability. Across the region, we collected and distributed diapers, helped neighbors with energy assistance, and made sure kids and families had access to healthcare. We initiated four action councils focused on disparities and inequity and how Heart of Indiana United Way can best eradicate them.
As we move forward, our organization will continue to evolve to better meet the complex issues we hope to solve. While we stand ready to adopt new tools and technologies and try new fundraising strategies, we remain steadfastly committed to making sure all five counties feel heard, represented, and served.
This fiscal year, we will embark on mapping all our communities’ resources. Understanding what Madison County’s citizens’ greatest hopes are, as well as the challenges they face in trying to achieve them…and perhaps even more importantly, who they trust to come alongside them to reach their ideals.
We would love to connect with you—to listen to and learn from you. If you would like to be a part of these efforts, we would welcome your help! Find out more at www.HeartOfIndianaUnitedWay.org.