Souris Valley United Way making big strides

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Souris Valley United Way has been an important part of the Magic City for quite a long time. And with the help of donations, SVUW

is hoping to be around for years to come.

SVUW was founded in 1930 as the Minot Community Chest, which at the time was the name of the United Way.

In 1985, the organization changed to its current name.

SVUW is involved in a variety of charities throughout the Minot area, including Backpack Buddies.

The program offers a bag of food to school children, who may not have food over the weekend. The bag of food contains fruit, canned food and a variety of snacks.

The food is transported to the school each Friday where each teacher places the bag in certain backpacks.

The program began in the 2013-14 school year with 55 students at Sunnyside Elementary.

Currently, SVUW provides this program for 239 students at five different elementaries in Minot – Sunnyside, McKinley, Roosevelt, Washington and Lewis & Clark.

SVUW executive director Pat Smith says expansion of the program is unlikely, at least for now.

“If you take 36 weeks, times that by 10 (dollars) and 250 (students), that’s $90,000,” she said. “We know there is a need, but it depends on our donations.”

In addition, the SVUW is also the local sponsor for the Dolly Parton Imagination Library.

In this program, children, from birth until the age of 5, receive a new book in the mail once a month.

Smith says since 2012, this program has increased by 2,000 children.

Such programs are funded through donations to SVUW, which are then granted back into the community.

In 2016, SVUW had a goal of reaching $1 million.

“We’ve had that goal for three years,” Smith said.

And unfortunately, SVUW is heading in the wrong direction of reaching its goal.

Smith says SVUW raised $718,000 in 2014; $678,000 in 2015 and $585,000 in 2016.

And the decline in donations is a cause for concern.

“It’s the economy,” Smith said. “With the oil backing off and the agriculture backing off, (it’s just hard right now).”

Over the years, SVUW has gone from supporting five agencies to 21 and offering more than 28 programs to the Minot community.

Any further growth by the organization will be determined by the assistance of others.

“It all depends on the campaign donations (we receive),” Smith said.

Since 1948, members of the Minot community have donated more than $14 million to improving the area.

While there is no way to know for sure what the future will hold, Smith, who is retiring in the near future, is optimistic about the SVUW’s growth.

“It’s been up and down,” she said. “I started in 2008 and it’s grown in what we have been able to serve. I know the new executive director will be able to (find new ways to make it grow).”

The Minot organization is one 1,800 United Way chapters across the nation.