Every April, United Way of North Idaho (UWNI) hosts its Spring Dash in Coeur d’Alene. Last year, there were 875 participants and this year’s goal is to have over 1,000 runners and walkers.

“Spring Dash helps with our two primary focus areas: our Community Care Fund and our Community Understanding projects,” says Mark Tucker, executive director of United Way of North Idaho. “The Community Care Fund currently provides grant funding to approximately 20 nonprofit programs each year. These programs support education, financial stability, and health-related activities in the five northern counties. Our Community Understanding work are collaborations, conversations, and research to ensure our resources are utilized where needed most.”

According to a recent study, with United Ways of the Pacific Northwest, “41% of north Idaho households are struggling to make ends meet,” says Tucker. “[T]here is a significant portion of our population who are employed but living paycheck to paycheck.” United Way combats this problem with its grassroots ALICE Project (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed), that seeks to redefine financial hardship in order to help inform policy solutions.

“The local Community ALICE Task Force focuses on a range of system changes that both support ALICE in the short term and become more financially secure in the long term. One way is by focusing on early childhood care and education,” says Keri Stark, Director of Community Impact. UWNI’s Ready for Kindergarten program, now in its fifth year, has expanded to include families in the Coeur d’Alene Library community and childcare professionals, in addition to those already being served in the Coeur d’Alene, Post Falls, and Lakeland (Rathdrum) School Districts. More than 140 families are helped annually through this program.

“At UWNI, we feel ensuring children enter school ready to learn and succeed in school is the best way to break generational poverty,” says Tucker. “However, if children are hungry or unhealthy, they won’t be able to focus enough to stay in school, so a long-term approach for family stability is imperative.” //