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  • Writer's pictureShelly Peterson

United Way of Carlton and Pine County Area - Health. Education. Basic Needs of Every Person In Every Community.

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The United Way is national in its branding, but each United Way Chapter has different needs and programs, which are hyper-local, finding pathways to give to where the needs are. The Carlton County Office in Cloquet covers the geographic areas of Pine and Carlton Counties and Tamarack, which is part of Atkin County. Sarah Buhs started as the United Way of Carlton County Executive Director in January 2022. 

In December 2023, United Way of Carlton County moved into its new location at 902 South Hwy 33 to be more visible from a branding perspective and functionally be poised to serve a new three-year grant program focused on homeless youth in the area. "With the Carlton youth shelter closing and Duluth the only other location for homeless youth which removes them from their school and community, we stepped up and partnered with the County to find solutions. 

"We estimate about 100 homeless youth in the area," said Sarah Buhs, Executive Director of United Way of Carlton County. In short, host homes will be found through local churches, and members of these homes will be provided basic training and access to an embedded social worker. 

"Our goal is to find these kids host homes that allow them to stay in school and increase graduation rates," shared newly hired Tracy Ganter.

Their new space on South Hwy 33 will provide safe access to bathrooms, showers, and basic need supplies. The grant will allow United Way to serve homeless youth from kindergarten through 12th grade. The program will prioritize homeless youth with a child, then homeless youth, and then a family member with a homeless youth. Teachers will be able to report trends regarding homelessness within the schools. 

Take a tour of the new homeless youth space.

Further, the grant project will bolster relationships with First Witness and Legal Aide and will leverage funding by working with Lakes and Pines Community Action Council. "We are always looking for volunteers," shared Sarah Buhs, Director. 

Programs of the United Way office in Cloquet will continue to be emergency food shelves, crisis referrals, direct aid to families and individuals, or, more creatively, local volunteers virtually conducting storytime featuring books from a program they support, Dolly Parton's Imagination Library. We have 400 kids in the program for Imagination Library and 40 on a waiting list," shared Ms. Buhs. The office continues to raise roughly $200,000, and staff is paid for locally, along with operations and items. What is raised here stays here—so remember to give where you live or work. This local office is not supported nationally by United Way, and it is a big deal to have a local office. Several area Cloquet employers launch workplace fundraising campaigns, and that funding allows the United Way of Carlton County to support local non-profits. In recent years, data has demonstrated that virtual campaigns are less successful than traditional workplace pledge cards.

Since 1956, the United Way of Carlton County has mobilized community resources to support local non-profit programs. While the community has changed and grown throughout the years, the mission of the United Way has stayed the same: to fight for the health, education, and financial security of every person in every community.  Together, we can do so much more.  United Way fights for the health, education, financial security, and basic needs of every person in every community. United Way works with residents and public and private partners to co-create solutions that ensure everyone has the resources, support, opportunities, and networks they need to thrive. United Way commits to leveraging assets (convening, strategic investments, awareness building, advocacy) to create more equitable communities.  

Annually, they also host Operation Community Connect in the region, connecting those in need to the resources available. United Way focuses on cradle-to-career education strategies that provide a firm foundation at an early age and continue to help develop our children into successful adults who can contribute to their communities. This year, the United Way of Carlton County invested over $40,000 in the following programs to give kids a hand in their education and healthy development:

  • Carlton County Collaborative: Jump Start 4 Kindergarten

  • Catholic Charities: Foster Grandparent Program

  • Carlton County Historical Society

  • REACH: Mentor Program

  • Girl Scouts of Minnesota & Wisconsin Lakes & Pines: Girl Scout Leadership Pathways

  • Voyageurs Area Council Boy Scouts: Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Venturing, and Exploring

  • Dolly Parton's Imagination Library Program

Sarah Buhs, Executive Director

902 S. Hwy 33, Cloquet, MN 55720

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