Local United Way to host community forum on Columbia's service needs

Friday, October 21, 2011 | 5:14 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — The Heart of Missouri United Way will host a public forum called We Can Fix It! on Tuesday to discuss service needs within the community.

The meeting will focus on how to best address problems associated with education, income, health and safety net services, which provide food, clothing and shelter.

If you go

What: A public forum to discuss community needs hosted by the Heart of Missouri United Way.

When: From 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Cost: Admission is free.

To register: Enter your name and email address on the event's website. It is also accessible at

Where: 1200 E. Broadway, in the Kimball Ballroom at Lela Raney Wood Hall at Stephens College.

The United Way offers these local statistics on its website:

  • 6,000 people are unemployed
  • 7,000 are hungry
  • 200 high school students drop out each year
  • Almost 40 percent of children in Columbia Public Schools are living in poverty

The United Way will use the findings from the meeting to inform a shift in its service model to a focus on community impact. The new model will strive to provide immediate help to people when they need it as well as address the long-term causes.

For Tim Rich, executive director of the Heart of Missouri United Way, this means an examination of increasing poverty.

"Some people would say this is the worst time ever to make a paradigm shift," Rich said. "I would contend it is the best time ever, because the needs of people in poverty are more amplified and visible in this economy than they normally are."

A group of 80 people that make up advisory teams have examined each of the four service categories and compiled a "comprehensive needs assessment" of the community.

At the meeting, the advisers will present the data and welcome suggestions from the group on how to best address what they have identified as some of the community's most pressing needs.

"It's not just a listening session," Rich said. "This is an opportunity for people to have a voice in deciding how United Way will be engaged in the community and what we should be focusing on in order to make a long-term difference."

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