United Way launches online platform to engage public in advocating for change, announces success of year’s first advocacy effort

SOUTHWEST MICHIGAN — United Way of Southwest Michigan launched its new collaborative platform for advocacy, giving the people of Berrien, Cass and Van Buren counties the ability to learn about advocacy opportunities and act on them with easy-to-use communication tools that let politicians know what their constituents want.

United Way is also proud to announce its first advocacy success this year. UWSM and its advocates called on state legislators to support the proposal to expand funding for the Great Start Readiness Program. On June 30, the school aid budget passed the Michigan House and Senate that includes expanded funding for the GSRP, putting 22,000 left-out kids into high-quality preschool.

The new advocacy platform is incorporated into the UWSM website at uwsm.org/advocate. The provider is the world’s leading technology company for civic participation and stakeholder engagement and has empowered millions of advocates to make over 27 million connections with elected officials.

“The premise of the platform is simple,” said Jennifer Tomshack, UWSM communications manager. “Everyday citizens don’t know who their elected officials are, how to contact them, or even what crucial decisions are being made. This system is a mobile- and social-centric platform that allows people to speak up on issues important to them in order to effect change. Through the system, individuals can email or tweet their support of public policy to their representatives. They also have the ability to learn of and share real-life stories, told by UWSM, of people in our community who experience first-hand the impact of those policies.’

UWSM launched its advocacy department in 2020 with Heather Cole, Director of Advocacy and Public Innovation, as its head.

“We’re so excited to create more ways for all of our neighbors to advocate for change in our community,” Cole said. “Our goal is to help connect our community’s voices and stories to the policy decisions that affect us all and make it easier for people to raise awareness about causes they care about.”

UWSM strives to be a catalyst for change by mobilizing the power of communities, officials said. Through public-policy advocacy, the nonprofit is working to achieve systems-level change in the areas of health, education, and financial stability — with focus on ALICE households (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) in Berrien, Cass and Van Buren counties.

For more information about UWSM’s advocacy agenda or to sign up for Advocacy Action Alerts, visit uwsm.org/advocate.

Dowagiac

Dowagiac Police Log: July 23-26

Dowagiac

PHOTO STORY: Niles, Dowagiac featured stops in Lemon Rally vehicle race

Cass County

9-year-old injured in Cass County ATV accident

Local Government

Mayor presents volunteer with Certificate of Appreciation

Cassopolis

Cassopolis Public Schools superintendent resigns

Berrien County

Niles man gets jail, probation on assault-related charges

News

Two arrested on drug trafficking charges in Niles

Berrien County

Dowagiac woman gets probation, jail time in Berrien County stolen property case

Dowagiac

SMC ETS ventures back outdoors

News

Drunk driver sentenced to prison

Business

Chamber hosts ribbon cutting for Dr. A’s Releaf Center

Business

Niles chamber welcomes in-home health care company to the community

Cassopolis

Police searching for vehicle of interest in Cassopolis shooting

Dowagiac

Dowagiac Police Log: July 21-23

Dowagiac

Three injured in Silver Creek Township crash

Cass County

Former SMC instructor accepts plea deal in sexual misconduct case

Cass County

Vandalia resident sentenced to 10 months in jail for drug offense

Berrien County

Students experiencing homelessness remain hard to identify after year with remote education

Cass County

Dowagiac man heading back to prison on weapons charges

Dowagiac

Earl’s BBQ a hit at Summer in The City

Dowagiac

Local firefighter celebrates 30 years of service

Dowagiac

Emily Schrock returns to SMC in alumni position

Dowagiac

Dowagiac Rotary Club breaks ground on centennial sign

Buchanan

Podcast tells Buchanan’s story through eyes of its residents