Olivet students accept an award from United Way at their annual meeting. (L-R): Dr. Houston Thompson, Becca Reed '14, United Way board president Omeakio Tucker, Nick Allen, Katie Reed '16, Ron Gamache
At its annual meeting in April, United Way of Kankakee and Iroquois Counties awarded Olivet Nazarene University for their long-standing partnership in the community. Olivet contributes to the mission of United Way through staff fundraising campaigns, providing students as interns, and sharing faculty and staff as volunteers.
United Way seeks to provide for peoples’ health, education, and financial needs at a global level. United Way of Kankakee and Iroquois Counties funds 45 programs at 25 agencies in the community, and Olivet Nazarene University serves as a community employer for this local chapter.
“We’ve been really lucky to work with the students who have served here,” says the executive director of the local United Way, Nick Allen ’06. He describes the interns from Olivet as being necessary staff members. “Our interns are not around just to do little things. We have a small staff, so if we weren’t able to hire interns, we wouldn’t be able to accomplish what we do.”
Ron Gamache ’14 interned with United Way during the spring 2014 semester. “Working for a nonprofit organization as a student was a unique opportunity for me,” he says.
“There are similar values between United Way and Olivet, so there’s a lot of alignment between what I learned in the classroom and what I did for my internship,” says Ron. “The best thing was being able to see a direct impact on the community through partnerships like this one.”
A recent Olivet graduate, Ron now works at the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. He says that working for a nonprofit that is similar to United Way has made the transition easier because they both operate independently and focus on outreach to the community. “The work is different, but the principles are the same,” he says.
Benefits for both
Dr. Houston Thompson, dean of the School of Professional Studies, has served the United Way of Kankakee and Iroquois Counties for six years and is now the Endowment Chair. He was familiar with United Way, however, even before he came to Olivet in 2006.
A shared resource between Olivet Nazarene University and United Way, he sees the benefits that each organization offers the other. “The partnership helps United Way save resources, and it gives Olivet students the experience they need,” he says.
As interns like Ron go on to work for nonprofit organizations, and United Way continues to value Olivet’s’ services, Dr. Thompson has no doubt that the common thread is providing help that people need.
“It’s about making sure that everyone has the best quality of life possible,” he says.