For some, the holiday months bring a season of giving. For others, giving is 365 because the need is 365. This holds especially true for the Capital Area United Way. The organization is not only celebrating 100 years of service but 100 years of making a positive impact in the Lansing area.
“This 100-year celebration, for us, has really been focused on the thank you. How do we say thank you to as many people in the community as possible?” Capital Area United Way President Teresa Kmetz explained.
The Capital Area United Way convenes nonprofit organizations and community stakeholders and corporations to develop solutions that help the Lansing community become stronger. It works to connect people with the resources available in the community. Things like programmatic, human and financial resources, as well as programs and services that directly improve the lives of people in the capital region.
The celebration has spanned throughout 2019 with a number of public service announcements designed to tell the Capital Area United Way’s story over the last 100 years, beginning with how the organization started through present-day work. The Capital Area United Way 100th Anniversary Gala at the Michigan History Center kicked off the organization’s second century with friends from throughout the years who came together to celebrate 100 years of a positive impact. As it looks forward through the 100th year the organization has been in operation, the Capital Area United Way plans to continue finalizing the last decade of its story while looking forward to what the next 100 years will be. It will continue to celebrate with smaller commemorations like an anniversary float in the Silver Bells in the City parade on Nov. 22 and hosting the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce’s December Holiday Mixer.
“We look at each one of these opportunities as an opportunity to say thank you,” Kmetz said.
“Thank you to a community who has invested in United Way and who has invested in the community through United Way and who has been part of our history – whether they are a volunteer or a donor, or maybe they were a recipient of the services that United Way is funding.
Kmetz’s entire career has revolved around the nonprofit arena. She began her work with the Capital Area United Way as a donor before becoming a campaign associate in 2001, where she helped raise money for programs. Kmetz spent the last 11 years as president at the Capital Area United Way and truly believes in helping others. She and the organization work to ensure that everyone in the community has access to the things for a good life.
“There’s a lot of work to be done,” Kmetz explained. “There’s an opportunity to give a hand up to everyone. We have that belief that we can make a difference, but we have to do it in a united approach.”
The organization collaborates within and outside of the organization’s walls crediting the staff, volunteers, board of directors, ambassadors, donors and all involved to the success of the work being done. This work also is a result of the Lansing community and is proof that there are greater efficiencies in being united. Kmetz noted the commitment of the community coming together to find solutions to help improve things in the Lansing area and she said it is doing this because it’s the right thing to do. Since 2009, the Capital Area Unity Way has worked with over 200 volunteers.
“They come (to the Capital Area Unity Way) because they find value in the work being done,” Kmetz said.
Kmetz realizes that there is a need for philanthropy efforts 365 days a year. She and the organization look at the holiday season as another opportunity to give back and for families throughout the Lansing community to think of the gifts that they can give to others. She noted that she loves to see the number of families that volunteer through the organization’s volunteer center take their Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve or Christmas Day and go and do service to others.
“Sometimes, that gift (that people can give to others) is just the gift of time,” Kmetz explained.
“It’s about how do we use these very special family moments and continue to impart the importance of philanthropy and volunteerism to our children.”
Kmetz came to Lansing from northwestern Indiana in 1995 when her husband of 28 years decided to study at Cooley Law School. The mother of two enjoys reading both fiction and nonfiction books, running and traveling with her family. With her youngest daughter being accepted into the Disney College Program in Florida, Kmetz is exited for a few trips down to see her daughter and, of course, visit Walt Disney World.