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September 2, 2016

Manatee Mind Trust Reflects Voice of the Community

“I won’t just survive, I will thrive. Can’t write my story, I’m beyond the archetype.” – Katy Perry, Rise

 I love anthem songs. The power, the music that evokes community and personal will to triumph. When I hear anthem songs, the combination of music and lyrics challenge me to do better, be better, get stronger… And, in this case, rise.

It makes me wish that every community member had the benefit of a personal “anthem song” playing in our heads every day, all the time. Not to drive us crazy, but to encourage and support us as we face challenges and experience triumphs. To know that we have community with us as we are on this journey.

That’s how I see the work of United Way — community building and strengthening community. Supporting one another and holding up one another in times of challenge, celebrating with one another in times of success.

ManateeMind Trust is United Way of Manatee County’s answer to the community’s voice. 

As we transformed ourselves, we reached out to community for voice, insight, challenge and investment. What you told us was that you want a community where everybody felt connected. You want civil discourse and realistic approaches to our toughest challenges. When that discourse happens, you asked that we focus on education, health and financial stability.

Education was a common, strong theme. My thought is that is because education is the key to it all. Education is our process for growing, engaging and thriving as a whole. Education is what gets us to that place of support and celebration and individual and collective investment in life.

The now regional Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading is an important step — a regional movement for engaging all sectors in a common goal: ensuring that all children are reading on grade level by the end of third grade. It is a community movement that has us looking at the resources we already have and investigating opportunities to use them differently. It is also one facet of the overall work in which you asked us to engage.

When we heard from Manatee County Schools Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene at our Community Fund Drive Kick-off, she shared that 1,275 students in Manatee County currently do not reach that benchmark. Yes, 1,275. That number is likely to increase in the coming years until we shift policies, systems and practices that drive lasting change and change how we think about educating our children and supporting our families.

That leads us to ensuring a multi-faceted approach.

Manatee Mind Trust adds layers to our work that support other critical access points to thrivability. In order for children to thrive, their parents/caregivers need to be financially stable, and then some. (Learn more about Alice, here.) Both children and parents/caregivers need to have access to health care and health supports. 

We have taken a step back to take a macro view of our community that leads us to micro, locally grown solutions — solutions that take both time and perseverance. Solutions that aren’t about simple financial investments, but that bring together nonprofits, government, media, business and community to increase our chances at longtime success and lasting change.

Remember that anthem idea? That “community anthem” is YOU. Every one of us has the ability to be that voice of celebration or support. Choices we make today impact all tomorrow.

The United Way Community Fund Drive is an opportunity for the “everyday philanthropist” to become a transformational giver as your investment becomes part of the whole and you work through the United Way to serve community through strong partnerships that invest in strategies that support theories of change — supporting all of community. 

No one organization, program, or individual can drive change alone. Our challenge to you: Join us as we create an anthem of thrivability for Manatee County.

We fight for the health, education and financial stability of every person in every community we serve.

For more information on Manatee Mind Trust: Brilliant Minds. Bright Future, visit

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