Greater Mankato Area United Way

March 30, 2023

Amount Requested$17,300.00


127 S. 2nd St. #190
Mankato, Minnesota 56001

Laura Murray

Director of Operations & Communications

Email hidden; Javascript is required.

  • Broaden Perspectives Through Art, Culture, Literature or Extracurricular Experiences
Proposal Information

Funds are Being Requested for:

Program Support

Mission Statement

Greater Mankato Area United Way's mission is to unite the community to secure and invest resources to improve people's lives by focusing on the impact areas of basic needs, health, and education.

Amount Requested


Program Budget


Organizational Budget


Relationship to the Olseth Family Foundation


Summarize Your Request

This request aligns with the funding area of broadening perspectives through art, culture, and literature. We are grateful for the opportunity to partner with the Olseth Family Foundation for our seventh annual Fourth-Grade Book Project, which provides new, hardcover copies of Shel Silverstein’s "Where the Sidewalk Ends" to area fourth-graders. By giving students their very own book, this project promotes literacy, poetry, exploration, imagination, creativity, and opportunity for all. We are grateful to the Olseth Family Foundation for continuing this program.

In Spring 2023, we will distribute books to approximately 1,700 fourth-grade students and teachers in more than 30 public and private schools in Blue Earth, Le Sueur, Nicollet, and Waseca counties.

Presentation sizes range from a handful of students to more than 130. School staff and students alike are thrilled to welcome us back to their classrooms for delivery of the books and short presentations. At every school, students are excited to receive this special gift and don’t want to stop reading poems aloud. We hear incredulous comments such as, “Are you sure I get to KEEP this?” and “My mom reads me this book from when she was little. Now I can read to her from mine!”

This project and its mission of literacy is reaching more people than ever as its community engagement continues to expand. We will again recruit community volunteers and public safety representatives to help deliver books to area schools. As Mankato Area Public Schools requests their presentations to be held simultaneously, volunteers are a key part of this initiative. More than 30 community volunteers will help in delivering these books. We will continue our format of Zoom trainings for volunteers the week before the deliveries. This step has been a great addition to the program to ensure volunteers are prepared and even more excited. Additionally, local police and fire departments will participate in having representatives at many of the schools. This has proven to be an important connection in building bridges and allowing public safety and students to interact in a positive environment.

The Fourth-Grade Book Project benefits children of all backgrounds and income levels, demonstrating the importance of access to books and poetry for ALL children. Each year, we hear again and again the students’ excitement as they discover new poems or share their favorites. Variously silly and thought-provoking, these poems show students that reading and poetry can be fun and meaningful.

Please note this year’s updated program budget is $17,300. We are including $300 for a lunch ahead of time for our Emerging Leaders program (recently renamed to Engaged Leaders.) They will be volunteering with the book deliveries after the lunch and presentation regarding literacy initiatives.

The book deliveries highlight how much the gift of reading means to a child. Students and teachers embrace the opportunity to choose favorite poems and read aloud together. The schools are eager to participate, and they tell us how valuable these resources are, particularly as they are experiencing widespread challenges and children falling behind in reading following the pandemic.

Overview of the Grant Request

Population Served

1,700 fourth-grade students and teachers

Geographic Area Served

Blue Earth, Le Sueur, Nicollet, Waseca counties

List Three Measurable Goals That This Funding Will Help You Achieve.

1. Provide regional fourth-graders with a new, hardcover copy of "Where the Sidewalk Ends" by Shel Silverstein in order to grow their home libraries, regardless of income level.

2. Raise awareness of United Way's work in the impact area of literacy, encouraging others to get engaged whether through volunteering, donations, etc.

3. Increase United Way's reach and ability to positively affect children's lives.

How Will You Accomplish These Goals?

1. Invite regional elementary schools both public and private to participate in the program by accepting the donation.

2. Promote the initiative among the community and media, focusing on not only the initiative itself but also the larger benefits of reading, writing, and poetry.

3. Provide books to all fourth-grade students within participating schools. Foster and grow relationships with schools throughout the region; be flexible in adapting to their needs in regard to deliveries and presentations.

Looking Forward, How Will You Measure These Goals?

1. Track how many schools participate and how many students are served.

2. Track and share media coverage, community interaction, and other general feedback.

3. Request feedback from schools and ideas for future projects and partnerships.

Implementation Plan

Start Date


End Date


Describe Most Significant Collaborations With Other Organizations And Efforts.

We are grateful for the leadership of Olseth Family Foundation in continuing this project and providing close collaboration. The foundation's dedication to literacy and access to books is having positive change in our region. We partner with schools throughout the region to accommodate their schedules, student enrollment, and teacher numbers. School leaders have been enthusiastic in collaborating. Corporate and community volunteers are an essential part of getting all the books into the hands of students. Public Safety is a valued collaborator in helping at the presentations and encouraging kids to read and be safe on their summer vacation. American Solutions for Business provides a discount for this program's branded stickers. The media has also provided great coverage of this region-wide initiative.

What Is The Projected Timeline For The Proposed Activities?

January 2023: Contact HarperCollins Publishing for book pricing estimates.

February-March: Contact schools for enrollment/teacher numbers and request donation acceptance; send follow-up communication; confirm school numbers. Contact American Solutions for Business (formerly Paragon Printing) for sticker quotes.

March-April: Meet with Mankato Area Public Schools regarding presentation planning. Place book order. Order stickers. Coordinate routes and distribution schedule with schools.

April: Contact volunteers for stickering/delivering. Confirm presentation plans and scheduling. Prepare books for deliveries by stickering and counting out for each school. Alert media of the deliveries and invite to presentations if applicable. Confirm volunteers. Create scripts and talking points for delivery volunteers.

May: Host Zoom trainings for volunteers. Deliver books to schools and present the donation to students.

Supplemental Information

Current Year Organizational Budget


Program Budget For Proposed Funding Period


Other Entries
Approval Status