Sunday, April 5, 2020 | |Login | Search
    You are here:  Home / Blog



      Denise Peters-Kauihou, January 13, 2020


You are the boxcar for many local children.

In 1924, Gertrude Chandler Warner wrote a now beloved story of four orphaned children, Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny – The Boxcar Children. Perhaps you recall reading it yourself. 

In the story, the children are left to their own devices due to circumstances beyond their control. They discover an abandoned boxcar in the woods and create a home for themselves inside. 

Henry, who is just 14, finds work in the nearby town and with his earnings, supports the small family. The children are thrilled when one day he brings home tiny vegetables, bread, butter and a small piece of meat that his sister Jessie, age 12, turns into a delicious and hearty pot of stew. 

I must have read that book ten times when I was a child. I could daydream for hours about how exciting it would be for my siblings and I to be on our own, doing whatever we wanted, being independent and capable. 

As an adult, I understand now how burdensome responsibility can be, what the weight of that feels like. I’m lucky to be almost 60 this year, to have learned from experience that circumstances are often not as they seem, that there is light at the end of the tunnel, that people who value us don’t ever make us feel small. 

But I’ve been fortunate. I’ve lived a big life, full of diverse people and places with lots of exposure to folks who are not the same as me. Children as you know are just learning this. They’ve only just begun to navigate the minefields where having less is somehow tied to our likeability, our value, our “belongedness”.

I told you all of that to tell you this: last year, 33,209 children under the age of 17 were served by United Way Blackhawk Region funded programs and services. 33,209. To get a mental picture of that I offer you this, Miller Park holds 41,000 people. 

Imagine a child in need filling almost every seat of Miller Park. These kiddos need a roof over their heads to be sure, but they also need a bed to sleep in, a blanket and some hot food. They need access to a washing machine so that they have clean clothes to wear and books to read so they’re ready to start school. They’re hungry. Did you know that your dollars help fund a program that sends bags full of food home with children on Fridays so that they and their siblings have food to eat over the weekend? These children are the Henry’s of today and to these children, you are their Boxcar.

Donors like you have created a space of shelter and warmth for them by supporting United Way funded programs like ECHO Way Home and Family Promise. You provide food and nourishment for their growing bodies. You help them feel safe in shelters, at CARE House and by funding CASA. You give them a chance to unload their burdens and just be a kid in places like the Boys and Girls Club, Merrill Community Center and the Stateline YMCA. You give them fresh notebooks, sharp pencils and new shoes to wear on the first day of school. Remember what that felt like?

You might not meet any of these 33,209 children and yet, your generosity has welcomed each of them in from the cold winds of poverty, uncertainty, fear or despair. It is from a place of privilege that one extends their hand to another and says, you hang on to me and I’ll hang on to you. By doing so, neither one of us will blow away. Thank you for caring for and about the children. Thank you for being their Boxcar. 


About Denise:

Denise Peters-Kauihou brings more than 25 years of nonprofit experience to her role as Vice-President of United Way Blackhawk Region. She leads the community investment process and serves on many community coalitions and task forces to ensure that United Way is well positioned to meet the emerging needs of those in the Blackhawk Region.

June 2019

Summer Food Service Programs 

Summer can be an exciting time of year for children who look forward to outdoor activities, family vacations, sleeping in late, or meeting with friends. But, many children locally may worry about where their next meal is going to come from because they are dependent on school meals throughout the rest of the year. With school out of session, this fear can be a reality.

The Summer Food Service Program provides free meals to low-income children during school vacations. Of the 26 million children in Wisconsin who eat lunch at school every day, about half of them receive their meals for free or at a reduced price. The summer lunch program helps lessen the financial barrier for parents and children who need a nutritious meal when school is out. In 2018 alone, Wisconsin served 2.9 million meals at 965 sites operated by 240 sponsoring organizations. Find more information here about the Summer Food Service Program on the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction website.

Click below to learn about the summer meal programs offered in a variety of communities in the Blackhawk Region.


Clinton - Stay tuned for more information on this webpage.


Hononegah  - Stay tuned for more information on this webpage:


Milton - Stay tuned for more information on this webpage. MAYC is now open for a portion of the summer from June 10 – July 3 (12:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.)

Prairie Hill School District


Adopted from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction website.

April 2019

Seven Myths about Volunteering

April is National Volunteer Month, which is a great time to dispel some common misconceptions about volunteering. Here are a few:

There isn’t an easy way to find out about volunteer opportunities.
Yes there is! United Way Blackhawk Region hosts a free, volunteer connectivity website called Get Connected. Local nonprofit organizations, school districts, service clubs, municipalities, etc. are all able to post their diverse volunteer needs on Get Connected in the hope of reaching you. Check it out, you’ll be amazed at the diversity in volunteer postings available - everything from helping with an Easter Egg Hunt, to playing bingo with older adults, responding to local disasters, translating medical services, and so much more.  

It’s tough to find time to volunteer.
If you have a lunch hour, you have time to volunteer. Head to a nearby school to read with children, become a Lunch Buddy or deliver Meals on Wheels. We know your time is valuable and volunteering is about quality over quantity. 

Volunteering will add stress to my life. Actually, working with or for others, staying active and expanding your worldview adds up to a healthier lifestyle. There is a significant correlation between volunteering and good health.

Volunteering is dirty work that no one else will do.
Sure, sometimes people paint walls and pick up litter, but they also help make critical decisions as board members or grant reviewers. Finance professionals can put their skills to use teaching teens about financial literacy and engineers can lend their talent to local STEM programs. It’s just a matter of finding the right fit. 

Volunteering takes time away from family. When you bring the kids along to volunteer, you strengthen family and community bonds, instill empathy and create wonderful memories. 

Problems are so big; I can’t make much of a difference. Consider the impact you’d make serving as a Community Response Team Member, advocating for victims of domestic violence. Or, becoming trained as a Crisis Line Volunteer Advocate for the Sexual Assault Recovery Program. Garden work days help to maintain local wellness gardens regularly utilized by people with disabilities, dementia and terminal illness. 

Volunteering is thankless work.
National Volunteer Month is our time to thank volunteers who lend their time, talent, brains and brawn to causes they care about in their community and across the Blackhawk Region. THANK YOU for stepping up –and getting connected. Thank you for embracing what it means to LIVE UNITED.


Adopted from United Way Worldwide.