Recently, United Way of Berks County brought together more than 50 people who want to make a difference in the Oakbrook community for the first meeting of the Oakbrook Collective Impact Council. Oakbrook is a public housing community owned and managed by Reading Housing Authority located in the 18th Ward of Reading.
The Council consists of representatives from various non-profits, the education sector, community volunteers, business leaders, and Oakbrook residents. The effort is co-chaired by long-time United Way volunteer Kim Hippert-Eversgerd, Fulton Bank Vice President/Commercial Relationship Manager, and Marilyn Then, an Oakbrook resident, who is ready to make even bigger changes in her community.
“I’m so passionate about these kids, and I will do whatever I can to help and keep them safe,” Then said.
The Oakbrook Collective Impact Council was formed in response to needs identified by residents through a door-to-door survey conducted in June 2017 by United Way staff and volunteers. Through the survey, UWBC learned the residents’ specific needs and desires towards their health, employment, education, and other needs. It also allowed the voices of the residents to be heard and provided an opportunity for the community volunteers “to see the residents of Oakbrook are just like us,” noted Dr. Yamil Sanchez Rivera, Senior VP of Community Impact for United Way of Berks County.
Dr. Rivera shared the goal of the council is to make a difference in Oakbrook by using all of the various resources each individual member of the Council can provide. “However, just because we are meeting right now doesn’t mean we are going to fix all of the problems today. The hope is this meeting will grow into a generational change,” he said. The Council will utilize the Collective Impact model, where community partners commit to work together to achieve the same goal and address complex social problems. It is a multi-year process, where the group looks to address the root cause of an issue and works to create cultural shifts.
The meeting participants were eager to help bring about that change. Many of the non-profit representatives shared how their services can help the Oakbrook community. They explained they are there to feed seniors, provide health services, offer services to youth, engage parents, and so much more.
From a United Way perspective, this work connects to the Ready.Set.READ! goal of having children in Berks County reading proficiently by third grade. If a family is having difficulty meeting basic needs and worried about where their next meal will come from, or if they can access the healthcare they need, it can be even more challenging to make reading a priority in a household. The work of the Council will ideally address Oakbrook community needs. In addition, United Way sees the potential to use the work they are doing within Oakbrook, with the support of the Council, as a model for other communities in the Reading area. They will continue to meet and gain insight into the needs of the Oakbrook community to form a future plan of action.
If you are interested in learning more about or becoming part of these efforts, contact: