Updates Related to COVID-19

Head of the Lakes United Way – March 12, 2020
With our top priority being the health and safety of our employees, community partners, and the general public, I wanted to share updates with you on Head of the Lakes United Way’s plan for continuing our service to the community and doing our part in limiting the spread of COVID-19.
MONITORING & BUSINESS CONTINUITY PLANNING Our management team is meeting regularly to access the following: 1) monitoring and following guidance from United Way Worldwide, the Centers for Disease Control, the Minnesota and Wisconsin Departments of Health and state public health officials; 2) developing contingency plans in preparation for a variety of scenarios; and 3) ensuring our employees are educated about preventive measures, including personal health, work-from-home protocols, social distancing in meetings and avoiding handshakes during this time. We suggest following the recommendations found on the CDC website for guidance, including best practices for schools, health care facilities, working spaces and more.  

United Way’s 2-1-1 Resource Hotline: If you or someone you know needs assistance accessing food, paying housing bills or other essential services, dial 2-1-1 or text the letters MNCOVID to 898-211. A Certified Community Resource Specialist will help you find available resources in your area. Additionally, visit or Greater Twin Cities United Way’s 2-1-1 resource website for the latest information on COVID-19. 

Donations: If you wish to make a donation to the Community Giving Campaign, please visit

We are either canceling, postponing, or moving to a virtual format for all events until further notice. We will reassess our policy as needed for events that are scheduled to take place after that time. We have also made the difficult decision to cancel our annual Live United Luncheon, scheduled for May 13, 2020. We would like to thank all of our donors, community partners, sponsors, volunteers, and supporters for making the effort to LIVE UNITED this past year. Thank you for everything you’re doing to protect yourself and others during this difficult time, and thank you for your continued partnership.

I will continue to keep you updated as we learn more.  

Sincerely –Matt Hunter, President,
Head of the Lakes United Way

HLUW Emerging Leaders Board Training Program honored at DSACF Touchstone Awards

The Touchstone Awards recognizes and celebrates programs or projects for their leadership in transforming problems into opportunities and service into action. Each year at a luncheon, the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation recognizes non-profits that have gone above and beyond to improve the region by fostering Generosity, Civic Engagement and Inclusiveness.

Two Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation funded programs – one that prepares young leaders for service on community non-profit boards and another that uses creative writing to empower prison inmates for life beyond incarceration – earned special recognition Monday at the annual Touchstone Awards in the DECC’s Harborside Ballroom.

The Emerging Leaders Board Training initiated by Head of the Lake United Way earned the organization the Touchstone Civic Engagement Award. The program focused on younger people interested in serving on non-profit boards. As older business and civic leaders have retired from those boards, there has been a noticeable lack of young professionals willing to fill in those roles. The Foundation called the program “an exciting opportunity for young professionals to leverage their leadership skills through volunteerism, gain an understanding for what it takes to becomes successful board members, and ensure a stronger, more vibrant non-profit sector for many years to come.” The program will begin it’s third year in the spring of 2020. Visit to learn more.

All Touchstone Award winners received an additional grant of $2,500 to help finance charitable work. Besides the three winners, four more finalists also received an additional grant of $500 to further their efforts.

Winners and finalists in the civic engagement and inclusiveness categories were chosen from among nearly 200 grants provided to nonprofit organizations from the Community Foundation in 2017.

In closing remarks, Community Foundation President and CEO Holly Sampson said, “When we look at our region and our country, it can seem extremely demanding, from a funder’s perspective. Needs are growing dramatically. Problems are becoming more complicated. The complexities require us to find new solutions, new levels of engagement and new opportunities to come together. When we do come together, though, it is amazing to see the power of community to transform lives. All of the projects we recognized today are examples of that.”

Original article, published on October 7, 2019,
can be viewed at Business North:

2018-19 LIVE UNITED Luncheon

Head of the Lakes United Way celebrated community partners on Wednesday, May 15th at their annual LIVE UNITED Luncheon.

Invitation to LIVE UNITED Luncheon

DULUTH, MN –Every year, United Way welcomes this opportunity to say Thank You to all of their community partners and celebrate the results of the United efforts to make our community a great place to live and work.

The event is held annually to thank the community and recognize outstanding levels of contributions to United Way in terms of time, talent, and treasure. Among the awards given are Volunteer of the Year, organization recognition, and the Live United Award. Head of the Lakes United Way’s geographic region includes the communities of Ashland-Bayfield, Greater Duluth, the North Shore of Minnesota, and Superior-Douglas County, and representatives from all areas were in attendance.

Dan Wolfe (KBJR) did a fantastic job as emcee of the event and kept things moving. We heard an uplifting story of overcoming challenge shared by representatives of Harbor House Crisis Shelters. Next was Keynote Speaker Deb DeLuca (Duluth Seaway Port Authority) who shared information about economic development updates in our port and how, United, our community is making powerful strides.

Each year, United Way community partner agencies submit nominations for the annual Volunteer of the Year award. The award recognizes outstanding volunteer service to the community. This year’s recipient of the award was Jill Christie, who has been a volunteer with the Damiano Center for 37 years. Since the original Community Kitchen program began in 1982, she has spent five hours once a month preparing and serving food to people in need and has always been incredibly dedicated to providing sustenance to people.

The LIVE UNITED award is presented to an individual or group in our community that not only understands what it means to LIVE UNITED, but demonstrates it through giving, advocating, and volunteering in order to improve the lives of everyone in our community. This year, United Way honored Mark Sitek for his dedicated support to United Way, as well as his high level of integrity, ethical judgment and practices, loyalty and all around genuine personality.

Local organizations were also recognized for their contributions in four different categories. These included: Best in Show (recognition for total dollars raised), Best in Fundraising (largest increase in total dollars raised), Best in Employee Participation (any organization with 75% or greater employee participation), and Best in Engagement (organizations engaging with United Way in four or more areas). To view all award recipients, view the complete 2018-19 LIVE UNITED Award Booklet.

Also, view photos of the luncheon, graciously taken by Mark Fitzgibbons of FitzPhoto in the Photo Gallery.

27th Annual Letter Carriers’ Stamp Out Hunger® Food Drive

Largest Food Drive of the Northland to be held Sat., May 11

On Thursday, May 9, a press conference was held at the Plaza Super One in Duluth in preparation for the drive. Invited speakers included: Representatives from the Mayors Offices (Duluth, Hermantown, Proctor, Superior, Two Harbors), National Association of Letter Carriers, UFCW 1189, Super One, Vineyard Food Shelf, and CHUM.

Every year, the National Letter Carriers’ Association organizes the largest single-day food drive in the country. In 2018, over 100,000 pounds of food were collected in the Northland alone. These donations are distributed to local food shelves to assist those with fewer resources.

This timing of the food drive is important because families that rely on school meal programs won’t necessarily have access to that service in the summer. Families are more likely to utilize food shelves.

This year, certain items are most needed. Including high proteins and cupboard necessities including canned meat, peanut butter, jelly, oatmeal, cereal, pasta, rice, canned vegetables, and canned fruits. Items that should be excluded from the donations include donations of expired, unlabeled or dented cans, opened food items, produce, and homemade foods.

2019 Emerging Leaders Board Training Program celebrates success

Head of the Lakes United Way successfully coordinates its 2nd Annual Emerging Leaders Board Training Program with 23 graduates

CLICK HERE for information on the 2020 Session of Emerging Leaders Board Training Program.

The Emerging Leaders Board Training Program is an opportunity for professionals to learn how to leverage their leadership skills through six 2-hour educational sessions on volunteerism and board service. Throughout the program, individuals have the opportunity to strengthen their network, learn about local nonprofits, and connect with local resources.

The program, sponsored by Wells Fargo, College of St. Scholastica, and Globe News, was held every Tuesday evening from March 5 to April 9 at different locations throughout the Twin Ports. The first four sessions were instructive in nature, while the last two focused on engaging with local nonprofit organizations.

In session one, volunteer panelists shared their experiences while serving on area nonprofit boards through a series of questions and answers. Panelists included Cara Overland, General Manager at La Quinta Inn & Suites; Kevin Pillsbury, Attorney with Johnson, Killen and Seiler; Jordan Fahlsing with FIC, Thrivent Northland Group; and Lesa Radtke with Kirby Center, University of MN-Duluth.

At the second session, Scott Witty with Hanft Fride Law Office spoke about nonprofit board structures and legal issues while youth members of Boys and Girls Club-Goldberg Branch served a delicious meal to the participants.

The topic for the third session was nonprofit responsibility and financial stewardship, which was outlined by Leslie Brunfelt, Director of Finance for WDSE/WRPT, at the Superior-Douglas County Chamber of Commerce.

For session number four, Duluth Children’s Museum hosted, and the President/CEO, Cameron Kruger, spoke about determining which nonprofit board would be the best match based on a number of factors in “Finding the Right Fit”.

The fifth session, held at Clyde Iron Works, included a speed board match event with representatives from 13 local nonprofits.

The final session was a graduation celebration for all participants at Grandma’s Sports Garden.

For more photos, click here

Graduates Included:

  • Jody Anderson – TKDA Architects
  • Sarah Anderson – St. Louis County Health and Human Services
  • Daniel Berg – National Bank of Commerce
  • Crystal Bowen – Head of the Lakes United Way
  • Barbara Certa-Warner – Harbor House Crisis Shelter
  • Pauline Custer – Wells Fargo
  • Therese Gruber – New Hope FOR Families
  • Liz Hanson – United Health Group-Optum
  • Vanni Hayden – Joint Religious Leadership Coalition
  • Jessie Helbacka-Peterson – Valley Youth Center BOD
  • Kerstyn Hendricks – National Bank of Commerce
  • Brittney Kemi – University of Wisconsin-Superior
  • Madeline Kvale – Western Lake Superior Habitat for Humanity
  • Elizabeth Mayne – Head of the Lakes United Way
  • Hannah McCabe Houle – Girl Scouts Lakes and Pines
  • Cory Ouellette – MN Power Employees Credit Union
  • Amanda Peterson – Wells Fargo
  • Connor Randall – Republic Bank
  • Susan Rosette – Beacons of Hope
  • Carissa Skifstad – Lutheran Social Services
  • Addie Smith – ISD 709
  • Gerald Wallace – Wallace Law Firm PLLC

Head of the Lakes United Way Welcomes Three New Board Members

Head of the Lakes United Way is welcoming in three newly ratified members of the board who will work with President, Matt Hunter, to execute the organization’s mission and provide strategic direction to the nonprofit.

The new board members include:

  • Janet Nelson – AFL-CIO AFSCME and Community Services Committee
  • Jill Pinkney Pastrana – University of Minnesota–Duluth
  • Scott Studden – St. Luke’s Hospital

$40K in 40 Days

Head of the Lakes United Way asks the community to raise “$40K in 40 Days” to help the 2018-19 Community Giving Campaign finish strong.

We have one life. To live better, we must Live United. That’s the statement Head of the Lakes United Way has been sharing with communities of Ashland-Bayfield Counties, Greater Duluth, the North Shore of MN (Lake and Cook counties), and Superior-Douglas County this campaign season. Typically kicking off in the fall of each year, the Community Giving Campaign is a program of Head of the Lakes United Way which focuses on generating financial donations to support area non-profit programs.

Each year United Way asks local communities to invest in themselves. United Way then strategically partners with local non-profit health and human services programs to provide residents with critical necessities like food and safe housing, but also support for long-term solutions. United Way promotes partnerships and strategies that are foundational for a good life and strong community: basic needs, education, financial stability, and health.

As United Way’s 2018-19 campaign wraps up, they are asking the community to help them in their final push of this year. “We want to finish strong – every dollar that is invested helps meet our most critical community needs” says Michelle Hargrave, Vice President of Impact and Development. “When our community joins together to LIVE UNITED, it makes all the difference.”

United Way has set up a special page on their website at Donations may be made securely online, or sent to Head of the Lakes United Way, Re: $40K in 40 Days, 424 W Superior St, Suite 402, Duluth MN 55802. The 40-day campaign push concludes at the end of March. Whether $4, $40, or $400, all donations make a huge impact on the lives of our friends and neighbors.  

Free Tax Assistance and Community Action Duluth offer free tax assistance to anyone making $66,000 a year or less

Since 2009, H&R Block has partnered with United Way to provide free tax services to anyone with an annual income of $66,000 or less. Besides being a free tax site with mobile access from any smart phone, tablet, or computer, also provides users with a simple way to upload information and complete their taxes in under an hour on average.

For the individuals who would rather receive assistance face-to-face, there is Community Action Duluth. Their free tax services are offered to anyone with an annual income of $56,000 or less. IRS-certified volunteers are available for walk-ins several days of the week. Just last year, they helped 1,320 families claim $2.3 million in refunds.

By making others aware of the financial opportunities available in our area, Head of the Lakes United Way maintains the fight for the financial stability of every person, in every community. We’re committed to ensuring that people can easily and accurately file their taxes to receive the refund they deserve.

For more information on either one of these tax sites, please visit: or

Day of Caring (Holiday Edition)

Volunteers come together for the second Day of Caring in 2018

The biannual Day of Caring is a single-day concentrated push, which highlights the need for volunteerism in communities and organizations that provide so many services to those in need.

Groups of volunteers throughout the Twin Ports community worked together on Wednesday, December 5, to help out with some holiday season projects. Some of these projects include:

  • Painting Party (YWCA)
  • Bell Ringing and Gift Wrapping (Duluth Salvation Army)
  • Clothing and Hygiene Drive (Damiano Center)
  • Envelope Stuffing Party (First Witness)
  • Myers-Wilkins Day of Caring (Duluth Community School Collaborative)
  • Children’s Book Drive and Holiday Helpers (Lincoln Park Children and Families Collaborative)

Gov. Mark Dayton Proclaims Nov. 12-16 “Minnesota Acts of Kindness Week”

Head of the Lakes United Way encourages the community to be moved to kindness

Inspired by the work of 40 Minnesota United Ways and several partners in the community, Gov. Mark Dayton has proclaimed Nov. 12-16 as Minnesota Acts of Kindness Week. During this week, Head of the Lakes United Way invites everyone – volunteers, donors, businesses, community members, and children – to intentionally exemplify kindness with the goal of helping to unify the community and to kick-start ongoing acts of kindness.

“Our nation is faced with significant challenges, including natural disasters, racism, violence, and terrorism. To develop solutions and build resilience, we must unify first and foremost as human beings, regardless of our differences,” said Matt Hunter, President of Head of the Lakes United Way. “Through Minnesota United Acts of Kindness Week and beyond, we’re seeking to support all humankind.”

Some of the suggested acts of kindness include: Leaving a note of appreciation for a friend or co-worker, surprising someone with coffee or lunch, and holding the door open for others.