United Way is expanding its service area. Effective March 1, 2017, the local nonprofit organization will serve Otter Tail and Wadena Counties. 

United Way of Otter Tail County has been serving Fergus Falls since its beginning as a community chest in 1932. In 1957, an amendment to change the name to Fergus Falls United Fund was filed, followed by an additional amendment in 1991 to change the name to United Way of the Fergus Falls Area. Later, the local board felt they could support additional growth and in 2000 filed an additional amendment and became United Way of Otter Tail County.

“We are very excited to provide services to our Wadena neighbors,” Executive Director, Mary Phillipe said. “I think it’s a great step for United Way. It’s going to help us grow, and when we grow, we are able to make more of an impact for people in need.”

“We have some partnerships which are based in Otter Tail County which also provide services in Wadena County,” Phillipe said. “We’ll be working on strengthening those relationships. Our combined board will be developing a new strategic plan on March 23 and focusing on needs in both counties and where we can make the largest impact with our current resources.” 

For the past five years, United Way of Otter Tail County has met its fundraising goals and continues to expand internal programs impacting education basic needs and improving health. United Way wants to reassure its loyal donors that funds which are raised in Otter Tail County will continue to support the Otter Tail County area and funds which are raised in Wadena County will stay to support area Wadena programs.

“The existing Otter Tail County United Way Board and I are very excited to welcome Wadena County, and several of its existing board members, to our United Way,” United Way President Josh Heggem said. “This is an exciting opportunity that will bring with it new challenges and new inspiration, and allow us to reach an even larger population of hungry children, homeless families, people in need of mental health support systems and many others in need in both counties.”

In the past, the Wadena United Way has participated and contributed to the local school backpack project. Approximately 250 backpacks were filled with school supplies and distributed to local children before school started in the fall. Backpacks were distributed to kids in the Wadena-Deer Creek, Sebeka, Verndale, Menahga and Bertha-Hewitt school districts. Last year, the local United Way was able to donate $1,000 to assist with memberships to the Maslowski Wellness and Research Center for low-income children. The United Way has funded many other agencies over the years as well.

Moving forward, the organization’s Facebook page and website will change to reflect the new name. The new Facebook page will be the United Way of Otter Tail & Wadena Counties, and the website will change from www.uwotc.com to www.uwotw.org.