When Gov. Steve Bullock spoke to the United Way of Yellowstone County’s annual breakfast Thursday morning, he thanked volunteers for their service in 2013 and praised the group’s commitment to early-childhood education.
The United Way has set its goal for the next five years to encourage early childhood development as a way to increase graduation rates in Yellowstone County.
The breakfast took place at the Mansfield Health Education Center on the campus of St. Vincent Healthcare. Awards were given to exemplary volunteers and corporations.
Montana has strong communities and a good quality of life, Bullock said. But, the state is one of only eight states that does not have publicly funded, universal, pre-kindergarten available to its students.
“We’re in the dwindling minority,” he said.
He said he was hopeful that those involved at the United Way would get others to recognize the need for the program’s expansion.
“Our refusal to do so comes in spite of a heck of a lot of information,” he said. “There’s more and more evidence that it’s the right thing to do.” Bullock has said he will introduce legislation during the 2015 session to increase funding to pre-kindergarten programming.
He also praised the United Way’s commitment to early childhood education and thanked volunteers for their service.
In 2013, 1,226 volunteers from the United Way Volunteer Center provided 11,276 hours of service, according to the UWYC’s annual report.
“Volunteering is really critical for a community,” said Pam Sanderson the center’s director. “It is what builds that civic capital in the community.”
Anyone at any stage of their lives can be a volunteer, she said, and when people stay engaged in their community they live happier more fulfilled lives.
“There’s hundreds of ways to for people to be involved,” Sanderson said.
More than 80 organizations list their opportunities at youcanvolunteer.org. More information about UWYC be found at their website, unitedwayyellow