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There are many different challenges that our citizens face every day, such as struggling to find affordable health resources, financial training, or reliable child care. United Way 211, United Way of Rock River Valley is breaking down barriers between those who need help and those who can help them. 

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Purchasing school supplies for the new school year can be increasingly costly, especially for low-income families. According to the annual Huntington Bank Backpack Index, families with more than one child in elementary, middle or high school could expect to spend as much as $3,000 in school supplies and activity fees.

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It's important that young children hear language, and they need to hear it from people, not just from screens. But while we know that reading to a young child is associated with good outcomes, there is only limited understanding of what the mechanism might be. Blogger Perris Klass, M.D. shares two new studies that examine the unexpectedly complex interactions that happen when you put a small child on your lap and open a picture book.

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Last week we concluded the 2015 season of Strong Neighborhoods Days. Thanks to residents, City of Rockford police officers and human services organizations for coming out to Rockford Housing Authority Blackhawk Courts. We look forward to engaging with residents at a neighborhood school during the school year.

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We had another nice turnout for Strong Neighborhoods Days yesterday. Thanks to the residents of Midtown District neighborhood for coming out to our Strong Neighborhoods House location to meet with other residents and connect with community resources. We look forward to connecting with more residents at the two remaining Strong Neighborhoods Days.

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Kids are more likely to succeed in school if they're healthy and well-fed when they enter the classroom. Adults who make healthy choices and have access to affordable health services are more productive in the workplace and their community. When individuals experience better health, they contribute to the collective well-being of the entire community.

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United Way, in collaboration with Community Foundation of Northern Illinois, Patriot's Gateway Community Center, Rockford Park District and Youth Services Network, offers a weekly Summer Learning Zone program for children living in Ellis Heights and Midtown District neighborhoods. The program helps students avoid the "summer slide", which occurs once school doors close for the summer.

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Enhanced Communication Ability

Kids who take part in early reading programs are able to use verbal communication and develop enhanced vocabulary skills earlier than other kids their age. But not only does early reading help your young kids with their talking and vocabulary in general, it also helps them recognize letters and words early on--giving their written communication skills a boost.

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In order to improve a community, volunteers of all ages are needed to advance the common good. Even children can make meaningful contributions to their neighborhoods. Research has found community service for kids produces real benefits when they volunteer alongside their families. According to The Center for Urban Policy and the Environment, volunteering:

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Nearly 30 interns from Greenlee / A Textron Company worked alongside Ellis Heights residents and organizations today to help clear debris and beautify the neighborhood. The clean-up efforts are part of Project 1013, a partnership between West Gateway Coalition and Rock Church, which advances the beautification of the Ellis Heights neighborhood.

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Look for a local summer program that promotes physical activity and healthy eating. It's important for children to keep active and eating healthy while school is out. We've compiled a list of local summer programs that help keep young children active and healthy throughout the summer.

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United Way is uniquely positioned to create community solutions that engage people, companies, faith communities, government, labor, nonprofits and more to create community solutions that drive lasting change and results in communities around the world. We invite everyone to be part of the change.

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Summer slide can be a huge challenge for kids, teachers and parents. Did you know children lose, on average, one month's worth of skills during summer vacation without practice? In her article Top 10 Toys That Beat The Summer Slide, Forbes.com contributor Jenn Choi offers a sort list of toys for children to help make the summer very productive in a more fun way and to help beat the summer slide.

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The National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) will conduct its 23rd annual food drive on Saturday, May 9. Letter carriers will collect non-perishable food donations on that day as they deliver mail along their postal routes. It is the nation's largest single-day food drive, and is held annually on the second Saturday in May.

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Myron Simmons was discouraged by his financial situation. His student loans were defaulted and he had a bad line of credit – or so he thought. This discouragement led to an avoidance that only made matters worse.

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Engaging and celebrating families is at the heart of supporting our youngest learners: families! Week of the Young Child Rockford applauds you as your child's' first and most important teachers.

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