The seeds of success in life are planted at birth. While experiences and obstacles, developed relationships, and community support are all vital for an individual to be successful, there’s a very simple addition to life that can significantly improve one’s chances of being happy and healthy: books.

In 1995, Dolly Parton — one of the most-honored female country singers of all time — launched her ‘Imagination Library.’ Originally benefiting the children of her home county in East Tennessee, the program now fosters a love of reading in countless communities across the globe.

Imagination Library mails free books to children from birth to age five every month — one million free books to be exact. The newest community to join that movement is Ogle County, thanks to a partnership between United Way of Rock River Valley and SwedishAmerican.

By sending age-appropriate books to children each month in Ogle County, some of our youngest residents are not only developing important language, reading, and writing skills, but they’re able to build their own at-home libraries.
Looking at early literacy development, research shows a connection between infants mouthing books, the book handling behavior of a two year old, and the page turning and comprehension ability of a five year old. The first five years of exploring with books, singing nursery rhymes, listening to stories, and recognizing words are the building blocks for language and literacy development.

“I know there are children in every community with dreams. They dream of becoming a doctor or an inventor or a minister. Who knows, maybe there is a little girl whose dream is to be a writer and singer,” says Parton. “The seeds of those dreams are often found in books and the seeds we help plant in our communities can grow across the world.”

126,474,278 books have been mailed to children from birth to age five since Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library was started in 1995.

(Rockford, Ill. - 06/06/2019) – The Rockford Police Department, KFACT, and United Way of Rock River Valley are partnering together to once again offer a summer series of Strong Neighborhoods Days block parties. The block parties, which provide opportunities for residents to meet and engage with district police officers and their neighbors, take place throughout the month of June at the following locations:

  • June 13 | 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm – 8th Avenue Strong Neighborhoods House (908 8th Ave.)
  • June 20 | 12:00 pm - 2:00 pm – Irving Avenue Strong Neighborhoods House (312 Irving Ave.)
  • June 25 | 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm – The Grove at Keith Creek (South Newtowne Drive) 
  • June 29, | 12:00 pm - 2:00 pm - Washington Park Community Center (3617 South Delaware Street)

Block parties include free food, games, activities, and all-around fun with an “815: Under the Big Top” circus theme for the entire family. Tours of the Rockford Police mobile command center and Strong Neighborhood Houses will also be provided. Olivo Taco will have a food truck on site to provide the free food. Free t-shirts will be distributed to attendees.

This is the fourth year Rockford Police and United Way partnered together on the Strong Neighborhoods Days. For more information on Strong Neighborhoods Days, contact Grant Schubert, Director of Community Initiatives, at 815-986-4801.


Winnebago County has been chosen to receive $184,661 to supplement emergency food and shelter programs in the county. This amount reflects a 4% ($8,398) decrease from Phase 34 which awarded $193,059. The Local Board invites eligible organizations to apply for these funds, using the application below. A Local Board, consisting of representatives from local nonprofit human service agencies, governmental entities, and the community at large will determine how the funds are to be distributed among the emergency food and shelter programs run by local service agencies in Winnebago County. The Local Board is responsible for recommending agencies to receive these funds and any additional funds made available under this phase of the program.

Under the terms of the grant from the National Board, local agencies chosen to receive funds must:

  • be private voluntary non-profits or units of government;
  • be eligible to receive Federal funds;
  • have an accounting system;
  • have a nondiscrimination policy in line with all applicable Civil Rights legislation;
  • have demonstrated the capability to deliver emergency food and/or shelter programs;
  • if they are a private voluntary organization, have a voluntary board.

Qualifying service providers in Winnebago County are urged to apply. The spending period for Phase 35 ends January 31, 2019.

To apply, download the application packet on this page and respond to the prompts in the file or using a separate Word file. Completed applications must be mailed or turned in by person, and must be received by 12:00pm on May 23. No late or incomplete applications will be considered. Submit your application to:

United Way of Rock River Valley
Attn: Paul Nolley
612 N Main Street, Suite 300
Rockford, IL 61103

For any questions, contact Paul Nolley at 815-986-4814 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


EFSP Fact Sheet

Phase 35 Application -PDF | WORD


(Rockford, Ill. - 08/08/2018) – United Way of Rock River Valley is now accepting nominations for the 2018 Frank Ware Award of Excellence, awarded to individuals in our area who exemplify a high-level of excellence in service to others, human service advocacy, and an unwavering commitment to our community. This award honors the spirit of Frank Ware, beloved former President/CEO of Janet Wattles Center, who spent over 30 years advocating and fighting for quality care on behalf of the most marginalized members in this community. His high standards and expectations resulted in better care for those in need.

One award recipient will be determined by a committee of community leaders and announced during United Way's Campaign Kickoff event in September. Nominations are due by 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, August 28 and are available at


Previous recipients include:

Mary Ann Abate, Rosecrance Health Network - 2017

Barbara Roman, Family Counseling Services Northern Illinois - 2016

Justice Kathryn Zenoff, 17th Judicial Circuit – 2015

Susan Razbadouski, LCSW, ACSW, Family Counseling Services – 2014

Megan Cox, Rosecrance – 2013

Sherry Fink, Rosecrance Ware Center – 2012

Julie Barthels, Rockford Sexual Assault Counseling – 2011


For more information on United Way's Frank Ware Award of Excellence, contact Linda Childers by calling 815-968-5400.


United Way of Rock River Valley

United Way of Rock River Valley advances the common good in Winnebago and Ogle counties, creating opportunities for a better life by focusing on education, income, and health. United Way recruits people and organizations that bring the passion, expertise and resources needed to get things done. LIVE UNITED® is a call to action for everyone to become a part of the change.

My Free Taxes

United Way of Rock River Valley is announcing recently-enhanced features to MyFreeTaxes that allow most filers to complete their taxes in under one hour. is a safe, easy and completely free way for individuals or families earning $66,000 or less to file their state and federal taxes.

For the past nine years, United Way has partnered with H&R Block to provide free tax filing services for federal and state taxes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Since that time, the partnership has helped nearly a million people file their returns, bringing more than $1 billion in refunds back to local communities. Since 2013, United Way of Rock River Valley has seen the use of online returns in our community grow by 14 percent.

"Tax season is a source of stress for most individuals," says Paul Nolley, community impact manager, United Way of Rock River Valley. "Many are worried they'll make a mistake, won't get their full refund or will pay too much. With MyFreeTaxes, filers can get support from IRS-certified specialists and cut down the time it takes to complete their returns."

When it comes to advanced technology and personalized customer experience, H&R Block is among the industry leaders. MyFreeTaxes users get access to H&R Block Premium Product with enhanced features to ensure filers get every dollar they deserve:

  • Ability to upload image of your W-2, allowing MyFreeTaxes to automatically fill in your information;
  • Free, unlimited, personalized real-time chat and phone support in English and Spanish from IRS-certified specialists at 1-855-MY-TX-HELP. The helpline operates now through April 30, 2018 from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, and between 11:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. on Saturdays;
  • Refund RevealTM will show filers how and why their refund amount is changing in real time;
  • Advanced functionality for those working in the gig economy or need to include information regarding real estate investments, stock options or inheritance taxes; and 
  • Search tool for Goodwill of Northern Illinois GoodTAXES locations for individuals preferring to file their taxes in-person through a volunteer tax preparer.

Taxpayers earning less than $66,000 can enter their data through, which links to a secure H&R Block website, making it easy to complete their taxes from home, at work or on mobile devices.

MyFreeTaxes comes with the same brand promise as all H&R Block's products: that consumers are guaranteed a maximum refund, 100 percent accuracy and 100 percent satisfaction. H&R Block's DIY products are based on 60-plus years of preparing income tax returns.

Individuals may call 815-987-6200 or go online to to schedule an in-person appointment with a volunteer tax preparer through Goodwill's GoodTAXES program.

MoveTheMiddleNow dolly-parton United Way 211 Make a difference in our community: Volunteer FamilyWize Drug Lookup Tool
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For thousands of area youth, middle school is the defining moment in their lives. See how United Way and its partners are creating a movement to help middle school students achieve success. Visit

Parents or guardians of children ages birth to five who are residents of Meridian CUSD #223 can register for Dolly Parton's Imagination Library today!

Don't wait another day. Call 2-1-1 to connect with information on counseling programs and support groups to help you reestablish safety and independence.

This free, easy-to-use tool connects your time and talent with volunteer opportunities from local nonprofit organizations. Search by interests and time availability.

Secure the lowest price on your prescription with this free drug lookup tool from our partners at FamilyWize.

We fight for the health, education and financial stability of every family in every neighborhood