Building a Bright Future
click here to view the full 2023 annual report

As I reflect on the past year, I am overwhelmed by the outpouring of kindness and generosity the Greater Grand Forks community has shown to families and children served by the United Way. Compassionate neighbors like you, gave your time, energy, and financial resources to where Grand Forks needed it most; services for families facing homelessness or financial hardships.

Building a Bright Future for children and families is at the heart and soul of the workwe are doing here at United Way. Your generosity has allowed us to grow and continue toexpand our services. This year we were able to provide over 100,000 meals to 500 kids enrolled in the Backpack Program. The Families First Emergency Shelter program provided 1,584 nights of shelter to homeless families. 558 children received clothing, hygiene products and school supplies through the Kidz Closet. Together, we are making asignificant impact on the lives of our neighbors.

We are excited for what the next year will bring as we continue to work towards building acommunity where all children and families thrive. This work would not be possible without thesupport of our donors, volunteers, and the Greater Grand Forks Community. Thank you for thekindness that is shown to families working with United Way every day.

With Gratitude,

Heather Novak, Executive Director
United Way of Grand Forks, East Grand Forks & Area

The United Way of Grand Forks, East Grand Forks & Area was founded as a collaboration ofneighbors, to develop ways to improve ourcommunity. This remains the core value ofUnited Way today.

Since 1957, United Way has been dedicated toproviding our neighbors with opportunities tothrive within the Greater Grand Forks region.Today, we strive to enhance the lives of childrenand families living in our community through aseries of direct service programs including the Backpack Program, Kidz Closet and Families First.

read more

Families First

The Families First Program ensures parents and children have a safe place to call home. Our staff prioritizes finding stable housing for families experiencing or at risk of becoming homeless.The Families First program provides emergency shelter, housing and utility assistance, case management services and connects families with community resources to establish long-term housing solutions.

In November, United Way began renting apartments in the community to serve as emergency shelter units for families with children experiencing homelessness.These apartments provide multiple bedrooms for larger families, a kitchen for home-cooked meals, and a living space for the kids to play or do school work in. These emergency shelter apartments provide a stable environment for the family to reside in until they are able to move into a home of their own.
Housing Assistance Disbursed: $132,722
Nights of Shelter Provided: 1,584
Families Helped: 206

Kidz Closet

Every child deserves to receive an education without the challenge of finding clothes, school supplies, or other items they need to succeed. Our Kidz Closet provides essential everyday items to children in need. United Way accepts donations of new or used clothing, school supplies, and hygiene products. These products are distributed to children in need in our community.

This summer, we took Kidz Closet on the road to serve our neighbors in rural North Dakota. Our Pop Up events allowed families in Emerado, Larimore, Northwood, Park River, Langdon, Cavalier and Walhala to access the Kidz Closet in their home towns. Parents were able to select and take the items their children needed free of charge.In addition to our Pop Up events, we set up a mini Kidz Closet in Emerado at their local food pantry. This partnership allows families in Emerado and neighboring areas to access clothing, hygiene products and school supplies year round.
Items Donated: 30,478
Items Dispersed: 8,338
Children Served: 588

Backpack Program

United Way’s Backpack Program fights to end childhood hunger in our community. We provide six meals, two snacks and two drinks in students’ backpacks to feed them for the weekend. Our Backpack Program serves students enrolled in the East Grand Forks School District, East Grand Forks Head Start program and the Grand Forks Head Start program.

Together, we are ensuring kids in our community are empowered to grow, play and succeed in school.
Meals Served this Year: 108,664
Children Served Weekly: 500
School Served: 5

Winter Wishlist

Each year hundreds of children in our community participate in the Winter Wishlist program. United Way collects NEW toys, games, and gift cards for children of all ages. These gifts are given to children who otherwise may not receive presents during the holiday season. All gifts that are remaining after our distribution are donated to the Grand Forks County Foster Care Program. They are utilized for holiday and birthday gifts for children in the foster care system.
Children Served: 713
Toys Donated: 2,871

Bernadette began working with United Way’s Families First program in the fall of 2021. She had become the sole provider to three teenage boysovernight after the death of their father. The mother of the boys had preceded the father in death earlier in the children’s lives. With no one else able to care for the boys, Bernadette decided to become a legal guardian and family. Adopting three children created financial strain for the family. Bills began to pile up and Bernadette found herself in a position where she could no longer afford to pay her rent and care for the kids. She was uncertain where she would go if she was evicted from her home; that's when she decided to reach out for help from United Way. “I didn’t know where I was going to go, with these three kids. United Way was the best place to ask for help. If people think that there's nobody out there to help, just ask United Way.”

Bernadette applied for rental assistance and began meeting weekly with her case manager, Brittany, through the Families First program. Together, Bernadette and Brittany filled out applications for housing and food assistance. They worked with her current landlord to allow the family to stay housed there until Bernadette had somewhere else to go. Finally, an apartment within Bernadette’s budget became available. United Way helped assist financially with her security deposit and first month’s rent. Bernadette and her three boys have been in their new home for a little over two months. She still works with her case manager through the Families First program to help her stay on track with budgeting, but she is happy to be able to provide a stable home for her three boys.

Alerus Logo
Rydell Logo

Heather Novak

Executive Director

Carly Tate

Assistant Director

brittany marynik

Social Services Coordinator

shae bonifacio

Marketing Coordinator

krissy macken

Operations Coordinator


Social Services Coordinator

Brandon Baumbach

Grand Forks Public Schools

Laura Roth

Rydell Cars

JOdi Sorum

Altru Health System, Retired


November 24, 1965 - December 4, 2021

cheryl lamberg

Hugo's Family Marketplace

terry brenner

Grand Forks Public Schools

Greg Rixen

Happy Harry's Bottle Shop

Trisha Berg

Grand Forks County
Social Services

Katie DachtleR


Ruann Deschene

Community Contractors

Chris Griffin

Red River Land Company

Brian Huschle

Northland Community
& Technical College

Marty McDonald




Eric Scheffer

First State Bank


Choice Bank

Jenna zaroval

University of North Dakota
click here to view the full 2023 annual report