Building a Bright Future
view the full 2023 annual report

A Letter to Our Community

As I reflect on the past year, my heart overflows with an immense sense of gratitude for the unwavering support our community has shown to United Way. I am truly humbled by the common thread that ran through our journey: growth.

Last August, United Way took on the responsibility of running the Larimore Food Pantry. It was not an easy task, but with determination and the support of our incredible community, we were able to make significant repairs and renovations. Finally, in March of this year, the pantry reopened its doors, and transformed into a place that not only provides nourishment to individuals and families in need but also offers an experience that respects and empowers them. This remarkable achievement would not have been possible without the abundance of local support from individuals like you.
In January, we made a fiscally sound decision to purchase a building instead of continuing to lease. This decision was driven by the growing demand for our services in the Greater Grand Forks region. By May, our dedicated staff had settled into our new location, a larger building that will enable us to expand our programs and better serve our community. With this additional space, we can allocate more room to our Kidz Closet program, ensuring that more children have access to essential items. Moreover, the increased capacity will allow us to accept more in-kind donations, providing even more support to local families in need. Additionally, the expanded space will enable us to accommodate more volunteers at once, facilitating our Kidz Closet and Backpack programs. Most importantly, our new building provides a safe and confidential space where families can receive assistance, fostering long-term stability while respecting their privacy. In addition, in the fiscal year (July 1, 2022 - June 30, 2023) we served 821 unduplicated households between all of our programs. That helped 3343 unduplicated individuals including 2,044 unduplicated children!

None of these extraordinary accomplishments would have been possible without the generous support of neighbors like you. Your unwavering support has allowed us to provide vital resources and support to the families in our community who need it most. The compassion and kindness that our community has shown to local families facing financial hardships are nothing short of inspiring. Together, we are truly building a brighter future for the Greater Grand Forks region.

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

About Us

In 1957, a collaboration of neighbors in the Grand Forks area came together with a shared goal of making a positive impact on their community. They formed a partnership with United Way Worldwide that would become United Way of Grand Forks, East Grand Forks & Area. Originally we aimed to support various local organizations. However, as time went on, the objectives evolved, and in the fall of 2019, our focus shifted towards creating a more significant and lasting impact on the members of our community. This change was a result of a partnership among community members, school board members, and local social workers, who collectively identified crucial gaps that needed addressing. Today, we strive to enhance the lives of children and families living in our community through a series of direct service programs including the Backpack Program, Kidz Closet, and Families First.
 As I reflect on the past year, my heart overflows with an immense sense of gratitude for the unwavering support our community has shown to United Way. I am truly humbled by the common thread that ran through our journey: growth.

Total Income: $1,136,724.46

Total Expenses: $1,175,422.45

Families First Program

The Families First Program addresses the growing issue of homelessness in the Greater Grand Forks region. Our staff prioritizes finding stable housing for families with children who are experiencing homelessness or at risk of becoming homeless. We provide emergency shelter, housing and utility assistance, case management services, and work to connect families with community resources. The Families First Program provides a stable environment for the family until they are able to move into a home of their own. Together, we ensure parents and children have a safe place to call home.

Autumn’s Story

Autumn, her fiance, and her three young children were trapped in the relentless cycle of homelessness in Georgia. Struggling to find a safe place to stay, they made the tough decision to uproot their family and move to Grand Forks, hoping to find stability with her grandmother. While her fiance worked tirelessly to get them back on their feet, Autumn was unable to work due to not being able to find affordable childcare. Unfortunately, fate dealt them another cruel blow when her grandmother's health deteriorated, leaving them once again without a roof over their heads.

Autumn reached out to United Way, and their response was nothing short of life-changing. A case manager listened intently to Autumn's heartbreaking story and immediately sprang into action. Through United Way's Families First Program, Autumn and her family were swiftly placed into emergency housing, providing them with a glimmer of hope in their darkest hour.
But the support didn't stop there. Autumn's dedicated case manager worked tirelessly alongside her, guiding her through the daunting process of applying for housing, food, and childcare assistance. Together, they embarked on a journey toward financial stability.

After a month of living in emergency housing, Autumn and her family moved into their own apartment that was within their budget. With a place to call their own, Autumn’s family felt an overwhelming sense of relief.

The impact of this life-changing program cannot be overstated. Autumn's children now have a stable foundation upon which to build their futures, free from the constant uncertainty that had plagued their young lives. And for Autumn herself, the support and guidance she received from her case manager were nothing short of a revelation. For the first time, she experienced someone who genuinely cared, who saw her potential and was willing to invest time and effort into helping her family thrive.

Autumn's story is a testament to the power of compassion and the transformative effect of community support. No family should ever feel helpless in the face of financial hardships, and through programs like Families First, United Way is making sure of that. By extending a helping hand, they are breaking the cycle of homelessness and poverty, one family at a time.

Autumn's words capture the profound impact of United Way's intervention: "It was honestly amazing because I've never had somebody be so helpful and just take their time to actually get me where I need to be and my family needs to be. Never had somebody do that for me, so it was good to have someone like that." With the unwavering support of United Way and their dedicated case managers, Autumn and her family have been given a second chance at life, and they are determined to make it count.
“It's a very good feeling. This is the first time that I feel like I'm able to do everything that I need to for my children. And it takes so much weight off my shoulders.”

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, the Grand Forks Head Start program, Larimore Elementary School, and the SAIL Program through the Grand Forks Public School system. We now also serve the Mayville State Grand Forks Head Start program. Together, we are ensuring kids in our community are empowered to grow, play and succeed in school.

Kidz Closet

Every child deserves the ability to focus on their 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. Donations are distributed to families in need right here in our community, free of charge. We now have permanent Kidz Closet locations in Emerado, Larimore, and Minto. In addition, we host Kidz Closet Pop-Up Events throughout the Greater Grand Forks region in the spring and summer allowing families in need to access essential items in their hometowns.

Thank You to Our Annual Sponsors

Our Annual Sponsors are dedicated to helping Build a Brighter Future in the Greater Grand Forks Area. By becoming an Annual Sponsor for United Way, you are providing meals for children in need, helping families find a place to call home and so much more! We sincerely appreciate your generosity and commitment to our community through your support of the United Way of Grand Forks, East Grand Forks & Area.
Annual sponsors receive VIP access to all of United Way’s events including Trike Wars, MGM Grand Forks, and recognition as a matching donor for our Giving Hearts Day campaign. You too can help Build a Brighter Future in your community, by joining these amazing companies:

Our Team

Heather Novak

Executive Director

Brittany marynik, LSW

Director of Operations

Krissy macken

Director of Community Outreach


Director of Marketing & Development

julianna flood

Volunteer Coordinator

ashley tabbat

Program Coordinator

Board of Directors - Officers

Greg Rixen

Board Chair
Happy Harry's

Eric Scheffer

Vice Chair
First State Bank

Joe Demester

Choice Financial

Nancy Andrews


Board of Directors

Laura Roth

Rydell Chevy Buick GMC

Brian Huschle

Mayville State University

Jennifer Berg

Altru Health System

Ruann Deschene

Community Contractors

Deb Dunham

Dakota Commercial

Lasha Oss


Wray Wright


Jenna Zavoral


Andy Hendrickson

First International
Bank & Trust

Ashley Stocker

UND Foundation

Jeremy Moe

Grand Forks Police Department

Chris Greenberg

Greenberg Realty

Jerica Miller

Grand Forks Public Schools

Jared Davidson

United Valley Bank