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Our community is economically diverse, fast growing and dynamic. Enrollment is up again in Bismarck and Mandan public schools. People are moving to our area from all over the country to fill needed jobs.

While we are blessed to live in a thriving community, we recognize that the demands on our social service network are increasing. The business community looks to our partner, Missouri Slope Areawide United Way, because of its proactive approach in addressing the most pressing issues in Bismarck-Mandan and the surrounding area.

As the 2013 United Way Campaign co-chairmen, we have seen firsthand the despair many of our neighbors are experiencing.

Families are finding themselves without a place to live, seniors are struggling to live independently, children are arriving at school unprepared and behind in their studies and mothers are left with no choice but to leave home with their children when faced with domestic violence.

One in five children in North Dakota doesn’t have enough to eat.

These are issues too important to ignore.

We recently learned that 40 percent of students at some of the local high-poverty schools are not reading at proficiency level by the fourth grade — making them four times more likely to drop out of school. Also, during the 2012 school year, 462 homeless students were identified in the Bismarck-Mandan public schools.

With your help, we can provide at-risk students with the critical support they need to overcome obstacles to learning and graduate from school.

Working together with many partners and people like you, MSA United Way not only provides immediate help to people in need — it seeks to achieve sustained, citywide changes.

MSA United Way doesn’t just put a Band-Aid on problems, but works to address the underlying causes so they don’t continue to recur.

We all need the basic building blocks for a good life — a quality education that leads to a stable job, income that can support a family and good health.

Yet, as we mentioned, these are beyond the reach of many North Dakotans. Together, we can change that.

This year, you can multiply your gift through the North Dakota tax credits. A gift to the MSA United Way endowment Fund of just over $2,000 has the same out-of-pocket costs as a gift of $5,000 for many North Dakotans. This makes giving even easier.

Your gift can directly benefit any one of the

33 partner organizations, ranging from Big Brother Big Sister programs to the Missouri Family YMCA — or can go toward the general MSA United Way fund to be disbursed to meet the greatest needs.

We invite you to join us in this campaign. To learn more about how your contribution will make a difference , or to learn about the tax credit to the MSA United Way Endowment Fund, visit http://msaunitedway.org.

Thank you for living united.

(Dr. Craig Lambrecht is the CEO of Sanford Health Bismarck and Andy Serri is the CEO of Basin Electric Power Cooperative. They are the 2013 United Way Campaign co-chairmen.)

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