At Deere & Company’s world headquarters in Moline Thursday morning, Dr. LaDrina Wilson recalled the wisdom and importance of the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.”

United Way Quad Cities Launches New “Rise United” Campaign

LaDrina Wilson, one of three chairs for the United Way 2021 community campaign, spoke at Thursday morning’s event.

That’s a key concept behind the new “Rise United 2030” campaign launched Thursday by United Way Quad Cities. Wilson, the founder/CEO of Iman Consulting, is one of three chairs for United Way’s 2021 Community Campaign, with Caitlin Russell, Senior Vice President at Russell, and Chad Everitt, Managing Director at Deloitte.

The campaign tri-chairs will formally kick off fundraising efforts in August, announcing its fundraising goal to bolster United Way’s efforts to support Quad Citizens and meet the community’s needs.

“I am truly honored to be here today to support United Way, our community and the Rise United 2030 goals,” Wilson said at Thursday morning’s event. “This past year, 2020, is forever emblazoned in my mind.

“This year gave us time to reflect, and to pause and set new goals for our future. It’s up to us together to consider the private, public and nonprofit sector engaging as one another, to benefit our community. We can’t go it alone.”

“This aspiration hits home for me,” Wilson said, noting she and her brother were raised in the Q-C by a single mother, an educator. “Despite

United Way Quad Cities Launches New “Rise United” Campaign

The John Deere Foundation and employees have donated $2 million for United Way Quad Cities this year.

laying that strong education foundation, she realized it was incredibly important to keep us engaged and she couldn’t go it alone. She was never too proud to find programs that were free, funded by the generosity of our community.

“She wanted to make sure my brother and I stayed active, stayed healthy and stayed safe, by engaging in programs and activities that kept us continuously learning,” she said. “She was never too proud to work with our neighbors or our classmates’ parents to create carpools, to make sure we had transportation.”

Wilson’s mother also taught them to give back, she said. When not involved in activities, she was often by her mom’s side volunteering.

“I was doing all of these things at the tender age of 8 or 9,” Wilson said. “In some ways, she prepared me for this exact moment, when I’d be partnering with United Way. My mother taught me and lived out the African proverb, ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’ I learned during that time with her that I was responsible to create conditions that allowed more young people – who had similar circumstances to me – to be able to succeed.”

Many local organizations work to fight poverty, prevent violence, and create paths for people to live their best possible lives. Our ability to affect stubborn issues like youth violence, generational poverty and racial equity is slow and small compared to what’s possible, Wilson said.


“All too often, we are well-intended, but doing things alone,” she said. “We must do better together. We’re part of the same village. This means mustering up the courage at all levels in the community to achieve more – not just for one person or one agency, but for one

United Way Quad Cities Launches New “Rise United” Campaign

LaDrina Wilson


It will require people giving up something to achieve a common vision like Rise United, Wilson said.

“It will require a new level of accountability from all of us who are entrusted with public and donor dollars to meet these needs,” she said.

The opportunity gaps that keep too many people from developing their full potential shouldn’t be an obstacle we leave to the next generation to solve.

“We must rise to the occasion and act in ways that support innovative, right-now solutions for today’s problems,” Wilson said. “I want you to be part of the community that rises to the occasion, and I want us to serve as a model community for people all across the nation, to understand that when we come together to have collective impact, we will be unstoppable.”

“Let’s raise the bar; let’s do more together; let’s give more and rise united – to assure every person, regardless of race, regardless of ZIP code, has the opportunity and access to achieve their full potential,” she said.

Working together to reach goals

The Rise United initiative is designed to help all Quad Citizens, regardless of race or ZIP code, have the opportunity and access to achieve their potential.

United Way Q-C president/CEO Rene Gellerman outlined the set of 10-year community goals known as Rise United to a socially distanced audience featuring members of the John Deere leadership team, educators, mayors and others representing the private and public sectors.

United Way Quad Cities Launches New “Rise United” Campaign

Rene Gellerman, United Way president/CEO, spoke at Thursday’s launch of Rise United at Deere’s Moline headquarters.

“These specific, measurable goals will guide our investments, programs and partnerships for the next 10 years in order for us to deliver on this vision,” she said.

Rise United is the product of a broad spectrum of community partners with the aim to advance racial equity in the areas of education, income and health. The plan calls for tackling root causes of systemic barriers to success, according to Mara Downing, incoming United Way Board Chair and Vice President of Global Brand and Communications at John Deere.

“We’ve all learned the value of human connection – perhaps even more so in the past year – the value of serving those in the world around us,” Downing said. “That’s why I support Rise United, because it carries with it a message of more than hope. It is a set of achievable goals to build a stronger, more equitable Quad-Cities.”

“When we Rise United, we give every student the education they deserve, help all students find a job that utilizes their talents and prove health is the greatest wealth of all.”


“It’s been really inspiring and a wonderful opportunity to see how United Way is really impacting those and helping those who are most vulnerable in this community,” Downing said Thursday.

United Way Quad Cities Launches New “Rise United” Campaign

United Way Quad Cities CEO Rene Gellerman spoke about the nonprofit’s equity goals for education, income and health.

They identify important issues we all must tackle; they mobilize resources to address issues, and they collaborate across the community, identifying the partners to get the job done, she noted.

“The work is not done,” Downing said. “When we think about the pandemic and the effects of the pandemic in the community and we think about the inequities that have existed for far too long, there’s still a lot of work to be done.”

In the area of education, 57% of Black students in the Q-C don’t read on grade level by 3rd grade, compared to 43% of Hispanics and 27% of whites. In the area of income, 59% of Black local residents don’t earn a living wage, compared to 42% of Hispanics and 33% of whites. And in health, 33% of Hispanic Q-C residents have difficulty accessing and receiving routine health care, compared to 23% of whites and 21% of Blacks.

According to Gellerman, Rise United will inform all United Way investments, programs and advocacy –

  • For more students to graduate from high school, prepared to succeed in college and career.
  • For more neighbors can find work that provides financial stability.
  • And for more families receive routine physical and mental health care to ensure long, healthy and productive lives.

United Way is focusing on three key areas –

  • In education, increase by 30 percent the number of Q-C students reading at grade level by 3rd
  • In income, increase by 20 percent the number of young adults (25-44) who earn a living wage, adding $116 million in gross wage income per year to the economy.
  • In health, increase to 95 percent the number of residents who receive routine preventive health care.

“We know that when kids have good prenatal, early health care and education, they’re more likely to be prepared to start school,” Gellerman said. “Those who enter school ready to learn are twice as likely to be reading by 3rd grade, when they make that shift from learning to read, to reading to learn.”

Those students reading by 3rd grade are five times more likely to graduate from high school, she said.

United Way Quad Cities Launches New “Rise United” Campaign

The Rise United campaign has bold goals for Q-C improvements by 2030.

“At every benchmark – in education, income and health – we see stark disparities in opportunity for Black and Hispanic people in our communities.” Gellerman said. In the area, Black and Hispanic youth are nearly twice as likely not to be reading on grade level than their white peers, she said.

2030 might seem like a long time away, Gellerman said, noting babies born today will be 3rd graders then, and United Way wants them all to live in a racially equitable society, “reading proficiently, and the only thing they’re hungry for is learning,” she said.

Today’s 3rd graders will be high school graduates in 2030, and “we want them to be living in a welcoming community, ready for success in the next stage of their lives, prepared to take on the world in college and career,” Gellerman said.

“We’re calling on each of you to pledge your commitment, your voice and your support to this work,” she said. “When we Rise United, we give every student the education they deserve; help all adults find a job that utilizes their talents and prove that health is the greatest wealth of all.”

“Together, we can create lasting change and the result will be a stronger, more equitable and prosperous Quad-Cities.”

Gellerman thanked her staff, board, and many nonprofit partners who work on the front lines every day, as well as more than 10,000 United Way donors, 3,000 volunteers, and 275 companies, who helped 60,000 people live better lives over the past year.

United Way Quad Cities Launches New “Rise United” Campaign

United Way Quad Cities announced its new “Rise United 2030” campaign May 6.

“My colleagues have extraordinary passion for the work, for the people they serve and each other,” she said. “It’s in this spirit of gratitude that I’m humbled to celebrate with you today the launch of Rise United 2030, United Way’s community goals for the next decade. At United Way, we believe in the power of unity.”

They have a shared vision that every Q-C resident – regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, status, or background – deserves the chance to thrive and develop their full potential.

“Certainly, the tragedies of the past year shined a spotlight on the many challenges our community faces in making that vision a reality,” Gellerman said. “These challenges do not define us. Instead, it’s who we believe we are as a region and how we rise together to overcome those obstacles, that will truly distinguish us.”

How the region responded to the Covid pandemic and the long-overdue social justice debate provides “a powerful and inspirational glimpse into the remarkable things that we can accomplish together,” she said. “Those experiences tested, tempered and primed us, so now as individuals and a community, we’re ready to do more. We’re ready to recover, rebuild and reclaim our future.”

Rise United is a set of bold goals that advance equity in the areas of education, income and health in the Q-C for the next decade. It’s the result of nearly two years of planning and input from leaders and residents in the region, Gellerman said.

It’s also aligned with the Q2030 community and economic development plan for the area, she noted.

Personal perspective from Deere

Ryan Campbell, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer for John Deere, shared both the urgency of the needs from the corporate and personal perspectives.

United Way Quad Cities Launches New “Rise United” Campaign

Ryan Campbell is senior vice president and chief financial officer at John Deere.

A special value that binds people at Deere is “our commitment to make a positive and sustainable difference in the lives of those around us, especially in those of our communities who have provided for our success in countless ways,” he said Thursday.

Many tens of thousands of Deere employees have supported United Way since its start in the Q-C 50 years ago. The Deere Foundation has awarded it more than $30 million since 1973, the single largest recipient of foundation funds in its history, Campbell said.

“I’m humbled to know that I work with colleagues and for a company that have  generously supported an organization that’s helped hundreds of thousands of people who mean so much to us,” he said.

When Campbell was growing up, his family was helped by United Way. When he was 4, his father was killed in an accident, leaving her mother to raise three kids.

She turned to Big Brothers Big Sisters (a United Way-funded organization) for assistance. “My brother and I both got big brothers, and they helped fill the void that was left when my dad passed away. They served as outlets and role models for my brother and me. And as importantly, they gave my mom a break and the support she needed for our family.”

“I’ve no doubt in my mind that the support of United Way helped put me on the path to where I am today,” Campbell said. “For that, I’ll always be grateful. Because of this, my family and I are thrilled to give to United Way – knowing full well that every gift can make a difference in the life of another.”

“The events of the last year have highlighted for us at John Deere the vital role that United Way plays in the fundamental health of the Quad-Cities,” he said. “Covid-19 laid bare the enormous challenges for many of the most vulnerable in our community, particularly those struggling in poverty.”


The murder of George Floyd and the social justice movement it sparked increased awareness of unique challenges experienced by minority communities in the U.S., who have not had the same opportunities many of us take or granted, Campbell said.

“United Way is uniquely positioned to address these challenges, because of its proven and effective model,” he said. “United Way is unparalleled in its ability to collect vital financial and other resources throughout the community, to alleviate critical needs and create

United Way Quad Cities Launches New “Rise United” Campaign

Mara Downing of John Deere is the incoming board chair for United Way Quad Cities.

uplifting opportunities.”

The model embodies the meaning behind the name United Way, Campbell said.

“We can all unite our resources and choose the best way to use them,” he said, thanking United Way and noting Deere is blessed to consider the Q-C its home.

Since November, the Deere Foundation and employees have donated $2 million for United Way, Campbell said. “United Way Quad Cities receives the largest amount of total support of any nonprofit organization from the John Deere Foundation and John Deere employees, and they earn every penny of it.”

The work isn’t done yet, and that’s why the Foundation recently made its 10-year, $200-million commitment, Campbell said. That includes raising more funds and volunteers for United Way.

Among the $20-million per year commitment, the Deere Foundation will a give a total of $100 million for the families and youth who live, work, and learn in John Deere’s home communities to ensure their inclusive and equitable access to resources and educational opportunities

United Way Quad Cities Launches New “Rise United” Campaign

The John Deere Foundation and employees have donated $2 million for United Way Quad Cities this year.

critical for human dignity and self-sufficiency.

Annual investments of $2 million in food banks will provide the equivalent of 100 million meals over the next decade, and investments in youth education will reach at least one million underserved and underrepresented youth.

“United Way’s goals are the community’s goals,” Downing said. “In the current environment, it’s more important than ever for corporations, constituents and all community members to join the movement and drive lasting change that benefits all residents of the Quad-Cities region.”

“We are so fortunate to have John Deere and leaders like Ryan in our community,” Gellerman said. “Your support and that of John Deere signals the importance of today, and our collaborative work to improve lives in our community.”

“These community goals are ambitious, but to change the trajectory of a generation in our region, we have to aim high and we have to take responsibility for getting there,” she said.

“It is up to us, together, as individuals and organizations, to get engaged,” Wilson said. “It will require everyone giving up something and working toward a common vision. A vision like Rise United.”

To see an executive summary of Rise United, click HERE. To learn more, visit or call 563-355-4310.

United Way Quad Cities Launches New “Rise United” Campaign
Jonathan Turner has been covering the Quad-Cities arts scene for 25 years, first as a reporter with the Dispatch and Rock Island Argus, and then as a reporter with the Quad City Times. Jonathan is also an accomplished actor and musician who has been seen frequently on local theater stages, including the Bucktown Revue and Black Box Theatre.
United Way Quad Cities Launches New “Rise United” Campaign

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