CENTURY 21 Atwood shares the story of Barb Kaus, Mankato, MN
“Knowing that we are giving back to those in need fills my heart and keeps me going. Focusing on all aspects of basic needs, health, and education. We need to understand the gaps in our community. This allows United Way to serve the community best.”
Congratulations to the November 2021 CENTURY 21 Atwood #relentless Neighbor, Barb Kaus, from Mankato, MN.
A community that bands together, extends a helping hand to the people that live there, finds solutions that help all people and needs of that community, has a strong foundation. That is relentless, and Barb Kaus, the CEO of Greater Mankato Area United Way in Mankato, MN, leads this charge like no other. Carrying the torch behind the scenes to support the needs, bridge the gaps and bring the community together is why Barb is your Relentless Neighbor.
Prior to leading United Way, Barb spent 36 years working at Glen Taylor’s Taylor Corporation, including as president of its flagship company Carlson Craft. It was 7.5 years ago that Barb followed her passion for uniting people and organizations to elevate her community and made the switch to the nonprofit sector, becoming CEO of Greater Mankato Area United Way.
United Way started in 1931 and is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year. Deep roots. Started by citizens that wanted to improve lives and unite their community, United Way fosters strong community foundations. “It is citizen-driven, each United Way location is operated individually, 99 cents of every dollar stays local, and our community members decide where donations land. This is what makes it so impactful. The success stems from the people that allow us to work with them, and, because of the donors, we are able to improve the lives of those who create our community.”
Barb has cultivated a “come together to make all things better” outreach within Mankato. She is a relationship connector, an advocate, a trusted advisor. Barb champions Greater Mankato Area United Way’s yearly citizen-led vetting process that all of the organization’s 59 programs undergo before receiving funding. In addition to its annual $2 million-plus fundraising campaign, United Way focuses on community impact, bringing leaders and community members together to discuss solutions for issues affecting people of all ages. Issues needing attention that pertain to basic needs, health, and education, including mental health, literacy, emergency services, food insecurity, child development, and the list goes on.
A story that can help put this into perspective is one of Union Street Place in Saint Peter, MN. A few years ago, Union Street Place was a motel for sale. A donor of Greater Mankato Area United Way reached out to Barb with an idea, an initiative for this location that had the potential for something bigger, something relevant to a community need. That donor knew Barb’s advice, collaboration, and facilitation abilities were proven and trusted. The idea came to fruition because of Barb’s “we don’t stop there” approach. She began connecting the donor/investor to people and organizations, like Partners for Housing, and bridged relationships that were quickly built on trust and confidence in everyone’s abilities and intentions. Union Street Place in Saint Peter was born shortly thereafter, and it is now a safe place for people experiencing emergency and transitional housing needs, a place that provides assistance for a new beginning. Sometimes, we all need those.
If all communities came together like this, think of the positive changes that could happen…
“Knowing that we are giving back to those in need fills my heart and keeps me going. Focusing on all aspects of basic needs, health, and education. We need to understand the gaps in our community. This allows United Way to serve the community best.” Under Barb’s leadership, Greater Mankato Area United Way has continued to expand its reach to help more than 51,000 people each year. No donor dollars are used to host the organization’s diverse fundraising events, as United Way relies on generous sponsors, in-kind supporters, and volunteers. Women with Heart, Online Auctions, Human Foosball, the Fire & Ice Ball, and the Men’s Event are just a few examples of activities that raise awareness or funding for programs. Other community initiatives include Books for Kids, Week of Action, Project Community Connect, and the Fourth-Grade Book Project.
“Last year was a milestone year, and we won’t stop there. We will do whatever it takes, in all capacities, to bridge the community together. People in the community know this is their United Way. United Way works for its donors and citizens.”
To get involved and help make a difference visit: MankatoUnitedWay.org or call 507-345-4551 to get started