Although it did not officially receive the name it bears today until 1994, the United Way of Greater Mercer County has been serving the community for over 70 years. The group started as the United Way- Princeton Area Communities, before merging with the Delaware Valley United Way, thus becoming the United Way of Greater Mercer County. United Way serves people from Ewing to West Windsor, helping those in needs throughout Mercer County.

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The focus of United Way covers three main areas: education, income and health.

President and CEO Herbert Klein III says the goal within that focus, "is to develop programs that assist people in bettering their own lives."

The non-profit helps thousands around Mercer County each year. While helping low-income families is a priority, Klein points out that United Way is open to aiding all people.

"We'll help anybody; we don't discriminate one way or another," Klein explains, "An individual comes in and needs some help, we're there to provide it."

A priority in 2012 is helping these individuals get their finances in order. United Way of Greater Mercer County launched a United Financial Empowerment Center in Lawrenceville on January 31st, which will be open each Tuesday from 11AM-8PM. The center will offer free financial help, including tax preparation, debt management, foreclosure counseling, career mentoring, and financial planning.

The Center is located is at 3131 Princeton Pike and can be reached at (609) 896-1912.

The process all begins with tax return assistance, while aiding with securing an earned income tax credit. From there, the hope is to gain financial stability and self-sufficiency through all these programs with the end game of leading people towards being a full participant in the financial system.

"So as oppose to a pure safety net and a lot of people think that United Way is a safety net," Klein said, "What we really are is an organization that helps people help themselves."

Funding for the United Way of Greater Mercer County is raised through a combination of payroll deductions from large corporations around the area, donations, grants and government funding. Operating costs are kept low, so that nearly 80 percent of each dollar raised is invested to help their clients. The group also passes through an independent audit each year.

United Way of Great Mercer County aims on connecting people, resources, and ideas while being a community partner and problem-solver.

"We're focused on outcomes," Klein said, "Our investors are increasingly interested in the delivery of outcomes."

Get full details on how you can help the charity or be helped by them by visiting their website.



The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards- New Jersey

A big honor for two New Jersey teenagers. Sixteen-year-old Stephanie Jennis of Montville and 13-year-old Giovanna Boyle of Montclair have been named the state's top two youth volunteers for 2012 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring young people for outstanding acts for volunteerism. Stephanie helped her family start a non-profit organization that has raised more than $500,000 over the past nine years to fund programs that promote the inclusion of children with disabilities in schools and communities. She is also responsible for launching a program called "Include ME!," to promote inclusion not only for kids with disabilities, but for others who feel ostracized as well. Giovanna helped create a charitable organization that connects privileged children in her town with poor kids in Brazil. The kids exchange letters, drawings and photos with each other.

The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation

This week, The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, is encouraging New Jerseyans to express kindness by taking its Extreme Kindness Challenge. The foundation is inviting people to suggest and express daily acts of kindness, as well as share stories of kindness. Established in 2000, the foundation's mission of inspiring people to practice kindness and to pass it on to others.