Connect the Dots: Fostering Inclusion and Belonging

Kandice RileyConnecting the Dots, Education

connect the dots logo with a heading that reads "episode 5: fostering inclusion and belonging"

At United Way of the Ozarks, we are dedicated to fighting for equality and justice for every individual in our community. As we continue to embrace the importance of diversity, we recognize that every person brings their own unique experiences and perspectives to our Ozarks community.  

There is no doubt that the past year has brought new challenges, but it also shed a light on the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion. As health concerns continued to increase, so did the vulnerability of marginalized populations. Those living in low poverty areas or lacking societal power were left challenged with little access to proper healthcare during the pandemic. As a community, we must do our part and become a voice for those who cannot speak up. At United Way of the Ozarks, we believe in advocating for what is right and strive to include diversity, equity, and inclusion practices at the center of our daily work. 

As we move further into 2021, we have become more focused on starting conversations, educating ourselves, and being a catalyst for change in our community. This past month, we launched our first-of-its-kind United Academy for Inclusion and Belonging.” These virtual, two-day diversity development classes are facilitated by Dr. Juan Meraz, Assistant Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion at Missouri State UniversityOur hope for this class is to go beyond the discussion and connect the dots, to ensure equal opportunities for every individual in our community. 

For this month’s Connect the Dots episode, we sat down with community leaders Heather Hardinger, Abe McGull, and Clif Smart to discuss the importance of diversity, inclusion, and equity in the Ozarks. 

Here are some ideas of how you can help to foster inclusion and belonging in our Ozarks community:


When you donate to United Way of the Ozarks, you are directly benefiting our community’s most pressing issues. Without our donors, none of these initiatives would be possible. Your financial support means more than ever, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. 


Supporting United Way can also extend beyond financial donations. We always encourage our community members to advocate for those most in need. To help us achieve our mission, you can be an advocate for United Way of the Ozarks and diversity, equity, and inclusion by:


You can help to foster inclusion and belonging in any organization and in any volunteer opportunity in our community. Check out the website our team helped to develop with KY3,, where you can find volunteer opportunities throughout the Ozarks.


When you choose to LIVE UNITED, you are supporting a community-wide effort to increase diversity, inclusion, and belonging. Sign up for our monthly newsletters here to stay connected to the work United Way of the Ozarks is doing to make a difference in our community.