United Way announces four Impact on the Plains winners

WICHITA, Kan., Nov. 15, 2021 — Four winning ideas were awarded $25,000 each tonight at Impact on the Plains, United Way’s first ever “Shark Tank”-style social innovation competition. A diverse group of community judges selected the top programs in four focus areas of health, education, financial stability and basic needs. Eight finalists made their pitches on stage in a live competition in recognition of National Philanthropy Day, Nov. 15.

Community judge Matt Michaelis, President and CEO of Emprise Bank, said he was impressed with the quality of the presentations and the impact of the programs. “Tonight’s competition had the fun of Shark Tank with the benefit of directly supporting our community. United Way of the Plains hosted a tremendous evening and awarded $100,000 to jump start the winning programs. The Wichita region will directly benefit from the innovation and passion highlighted by all of the participants.” Michaelis was one of twelve community leaders who participating in the judging.

Abel Frederic, Vice President of Community Impact for United Way of the Plains, said he hopes to repeat the competition next year. “This new way of making an immediate investment in critical areas of need was a first for Wichita. We believe it will foster more creativity in developing innovative ways to solve our local challenges. We want to encourage more ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking when it comes to helping our community achieve its potential.”

The four winners who received $25,000 each are:


  • New Psychiatric Care System for Homeless Adults – Breakthrough Episcopal Social Services
    INNOVATIVE OUTCOME: Providing psychiatric care for mentally ill adults living in extreme poverty. This program will benefit our community by assisting 200 homeless or very low-income adults who have a mental illness.


  • Project Education for All – Center for Educational Technologies to Assist Refugee Learners, Wichita State University Foundation
    INNOVATIVE OUTCOME: Teaching 3,000 resettled refugee children in Wichita Public Schools to learn English and successfully integrate into our community.
    Through a digital, locally-developed game-based platform presented in native languages, refugee and asylee children will more effectively learn science and English.

Financial Stability

  • Fellowship Program – Lead for Kansas
    INNOVATIVE OUTCOME: Addressing the talent retention/attraction challenge by bringing back home-grown leaders to work in our region.
    Funding will support the Hustle and Heart campaign designed to mobilize resources to engage the next generation of leaders.

Basic Needs

  • Increasing Financial Stability for Survivors of Domestic Violence – StepStone
    Empowering survivors of domestic violence by addressing the financial abuse that is one of the barriers to helping them achieve independence. Counseling, housing, advocacy and other support services will help rebuild the lives of victims and their children.

The four programs that were not selected for the $25,000 investment were awarded a $5,000 investment in recognition of their impact by United Way of the Plains.


  • Unsinkables – Derby Citizens Recreation Association
    Providing 550 second grade students in Derby Public Schools with training to reduce childhood drowning accidents, the third leading cause of unintentional deaths for Kansas children. This program will help in the historically underserved Oaklawn community and include students with physical, mental and emotional challenges.


  • Impactful Science Field Trips for Fourth Graders – Exploration Place
    Providing Title I students in Wichita and surrounding counties with a unique science learning opportunity to reduce pandemic-induced learning loss. This project offers all fourth-grade students at Title I schools a funded field trip to Exploration Place to help students become more engaged in STEM subjects.

Financial Stability

  • Core Community – Youth Core Ministries of Augusta, Kansas
    INNOVATIVE OUTCOME: Attacking the issue of poverty by targeting one community at a time.
    The Core Community program will address poverty and economic stability for anyone living in poverty in Augusta, Kansas. Through a unique 20-week class, participants learn a way out of poverty and are supported for two to five years following graduation.

Basic Needs

  • El Jardín de los Sueños en Evergreen (The Garden of Dreams at Evergreen) – Wichita Park Foundation
    INNOVATIVE OUTCOME: Cultivating a community garden to provide healthy options in a low-income, geographical food desert.
    Serving 1,000 underserved people in Wichita, this project is the shared vision of six organizations who will partner to ensure success.

Visit unitedwayplains.org/impact for more information about the competition. The host sponsors for the event were Textron Aviation, Koch Industries, EY and Spirt AeroSystems.


MEDIA CONTACT: Angie Prather, Vice President of Marketing and Chief Community Engagement Officer, (316) 267‑1321, ext. 4105, aprather@unitedwayplains.org

United Way of the Plains is a nonprofit and for-impact organization that focuses on health, education, financial stability and basic needs – the building blocks for a good quality of life and a strong community. Our mission is to improve lives by harnessing the caring power of our community to advance the common good in south central Kansas. Follow us on these social media channels: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and TikTok.


Published On: November 15, 2021


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