University of Vermont

Center for Cultural Pluralism

United Way and UVM Build Bridges for Employees

For Custodial Services employee Emina Dulma, the Working Bridges Program provided just the type of support she needed during a very difficult time. Her husband had been diagnosed with cancer and eventually had to quit his job. Dulma, who was working full-time at UVM and caring for her husband, was struggling to meet their financial needs with only one income. She needed help navigating her insurance plan and connecting with local services to help her stay financially afloat. Through a UVM partnership with United Way, resource coordinator Lisa Jensen was available to fulfill those needs.

Jensen's help, which has benefited Dulma and many others in Custodial Services, is available through the United Way's Working Bridges Program, an employer collaborative dedicated to improving workplace productivity, retention, advancement and financial stability for employees. It's offered at a number of local organizations, including Fletcher Allen Health Care, Rhino Foods, Sheraton, the Community College of Vermont and others.

It was first implemented at UVM two years ago, when Leslye Kornegay, director of UVM Custodial Services, reached out to the United Way to bring this service to her department. “My interest was to help all custodians, including those employees who do not have basic English language competency, to successfully navigate internal (university) and external (community) systems and resources,” she says.

For four hours per week, Jensen visits campus, meeting with staffers in Kornegay's department to help them with a range of needs. The most frequent requests are related to finances, housing, transportation, childcare and state benefits -- all factors that can affect employee retention and job performance. During those visits, Jensen comes equipped with intake forms and other resources to help expedite the process of applying to appropriate programs. Jensen helped Dulma set up a mail-order prescription service to save on medical expenses and connected her with two cancer support resources, the Cancer Support Program of Vermont and the Joe Andruzzi Foundation, to help her meet other financial obligations.

"I'm very thankful, especially to Lisa for all of her assistance," Dulma says, "and to the university and United Way for offering this program."

Working Bridges is just one of the initiatives the United Way supports in Chittenden County. This week, the university launches its 2013 campaign benefiting the United Way, an annual initiative, with a goal this year of raising $160,000 with at least 20 percent of faculty, staff and retirees participating as donors. For more information and to make a pledge, visit