The concept of Marriage Matters Jackson emerged as the Weatherwax Foundation concluded that many community problems related to education, health, finances and security, for which grant seekers sought help, were tied to the failure of families to form and family breakdown. A Jackson County marriage survey conducted in 2006 revealed more than 80 percent of respondents could not name any organization that provided marriage or relationship assistance. Divorced respondents represented an even higher percentage of those who could not name any local organizations that provided help. Furthermore, Jackson’s divorce rate was above the already-elevated state average.
After conferring with several successful and nationally recognized healthy marriage initiative organizers, Weatherwax Foundation leadership approached the United Way of Jackson to house and assist in launching the MMJ effort.
In just four years, Marriage Matters Jackson (MMJ) has provided hundreds of people with resources, fun events and healthy relationship workshops. Thousands more people have been reached with positive messages and information about marriage. Based on its success, as well as community need and response, and a plan of management and activity grounded in experience and research, Marriage Matters Jackson recently sought and was granted independent non-profit status.
The achievements of MMJ were driven and supported by the confidence of the Weatherwax Foundation, MMJ’s initial and primary funding source. Now, under the guidance of a board of directors and led by an experienced staff, MMJ is transitioning from under United Way’s umbrella to grow its education and fundraising efforts. The year ahead is packed with exciting activities celebrating and supporting healthy marriage. MMJ's vision is to promote the benefits of marriage and help people who choose marriage prepare for and preserve their relationships.
“We are thrilled with our new status and the community support,” notes Board Chair Keith Hinton, who has been involved with MMJ since its beginning. “We have facts and figures showing high participant satisfaction at our events and workshops, but it’s the individual stories of the changed lives which make our work so rewarding.”
“The data clearly proves that relatively small investments in marriage education, preparation and support can lead to significant reductions in exactly the sorts of social services that United Way continues to fund year after year,” said Ken Toll, Executive Director of United Way of Jackson County. “This is a great way to address those root causes that plunge many into poverty, impede educational attainment and impair health…all at once.”
MMJ will remain as a United Way Center tenant and cooperative efforts continue between the two organizations, although MMJ now has an independent staff and governance.