The idea for Marriage Matters Jackson began when the privately funded Weatherwax Foundation in Jackson, Michigan, approached the local United Way about convening a community team to explore a healthy marriage initiative in Jackson County. The Foundation, through its grant making, had concluded many community problems in education, health, finances and security were tied to the failure of families to form, and to family breakdown. Their research found study after study showing the negative effects of family breakdown, with children impacted the most. Conversely, children whose parents get and stay married were documented to be at lower risk of substance abuse, sexual abuse, teen pregnancy, failure in school, poor health and other related issues.
A Jackson County marriage survey conducted in 2006 revealed more than 80 percent of respondents unable to name any resource for marriage or relationship assistance. Divorced respondents represented an even higher percentage of those unable to identify any local organizations providing help. Furthermore, Jackson's divorce rate was higher than the above-average state rate. After studying and meeting with several successful and nationally recognized healthy marriage initiative organizers, Weatherwax Foundation leadership worked with United Way to house and assist the launch of Marriage Matters Jackson in 2007.
By 2010, Marriage Matters Jackson (MMJ) developed a reputation for fun events and healthy relationship workshops aimed at strengthening marriages and reducing divorce. Positive messaging and information about marriage reached thousands. Based on its successful programming, community need and response, and a plan of management and activity grounded in experience and research, Marriage Matters Jackson obtained independent non-profit status in 2010.
MMJ's vision is to promote the benefits of marriage and help people who choose marriage to prepare for and preserve their relationships. MMJ is guided by its Board of Directors and led by experienced staff. It offers high quality educational opportunities and resources to help people at every age and stage of relationships. MMJ remains a tenant in the United Way Center, although it is not funded or governed by United Way.
MMJ regularly collects quantitative and qualitative research at our events and workshops. More than 90 percent of people report increased knowledge and satisfaction in one or more of the following skills: communication, conflict resolution, abuse prevention, and improvement in their relationship. Admission prices to events and workshops cover less than 50 percent of the expense, meaning MMJ must continually seek private donations and community gifts. The Weatherwax Foundation remains MMJ's primary funding source, while local business and individuals are part of a growing donor base. Funding from the Weatherwax Foundation will end by the end of 2017, when the Foundation is slated to close. Building financial support is critical to MMJ continuing its important work of strengthening the community by strengthening healthy marriage and family life.