“United Way was built for times like these.”
The year 2020 was clearly one of the most challenging in the history of United Way of Central Alabama (UWCA). The COVID-19 pandemic unleashed not only a public health crisis but also resulted in economic hardship that has disproportionately affected those who can least afford it. It has created widespread emotional distress, family separation and isolation of the elderly. School realignment and disruption of childcare have taken their toll on daily life. And recovery is still in the distance.
In the summer, we acknowledged the pain, suffering and racial inequities in our nation after the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. UWCA reaffirmed its commitment to create greater opportunities in the areas of health, education and financial stability for all who are struggling; to plan and execute our work through a lens of equity, diversity and inclusion; and to seek ways to provide greater leadership against racism and racial injustice.
In the face of these challenges, your United Way has worked continuously to bring hope to our community…to ease the burden on those who are most vulnerable…and to maintain continuity among vital services that people depend on.
While we would, of course, prefer not to be operating in crisis mode, this is exactly why we’re here. When community needs are so great that they overwhelm the usual safety nets, United Way is the entity that brings individuals, groups and organizations together to pool resources and mobilize solutions. It is with utmost pride and gratitude during this difficult time that we can say the community has responded in a resounding united way.
To help ensure the continuation of services from many area nonprofits that were immediately threatened due to the pandemic, UWCA launched the Community Crisis Fund in March. Within the first seven months, nearly $665,000 was raised and awarded to imperiled organizations in response to their grant applications. We expect to keep this funding appeal active throughout 2021 as we work to build an even more utility assistance – going forward.
UWCA partner agencies have answered the community’s call for help in innovative ways. The YMCA, for example, has trained its staff and cautiously opened its facilities to provide virtual schooling assistance. The Levite Jewish Community Center has served as a food distribution site. And the Crisis Center, where desperate calls for help have increased from 2,000 to 4,000 per month, doubled its number of phone counselors and set them up to work remotely in order to continue 24-hour-a-day service.
Meanwhile, UWCA’s direct services, such as Meals on Wheels, 2-1-1 Call Center, Area Agency on Aging, Priority Veteran and Financial & Housing Education, have risen to the occasion and found new ways to ensure that vital needs of at-risk individuals are met. Some of those efforts are featured in this annual report.
And in the midst of these unsettling times, even as most of our staff and countless area companies have been working remotely and holding virtual meetings, our annual United Way campaign went on. Once again, the community stepped up to prove its desire to help those in a need in a very tangible way. In fact, our Tocqueville Society membership is now the largest in the nation.
United Way is as much an idea as it is an organization. It’s built on the concept of people rallying together for the common good. It’s about creating cooperation and synergy to tackle problems that are simply too big to otherwise address. Now more than ever, UWCA is focused, both strategically and programmatically, on directly impacting people’s lives for the better and building a stronger community for us all.
Thank you for your continued support of our United Way mission and for helping make hope happen every single day.