This is a love letter, a thank you letter, and a challenge letter though it might not seem like one at first.
Just as you probably did, we here at United Way of Central Alabama entered 2020 with big plans and hearts full of hope.
With a mission of unwavering community service and a network of more than 80 partner agencies and programs, we strive to be the go-to resource for people in need throughout Blount, Jefferson, Shelby, St. Clair, Walker, and Chilton counties. We had planned to serve Alabama like never before in 2020.
Then on March 13, Alabama reported its first case of COVID-19, and soon the world as we knew it changed.
The pandemic caused an economic impact felt by all, but it was those at the bottom of the earnings scale who were hit hardest. The pandemic caused a deep recession for low to moderate-income individuals and families. Hourly workers making $14 or less made up for 32% of the initial unemployment claims. When asked, about one-third of Alabamians stated they had no savings.
Central Alabama residents turned to United Way for help. Their biggest needs included feeding their families, paying rent, and covering medical expenses. The Crisis Center, a United Way agency, at one point, reported a 50% increase in calls to the mental health hotline.
Our agencies were also in crisis. They had to cover rent, utility bills, and payroll just like for-profit businesses.
But this is not a story of despair. This is a love letter. This is a note of thanks to you, Central Alabama.
We were able to step in because you stepped up.
United Way provided emergency funding for individuals, families, and our partner agencies and programs. We were able to do this by raising funds specifically for COVID-19 related expenses through the Community Crisis Fund. And we just didn’t respond to our own agencies. We invited other organizations to apply for funds so they could help provide food, mental health services, and childcare to their clients, too.
Your support made this possible.
The 2020 United Way campaign was like no other in our history. We were forced to change how we raised money for our agencies to support their programs and services. Our signature workplace presentations were replaced by virtual meetings. To keep our employees safe, we had to provide them with tools to work from home. We had to find innovative ways to stay connected to our donors so that they knew the safety nets they helped build would continue to be there.
In spite of all of these challenges, here’s a sample of what we and our agencies were able to do:
- Meals on Wheels provided more than 223,000 meals to high-risk seniors and established a partnership with Nourish, a local meal-delivery service, to provide more than 25,280 meals to waitlist applicants
- The 2-1-1 Call Center assisted 29,154 callers, connecting them with vital resources, such as utility assistance, food banks, and veteran services.
- The Community Crisis Fund awarded grants totaling more than $664,800 to provide food, utility assistance, and prescription assistance through 90 Central Alabama nonprofit agencies.
- UWCA and several partners joined forces to participate in the USDA Farmers to Families program, which provides fresh, healthy foods to vulnerable populations. Since its implementation in early July, UWCA partners have distributed 2,600 boxes of groceries, or 54,167 meals, weekly.
We had planned to serve Alabama like never before in 2020 and with your help, we’ve done exactly that.
But we still need your support.
We want to deploy even more resources to meet people’s basic needs during this crisis.
We want to offer affordable quality childcare to laid-off workers and essential workers. We want to help displaced workers train for post-COVID jobs. And we want to address the post-COVID educational slide and help students recover from learning losses.
Though we will soon wind down our traditional fundraising campaign, we will continue to raise money to address the special needs of our agencies and community partners caused by the pandemic.
Our slogan for this year has been #HopeHappens and hope has happened in 2020 because of you.
We thank you and we ask that you help us to continue to spread hope for the rest of this year and beyond.