Over a Decade of Impact
United Way of Central Alabama announced the award of $583,817 to 104 local nonprofit organizations within Jefferson, Shelby, Walker, Blount, Chilton and St. Clair counties. Approximately 26,396 clients have been assisted from the Community Crisis Fund to date. For the month of June, 22 grants totaling $122,000 were provided to aid in COVID-19 relief efforts.
Charity Navigator recognized United Way of Central Alabama as one of the top organizations that continues to prove it is committed to excellence year after year. Of the more than 9,000 organizations evaluated in 2018, United Way of Central Alabama received its 16th consecutive 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, an organization widely known to expertly evaluate a nonprofit’s financial health as well as its accountability and transparency. United Way scored a 90.45 (out of 100) for its financial health, and a perfect 100 for its accountability and transparency efforts.
Being designated by the Alabama Department of Senior Services to deliver a comprehensive system of programs for older and disabled individuals in Jefferson County was another major milestone for UWCA during the past decade. By 2017, United Way’s Area Agency on Aging (UWAAA) had its feet on the ground and had rolled out a variety of services to help our rapidly growing aging population live longer, healthier, more informed and independent lives. These services range from home-delivered meals, legal assistance and caregiver support to prescription drug assistance, Medicare counseling and advocacy at nursing facilities – in addition to the 1-800-AGE-LINE call center for information and referrals. New programs continue to be developed and implemented in response to consumer surveys and needs assessment. By the end of its first year of operation, UWAAA had served a total of more than 8,000 people. That number has since grown by about 33%.
When Jefferson County suddenly found itself without anyone to operate its vital Meals on Wheels program in 2016, UWCA stepped up to the plate. The learning curve was steep, but we have since grown the program to serve more than 231,000 meals per year to about 1,100 homebound seniors with the help of more than 800 dedicated volunteers. In addition to delivering meals to homebound seniors, there is another important aspect to serving as a Meals on Wheels volunteer: human contact. Many seniors who are unable to leave their homes may not see or talk to another individual for days at a time. Meals on Wheels volunteers provide them an opportunity for conversation and socialization. Engaging with the volunteer is completely up to the client, but volunteers are always prepared for a friendly visit, and to make sure that other critical needs are not going unmet.
In its first four years of operation, United Way Meals on Wheels has consistently expanded its routes, increased its client base, served more meals and actively recruited and trained more volunteers. The need for service will continue to grow as our population ages.
To help provide students with the basic necessities required for success in our regional school system, United Way created the Central Alabama Children’s Fund. As a resource for school systems, funding became available to assist students with items such as glasses, school uniforms and school supplies, as well as dental and medical fees. In 2015, $97,125 was distributed to Central Alabama’s public school systems. In 2019,17 school districts from all five counties that UWCA serves applied for and received funding. In total, United Way has distributed more than $500,000 through this program since 2015.
United Way of Central Alabama’s Priority Veteran program, with a $2-million Supportive Services for Veteran Families grant from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, served 644 homeless or near-homeless veterans in its first year. Veterans were assisted with a housing stability plan, access to medical and mental health services, enrollment for veteran’s benefits, job search assistance, financial coaching and more. Now in its sixth year, more than 1,900 veterans have been served, with 87% in permanent housing after completing the program.
In 2013, United Way of Central Alabama’s Board of Directors put a plan into motion to solve our biggest community problems by aligning partners, resources and agendas across the region. We launched the Bold Goals Coalition with a commitment to seeking measurable results to share with the public.
United Way of Central Alabama joined a dynamic new collaborative called Summer Adventures in Learning (SAIL) to improve the high school graduation rate by tackling regression in learning during the summer months. By 2019, participating SAIL summer programs had an average gain of 3.2 months of proficiency in math and 1.8 months of proficiency in reading. The SAIL collaborative has harnessed the resources of many collaborating funders and summer enrichment providers to show significant improvements for students through summer programs.
In April 27, 2011, more than 60 confirmed tornados tore through Alabama reaching a death toll of 254. More than 16,345 homeowners filed for FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) assistance.
While the catastrophic twister was still moving across the state, United Way of Central Alabama moved its 2-1-1 Information and Referral call center operations to a larger space and set up more than 30 new computer/phone stations to take calls. Just hours later, staff and volunteers were ready to provide a caring voice and vital information to those affected.
United Way Hands On, formerly known as Hands On Birmingham, organized more than 8,000 volunteers to help in early disaster recovery projects such as debris removal. Other disaster relief volunteers worked in shelters and distribution centers.
United Way convened more than 50 corporate, faith-based, government and other non-profits to plan for the long-term needs of survivors. The Central Alabama Long Term Recovery Committee (CALTRC) was established to:
- Provide coordinated case management of the long-term recovery.
- Provide assistance to those without adequate resources.
United Way raised money separate from its regular campaign to help with long-term recovery needs of survivors. United Way raised more $1.3 million in 24-hour telethon and in the next eight months saw donations to the relief and recovery effort grow to $4.1 million.
In the years since the deadly tornado outbreak five years ago, several communities around Central Alabama have experienced destructive weather events and catastrophes and the knowledge gained from the April 27 experience helped provide better disaster assistance.
United Way is there to help the community when catastrophe strikes. Whether its services for food and shelter after a tornado or flood, we’re there to help provide life-saving relief services for those in need.
United Way, with the Jefferson County Department of Health as lead partner and funding by a CDC grant, expanded its work to reduce tobacco use and combat obesity.
This work resulted in extensive public education and four cities adopting no-smoking ordinances, and contributed to the formation of the Jefferson County Health Action Partnership. This collaborative effort, which demonstrated the power of collective impact, was also instrumental in the launch of the Bold Goals Coalition of Central Alabama.
Where there is a community need or gap to fill, United Way of Central Alabama steps in. Late 2008 and 2009 were no exception as many people in our area were hit hard by the recession. Partner agencies that provided basic-need services saw their resources dwindle quickly from the demand.
To help combat this situation, United Way established the Community Crisis Fund. Local non-profits could apply for grants to help feed the many people in need. Food could be purchased at a lower cost by using grant money to buy in bulk through the Community Food Bank. At 13 cents a pound, more than 450,000 pounds of food was purchased, providing close to 350,000 meals.
Additionally, with about 135 grant awards to 47 non-profit organizations, families were assisted with utility bills and reconnect fees, more than 200 families were able to remain in their homes and lifesaving prescription medications were provided.
In 2009 alone, United Way invested almost $4 million to support partner agencies in crisis response.