As our region rebuilds from the pandemic, United Way is inviting everyone to reimagine a shared future with new possibilities for all. On Thursday, September 23, community members gathered with United Way of Monroe County to kick off the Reimagine Our Future fall fundraising drive.
“The past year and half has been challenging, and I am pleased that the community has come together to respond and help,” shared Caleb Steiner, Hoosier Energy Corporate Strategy Manager and United Way of Monroe County Board President. “All of us are here for the same purpose, to embrace these challenges as we have been doing, and to reimagine new possibilities for our future. United Way is grateful to each of you for joining us in the work ahead.”
The pandemic revealed and inflamed many social challenges and created life-altering conditions for thousands of families and children in our area. Housing insecurity and homelessness. Hunger. Lack of affordable health care and mental health services. Economic instability and wealth disparities. Social isolation, systemic racism, and economic inequities.
Since the pandemic began, donors made it possible for United Way to grant nearly $2.2 million dollars in COVID relief to 47 agencies, above and beyond their annual agency grants, to help families in Monroe, Owen, Greene, and Brown counties. The organization has worked to restructure funding priorities, grow cultural competencies and inclusive programming, strengthen the Financial Stability Alliance around a collective impact model, respond to the recent flooding, and launch an Opportunity Fund.
Additionally, United Way and IU’s PACE Program hosts Wake Up! with United Way, a monthly advocacy panel to examine relevant topics. United Way is also collaborating on hunger and housing insecurity, and piloting mini-grants for regional rural schools to enhance learning experiences.
Donna Colon, American Red Cross Southwest Indiana Chapter Executive Director and United Way Agencies Directors Association (UWADA) President spoke about the importance of collaboration. “Local United Way agencies have worked together more closely than ever during the pandemic, despite the obstacles. United Way’s ongoing support, raised through their annual campaign, was critical. And the additional $2.18 million in grants for COVID-19 relief were key to our community sustaining the pandemic.”
She continued, “Together we all learned the true meaning of, “it takes a village.” And that it took each one of our organizations -- be it mental health, a food pantry, or all the other countless social services that our community members soon learned to count on – and all of us working together to get through this pandemic, and hold hands, form the line and stand tall in the face of uncertainty.”
United Way partners cover so many needs in the community. Thanks to donors, individuals living with disabilities weathered the pandemic safely and people recovering from addiction received increased programming and supports. Families with kids accessed safe and meaningful afterschool programs, mentoring, important social supports, and in-school activities.
Partner agencies worked tirelessly to safely shelter and house people. They also joined with United Way and others to develop the Heading Home Plan, which aims to make homelessness rare, brief, and non-repeating.
Many families found themselves in a food pantry line for the first time ever in the past 18 months. But with support, agencies stepped up proactively sourcing food and getting it to those who need it. This included new programs like mobile pantries and partnerships with local farmers that help sustain and grow the local food ecosystem.
The health of the community is benefiting from partners who are growing their capacity to serve mental and physical health needs for families and children, including virtual care and mobile outreach. And agencies continue to help people with emergency needs, whether those are natural disasters such as the recent flooding, or economic turmoil such as what is currently underway.
“From housing and food to healthcare and youth programs, these are just some of the pieces of our United Way family and our community safety net. These pieces – along with long-term systemic changes -- come together to form that bigger and better picture of a resilient community, with resilient individuals who live in it. And these are the pieces and the big picture that need your support more than ever if we are to transform from this and reimagine a better future,” encouraged Efrat Feferman, United Way of Monroe County Executive Director.
“That’s what it will take. Each of us doing what we can. Giving what we can. Telling our friends, our workplaces, our family, and neighbors. Doing so, knowing that the work does not end until our new normal is a better one. The work does not end until every person has a safe space to sleep at night, every person has food available to them, every person struggling with anxiety or depression can access affordable counseling from home because they have the technology; until every child has at least one adult fighting for them and mentoring them and a whole village surrounding them; until every nonprofit agency isn’t struggling to find and keep staff; until access to justice and to opportunities is equal and equitable. Can we imagine that better normal?”
The LifeDesigns ALL Abilities Choir, comprised of people with and without disabilities, closed out the event with the songs “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” and “Stand By Me.”
Supporting United Way helps reimagine, rebuild, and reshape a future open to new possibilities, new ways of doing things for all. Contributions will lift up neighbors and build a stronger community.
“Businesses here have a vested interest in building a strong community, because the economic health of each individual is tied to the health of our broader economy. The United Way is an important partner in making each of us stronger, so that together we can build a more resilient community for all,” commented Mary Morgan, The Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce Director of Advocacy & Public Policy and United Way Board Member.
The fall fundraising drive is a critical part of United Way outreach, which continues year-round especially in times of disaster or deep need. Funds raised during this time touch the lives of one in three individuals in the community.
Last year, nearly $1.2 million was raised during the United Way fall fundraising drive to help uplift our most vulnerable neighbors. This year, the outreach is more vital than ever as many families face greater challenges caused by the pandemic, the economic downturn, and the ripple effects in the months and years ahead. Never has it been more important to work united to face community challenges.
Donations can be made online at monroeunitedway.org or by texting Reimagine2021 to 41444.
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