The United Way of the Big Bend (UWBB) board this afternoon approved $1.89 million to fund community programs in Leon County and seven neighboring counties, to help those with the greatest needs, stabilize the working poor and reduce the root causes of poverty. The two-year awards (July 2021 to June 2023) will fund 20 priority programs in Leon County and 61 programs in other counties in the region.
“In the past year of uncertainty due to the COVID pandemic, we saw compassion and support soar to new heights and people continued to recognize the United Way as a trusted partner in helping those in need,” said UWBB Chairman Dr. Jim Murdaugh. “The real heroes in our announcement today are the people of this region who give to the United Way to help their neighbors who desperately need assistance,” he added. “Our collective impact on families, children, and seniors in this region, including our COVID relief funds and grants, totals more than $4.2 million.”
Murdaugh said that all programs receiving funding clearly address the United Way of the Big Bend’s priorities of Housing, Early Learning, Safety Net, Health & Mental Health, and Skills Development. In addition, they focus on those living in poverty and the ALICE (Asset-Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) population to help stabilize families on the edge of poverty. This is the second two-year funding approach for programs, in line with the UWBB Strategic Plan.
“This level of community support provides hope for those struggling to make ends meet and is aligned with truly helping to end the cycle of poverty,” added Murdaugh. “Our focus on supporting programs that produce measurable outcomes is also a way for current and future donors to see the vast needs and how their contributions change lives in our region,” Murdaugh added. The UWBB received funding requests from regional non-profits totaling more than $4.4 million, demonstrating the need for additional financial support for area programs.
Programs being funded are to assist the homeless, low-income seniors, those who are food-insecure or at risk, and those looking to improve skills to enhance self-sufficiency. It also includes funding for programs addressing health and mental health, a priority identified by the UWBB Board in 2020.
UWBB President/CEO Berneice Cox said the level of volunteer support in making the funding allocations is key. “Over the last five months, volunteers donated 712 hours of time to this process of financial review, performance evaluation, allocations and impacts, and strategic transformation,” said Cox. “Our community impact committee members alone donated an average of 32 hours each, attending training, reviewing applications for 33 programs, and participating in the deliberation process. The level of support from all our volunteers is inspiring.”
Each program submitted was reviewed for financial solvency, program metrics, alignment with UWBB priorities and the organization’s capacity to provide the services, followed by a review by the Neighboring Counties Allocation Teams and Community Impact Committee. The final recommendations were presented to the UWBB Board of Directors on June 28, 2021.
“This was an incredibly competitive process, and our volunteers had the difficult task of determining where to allocate limited dollars to many amazing programs,” said Cox. “Volunteers were quick to share that there are tremendous programs in our communities that are not a part of our funding process simply because we had limited dollars and they had to determine which programs would best address the priorities and most significant needs. Every agency that competed in our process is worthy of the communities’ support.”
“The volunteers on our impact committee and in the neighboring county review committees deserve our immense appreciation,” said Cox. We had content experts like bankers, CPAs and social workers, as well as veterans, seniors and employees from area businesses. The diversity and depth of the volunteers helped ensure a thorough, detailed review of every application.”
Cox added that UWBB’s collective community impact of $4.2 million includes significant grants and donations targeted specifically for COVID Relief, as well as UWBB driven initiatives (ReadingPals, MathPals, SMILE UNITED, VITA, Reality Store). Several local partners also implement the UWBB driven initiatives and grant programs. The UWBB distributed more than $225,000 in two different allocations of COVID-19 Relief Funds to 27 regional programs.
“When local residents see the depth and impact of their support on the lives of families in need in our community, we know it will touch their hearts and also demonstrate our commitment to collectively making a real difference,” added Cox. If you interested in supporting the United Way, please click the GIVE button.