We measure our success in lives changed. As the world’s largest nonprofit, United Way serves 61 million people each year and is in engaged in almost 1,800 communities across 40+ countries and territories.
From improving the quality of early education in Kentucky, to helping families put food on the table in Milwaukee, to getting students healthier in India, we didn’t back away from the toughest challenges. We do it by forging partnerships, finding new solutions to old problems and mobilizing the best resources. These stories are testament to the impact communities can make when we come together and LIVE UNITED.
Eliminating Obtacles to Early Education
Education is the cornerstone of a successful life, but not every family has the resources to give their children a good start. Enter United Way. By improving the quality of childcare, increasing access to education and promoting early intervention to strengthen academic abilities, United Way is helping children achieve important developmental and educational milestones.
Take Byron, a preschooler from central Kentucky. After Byron entered the Growing Together Preschool, which is funded by United Way of the Bluegrass, teachers noticed he was having difficulty communication and comprehension. Screenings and assessments indicated delays in speech, as well as fine motor and social-emotional development. After talking with Byron’s family, coordinators created a roadmap for the therapy services he needed before entering kindergarten.
Early in the process, Byron’s parents learned their son’s Medicaid coverage would not pay for the therapy expenses, and the family couldn’t afford the services. To avoid burdening Byron’s parents with additional stress, Growing Together Preschool partnered with Horn and Associates in Rehabilitation to secure a scholarship for Byron’s therapy. As a result, Byron overcame his physical and mental obstacles, and the skills he gained helped him successfully transition from pre-school to pre-kindergarten.
United Way funds programs and agencies that make quality, early childhood education available to thousands of children across central Kentucky. More than 30,000 local children were served through programs like Growing Together Preschool this year, and countless more are getting the help they need through similar programs around the world. It’s just one of the many ways United Way is fighting to give children a foundation for early learning.
Making Nutrition A Community Priority
When it comes to accessing healthy food, a person’s ZIP code should not be a deterrent. And yet, for many people, that is a reality. Addressing hunger and health is a multifaced issue that requires a variety of community solutions, and United Way is uniquely positioned to tackle both.
Across the nation, United Ways are incorporating healthy food options into their hunger-relief work. This year, Greater Twin Cities United Way and General Mills launched the Full Lives program. Their goal: To support and strengthen a healthy, equitable and sustainable community food system by addressing food access and access to food-related jobs. From farm plots that enable families to grow their own produce to a nonprofit grocery store with healthy and culturally relevant food options, 14 projects across 11 nonprofits are currently underway.
The impact of United Way’s work is also being felt in Canada. In New Brunswick, where one in 10 people experience food insecurity, United Way of Central New Brunswick is working to increase access to nutritious and affordable food through school breakfast programs, bulk food-purchasing clubs, food banks and community kitchens. Meanwhile, in Halifax, United Way Halifax is providing a lifeline for people facing hunger. Of their many programs, YWCA Halifax Food First is educating local women about nutrition, healthy living and cooking on a budget.
Food security and nutrition are also priorities globally—just ask John Deere. When they weren’t working with United Way Spain to prevent secondary school dropouts, or helping United Way Poland prepare youth for jobs, John Deere employees were supporting food-donation campaigns in Germany and France. This year, they prepared 13,000 meals in Germany, and with United Way Tocqueville, sorted 56 tons of food for food banks in France. In all, 236 employees and their families helped 112,000 people receive healthy meals. Across the world, United Way and its partners are giving the hungry a helping hand.
Turning Poverty Into Possibilities
Too many people are just one crisis away from financial ruin. Johnny, a Milwaukee resident, found himself homeless after the death of his wife. Luckily, he heard about the Guest House of Milwaukee, a United Way-funded emergency shelter program, and reached out for support.
“I told them I just needed a place to stay for a couple of weeks to get back on my feet,” said Johnny, who was introduced to a case manager who helped him create a personalized recovery plan. “I had lived in the same place with one woman for 30 years, and suddenly I was living with 60 men I didn’t know.”
After three months of support and shelter, Johnny found permanent housing and regained his financial footing. For years, United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County has been helping people like Johnny achieve financial stability, connecting them to local agencies that provide housing, education and services to transform their lives with dignity and purpose.
“United Way is not a short-term investment—it’s about lasting change. The complexity of Johnny’s situation could have caused him to give up, but thanks to United Way’s support, he had a reason not to,” said Shannon Reed, United Way’s director of innovative strategies for boys and men of color. “We didn’t just provide Johnny with a warm bed or a free meal, we helped him address the root causes of his issue and, therefore, overcome homelessness.”