This holiday season, I want to say thank you for all you do to support our community. 2020 has been challenging, but as I reflect on the past year, I’m proud of the impact we made together as changemakers. Whether through volunteering, donating or advocating, in a year like no other, you stepped up – and continue to do so. Here are just a few examples of the impact you made possible this year through United Way.
COVID-19 Response and Recovery
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit our region, we immediately leveraged our unique, holistic model to respond. We engaged our nonprofit partners to identify urgent community needs, launched the Greater Twin Cities COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund, expanded our 211 Resource Helpline to address increased call volume, and advocated for state policy and funding to meet emergency needs, like housing assistance – all made possible by your generosity.
Funding for Nonprofit Partners: Thanks to individual donors and corporate partners like you, we raised $4.8 million for COVID-19 response and recovery efforts, impacting more than 500,000 people through our collective efforts. Nearly $2.8 million of those funds were granted locally.
Advocacy and Policy: With our coalition partners, we leveraged 211 Resource Helpline data and amplified community voices to help secure $100 million in state funding for emergency housing assistance to help families impacted by COVID-19 maintain safe and stable housing. Our advocacy efforts also helped secure $65 million in federal funds to improve access to child care for working families as well as $30 million in emergency grants to provide quality care and education for our children.
211 Resource Helpline: Last spring, our 211 resource specialists responded to a 300 percent increase in calls for immediate needs such as food and housing. After establishing the $100 million COVID-19 Housing Assistance Program, the state of Minnesota designated 211 as the go-to resource for people with questions about the program or to apply for funds. Your support helps ensure 211 is there for our community 24/7.
Innovative Volunteer Events: While we couldn’t host our volunteer events in-person this year, the community need still existed – and United Way responded. This spring, we collected and distributed 10,000 essential supplies, such as food and hygiene items, to people in need. In advance of Action Day, we asked volunteers to pack school supply packs – at home – to help ensure 40,000 students started school with the supplies they needed to thrive. We’ve also been hosting Home For Good supply drives to provide welcome home kits for 850 local families and individuals transitioning from homelessness into stable housing.
Commitment to Racial Justice
The murder of George Floyd and following civil unrest have forced a reckoning with long-standing systemic racism and oppression in our country and community. At United Way, we are committed to equity and racial justice.
In the wake of the unrest, we established the Twin Cities Rebuild for the Future Fund in partnership with The Minneapolis Foundation and St. Paul & Minnesota Foundation. Thanks to donors like you, through our collective efforts, we awarded $3.2 million to nonprofits serving small businesses owned by Black, Indigenous and People of Color to support rebuilding and recovery efforts.
And, to address a broken criminal justice system and policies rooted in long-standing racism, our three organizations are partnering on a multi-year collaboration with the goal of driving meaningful change in the criminal justice system. Huda Ahmed, Project Director for Justice for All, is working with a Community Advisory Team comprised of people impacted by the system and people who work within it to co-define priorities.
Uniting as Changemakers
In 2020, we also launched our new Unite to Fuel Change marketing strategy, with visuals and messaging that better reflect our mission, vision and values. The new approach is innovative, inviting and inclusive, urging everyone to join us and unite as changemakers. Thank you for being a part of the changemaker movement.
2020 has been a year like no other, but as I look back, I’m hopeful for the future. There’s still time to support this important work, so please consider donating, either through your donor advisor or online.
Thank you for supporting our community during a year like no other. Together, we’re creating a more just Greater Twin Cities where all people thrive, regardless of income, race or place.
John Wilgers is president and CEO of Greater Twin Cities United Way.