United Way for Southeastern Michigan’s “Light the Way” campaign seeks to raise $40 million and generate 40,000 volunteer hours to respond to community need this year.

DETROIT — Sept. 16, 2021 — United Way for Southeastern Michigan has announced President and CEO of DTE Energy, Jerry Norcia, and Bishop Edgar Vann of Second Ebenezer Church will serve as co-chairs of the nonprofit organization’s 2021-22 Torch Drive and a tri-county community volunteer campaign. In this role, Norcia and Vann will lead fundraising for United Way’s work to provide essential supports and services across Oakland, Wayne, and Macomb counties.  

While the campaign has traditionally been led by a major corporate partner, this year United Way is offering two chairs: one representing the corporate sector and another from a community-based organization. This new structure is designed to enhance United Way’s unique ability to bring community members, businesses, and service organizations together to address unmet need. Together, the new chairs will work to elevate the mission and impact of United Way, encourage donations, and promote volunteer engagement across the region.  

“I’m excited and honored to have Jerry Norcia and Bishop Vann stepping into these crucial roles,” said Dr. Darienne Hudson, president and CEO of United Way for Southeastern Michigan. “At this moment, our work is more important than ever as COVID-19 continues to impact the health and economic stability of households across the region, driving an intense spike in need. We’re focused on bringing the corporate sector, faith leaders, and community-centered organizations together — not just to help fund our vital work for the coming year, but to build unity toward a shared purpose. We know we can get through this together, and I know Jerry’s leadership for the overall campaign and the new role Bishop Vann has taken on will help us inspire people across the region to get involved.” 

DTE Energy and United Way have partnered for decades to support families in our community through corporate and employee funding, volunteerism, and board and cabinet leadership. Most notably, DTE provides substantial support for United Way’s utility assistance program, which annually helps thousands of households get onto affordable payment plans, lower their heating and electricity bills, and connect with financial support like job training and wealth building. 

Norcia was named DTE Energy president and chief executive officer in 2019, responsible for strategic oversight and operations of the electric and gas utilities and the two large non-utility businesses. DTE is committed to serving the community through volunteerism, education, and employment initiatives, philanthropy, and economic progress. 

“We ask everyone to join us and support this important work, using your time, energy and voice to help those in need,” said Jerry Norcia, president, and CEO of DTE Energy. “I am honored to co-lead with Bishop Vann this year’s Torch Drive campaign. Throughout the challenges of the last year, United Way for Southeastern Michigan has consistently responded to crises, as many of our communities struggled with the impact of the pandemic, extreme weather events and economic volatility. DTE is proud of this longstanding partnership as we continue to deliver lasting support to our neighbors in need.” 

The theme of this year’s campaign, officially kicking off in October, is “Light the Way, Live United” captures the struggles of the last year and the need for the community to move forward together. “When we light the torch in October, we want it to serve as a beacon of hope for everyone, as many continue to cope with challenges and as we strive to move forward together,” said Hudson. 

According to United Way’s ALICE report, nearly 40%of households were already struggling to meet their basic needs like food, housing, and health care before the pandemic began. Working with public, private, and nonprofit partners, United Way is dedicated to improving lives by removing barriers and providing support that fosters a community of stable households where every child can thrive. In addition to supporting essential safety net services like shelters and food pantries across the region, United Way for Southeastern Michigan is heavily invested in early childhood and childcare programming, literacy and wrap-around services in schools, household financial support, health, and nutrition services, and their 2-1-1 helpline which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to connect community members to available services. 

“We are excited Jerry has committed to lead this effort in service to the community here in Southeast Michigan,” said Mark Stiers, President and COO, Power & Industrial, at DTE Energy, and Chair of United Way’s Board of Directors. “Thanks to the contributions of many corporate and individual partners, we are helping people in need every single day. Last year, we invested more than $37 million from our COVID-19 community response fund alone – but there is more to do. United Way serves a critical role in our region, funding impactful, sustainable programs which truly help households overcome crisis and take steps toward stability and prosperity.” 

“United Way is a force for meaningful impact and change here in our region and we want to engage as many people as possible in this important work,” said Bishop Vann. “Much like our places of worship, United Way seeks to bring people together to serve and support one another. Together, we can build a stronger community where we’re meeting the needs of our most vulnerable and ensuring every household is set up to succeed. I’m extremely honored to serve as the co-chair for this year’s campaign and look forward to engaging everyone in this effort.”

“We are honored to have Bishop Vann assume a leadership role as co-chair of the campaign. He is a catalyst for the greater good in Detroit and for people around the world,” added Hudson. Vann founded the Vanguard Community Development Corporation and actively serves the community on the boards of Henry Ford Health System, Downtown Detroit Partnership, and The Mayor’s Workforce Development Board. He and his church, Second Ebenezer, recently partnered with United Way for Southeastern Michigan as part of the “Faith Forward” program, which was built to bring COVID-19 testing and emergency resources to those most impacted by the pandemic. 

United Way as set a goal of raising $40 million in donations and generating 40,000 volunteer hours as part of this year’s campaign. “We are so thankful for the longstanding support we have received from individual donors and corporate partners,” added Hudson. “Our goal is ambitious, but there is great need across our community and our work is not possible without the generosity of those who give their time and resources in service to others. We are so grateful to have Jerry and Bishop Vann volunteering to lead our effort this year, and we’re confident that with their passion and leadership, we will achieve these results for the community.” 

United Way for Southeastern Michigan’s 2021-22 campaign runs through June 2022. To participate by giving or advocating, visit UnitedWaySEM.org. To make impact by volunteering, sign up via United Way’s volunteer portal at UnitedWaySEM.org/volunteer. 

About United Way for Southeastern Michigan   

United Way for Southeastern Michigan, a member of the United Way Worldwide network and an independently governed 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, works to help households become stable and ensure children have the support they need to thrive. For more than 100 years, United Way has been a leader in creating positive, measurable, and sustainable change in communities throughout southeast Michigan. United Way works in partnership with donors, agencies, corporate and municipal partners to help families meet their basic needs of housing, food, health care and family finances, and ensure children start school ready to learn and graduate ready for life. To give, advocate, volunteer or learn more, visit UnitedWaySEM.org.  

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