United Way for Southeastern Michigan has announced it has surpassed its initial fundraising goal of $10 million to the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund. However, as the region is one of the hardest hit areas in the country, more funds, volunteers, and support are needed to meet the growing concerns of the most vulnerable in the community.
Recognizing the impending crisis that COVID-19 would have on the community, United Way launched the COVID-19 Community Response Fund in March. The effort was launched with $1 million from their emergency and stabilization fund and has added an additional $1 million from the same source. Now, thanks to the community, the fund is at more than $11 million.
“We are thankful that with the help of the community, or corporate and philanthropic partners, we have reached our initial goal, but there is still much to do and many more families still in need,” explained Dr. Darienne Driver Hudson, president and CEO of United Way for Southeastern Michigan.
“We have been working collaboratively to make sure families have the support they need to weather the short- and long-term impacts of the pandemic. The COVID-19 Community Response Fund allows us to quickly get support out to organizations working directly to help individuals and families access food, shelter, health care, and other critical resources, including personal protective equipment.”
Funds Making an Impact
The fund has awarded more than $6.3 million to 172 nonprofit agencies and 113 childcare providers. Over $4,971,000 of those dollars have already reached many of those agencies. Overall, the fund has awarded 289 grants to organizations across Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties.
Alternatives for Girls (AFG) is one such recipient. AFG has long provided vital services to Detroit’s young women and their families including shelter and housing services, outreach to young women across the city, and educational and after-school programs.
With the outbreak of COVID-19, the work shifted, but the mission stayed the same.
“Sadly, there are still girls who have nowhere to go during this time,” said Celia Thomas, AFG’s chief operating officer. “If we’re closed, they’ll be in the street or staying with someone that is not a healthy arrangement for them. We’re staying open, and to do that, we’re really stretching our resources.
“Having United Way funding means we can enact our emergency policy in a meaningful way,” she said. “It allows us to pay attention to when staff need to work overtime, which is vital when we have short staff in the building. It’s also helped us purchase more cleaning supplies, as we are constantly cleaning and sanitizing our shelter to ensure the health and safety of our girls, as well as basic supplies like toilet paper.”
Other organizations already receiving funds include:
Frontline Support: Protect Our Protectors
In addition to community organizations, among the resources the fund is supporting includes supplies and assistance to frontline workers. The United Way launched an effort to get much-needed Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to childcare workers and families of those working on the frontlines of COVID-19. The Protect Our Protectors initiative is providing masks, gloves, hand sanitizer and other support to nonprofit organizations, targeted workers, and schools across Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties. Every $5 donated to Protect Our Protectors provides one high-quality cloth face mask to an individual in need. Every $25 covers the cost of a box of latex gloves. And every $50 provides five gallons of hand sanitizer.
Volunteering: How You Can Help
Nearly 950 volunteers have signed up already to help United Way organizations. Opportunities to volunteer include helping distribute supplies to isolated seniors and families in need and checking in on isolated community members. A complete list of opportunities is here. Both virtual and safe distancing opportunities exist.
“We are all taking care of ourselves and our families, and we are also encouraging people to consider volunteering in the community directly or virtually. There are many organizations who need volunteer support. This crisis touches everyone, regardless of where you live or how much you make and there is great need for those of us who can lean in and help,” Hudson said.
In addition to the COVID Emergency Fund, the United Way’s 2-1-1 helpline is available by phone, text or live chat 24 hours a day to connect people with the resources they need in times of crisis. Those with internet access can also look up resources for Detroit and across our region by accessing our 2-1-1 resource database at unitedwaysem.org/211. The top requests to 2-1-1 right now are for food, utility assistance, rent payments, and community shelters.
More Help is Needed
While an impact on this crisis is being made, Hudson said the need for more partnerships, volunteers and resources is great. Additionally, thanks to the passage of the coronavirus stimulus package, any donation made to charity can be deducted from 2020 taxes, up to $300.
To learn more about how you can help visit www.UnitedWaySEM.org/COVID or text “PROTECT” to 50503.
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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