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United Way: More than a name. It’s community impact!

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April 25, 2024

From time to time, we get asked “what is the United Way?” Most people know us as a fundraising entity.  (Think pledge forms in the workplace.) Lesser known is the true scope of our work and its impact on families and communities across the North Country.  In 2023, more than 32,000 individuals, including 10,400 children, were assisted through United Way services, including nutrition, transportation, after-school and in-school activities, education, strategies to alleviate poverty, housing assistance, substance use / mental health programming, counseling and so much more!  Responding to the call to action to support United Way through a donation, corporate sponsorship, or attending an event is critical to ensuring that robust services are accessible to those in need. Here’s why:

United Way unites communities, resources, and partners to collaboratively address local needs, foster impactful programming, and enhance quality of life.  In the North Country, community needs are prioritized in three areas of focus:

  • Social determinants of health – factors that contribute to well-being, including housing, transportation, education, and nutrition, to name a few.   
  • Youth / child success – programs and vital supplies necessary to ensure that children can learn, grow, and successfully transition into adulthood.
  • Economic stability – supports to help families strengthen financial resources, move out of generational poverty and/or avoid falling into situational poverty.

Addressing community priorities is a pretty tall order – more than any one entity can successfully manage.  United Way looks to community partners to build and strengthen programming around these pillars.  Each year, nonprofit organizations offering human service programming are invited to submit applications for funding to support initiatives that align with community priorities.  Members of the community, including those with firsthand experience living in poverty, evaluate the applications and determine the funding allocations.    

Community impact funding is not just about writing check; United Way seeks to establish and build partnerships to ensure that programming offers the highest rate of return for the charitable dollars invested.  United Way builds enhanced partnerships, often with schools, providing input into program design or serving as a fiscal conduit for grants and charitable gifts.  Enhanced partners include Edwards Knox Central School District, Watertown City School District, and Jeff-Lewis BOCES, and United Way is currently exploring partnership opportunities with Morristown Central School.

Professional development opportunities are regularly made available to the local nonprofit network and the community at large, including a monthly Lunch & Learn UNITED series, highlighting relevant topics such as DEI, cultural competence, media relations, and grant writing.  United Way hosts “Bridges out of Poverty” and “Workplace Stability” workshops to bring greater awareness to the challenges of living in poverty and daily instability and provides ongoing support to graduates of the “Getting Ahead in a Just-Gettin’-by World” workshop series as they work to achieve their future stories.  We also provide short-term support and coaching to working individuals who are struggling with a financial setback or emergency that threatens their continued stability. 

We are truly grateful for the many individuals, businesses, nonprofit organizations, civic clubs, schools, and community groups who uphold the “Live United” model and enable the work to continue! 

To learn more about United Way and how you can be part of this movement to bring about positive change across the tri-county area, check out our website, pop in the office located at 167 Polk Street, Suite 300 Watertown, NY or call (315) 788-5631.