The Value of Living United
I have been asked many times since I began at United Way of Washtenaw County - what exactly do you do and how does United Way benefit the community? The demand for services in Washtenaw County will always outstrip the supply of funds available but we work tirelessly to improve the capacity of our partner agencies and our own to provide services efficiently and effectively. We provide an avenue to advance the common good by employing a multitude of means to address problems.
United Way of Washtenaw County focuses on education, income (financial stability) and health because we know that by providing time, energy, expertise and resources we can help people live more comfortably and give them the support to address their individual struggles. We provide a safety net of funding to local agencies that work with us to increase our ability to address the critical needs of our community. And there are specific critical needs in our county. Here are just a few examples - Unemployment is 41% higher than 2006, the percentage of children living in poverty in Washtenaw County under the age of five doubled from 2000 to 2012 and almost 30% of all of the children living here qualify for free or reduced lunch.
We also serve the community by providing opportunities to come together and engage individuals to identify problems and create solutions in a neutral setting. Reality shifts and challenges change so by convening groups of people for a community conversation we are better able to understand what the community needs. When we combine positive energy and gather people together things can start to change for the better. A recent human services forum that we held in Chelsea gave more than 70 participants a chance to learn more about available services, increase their capacity to maximize services for their clients and network with people committed to making a difference in our community. We collaboratively develop strategies to identify financial and human resources to maximize our results.
We make it easy for people to get involved – Give, Advocate, Volunteer – calls to action that let everyone that is willing to be part of the solution. We provide a systemic approach to collective action, marshal necessary resources and “connect the dots” in a community to help our actions become cohesive. When the need is so great many solutions are needed and United Way provides the conduit to the solution. An individual that needs food probably also needs help with rent or utilities. A child with social or emotional issues may be experiencing homelessness or abuse. One gift to United Way‘s community impact fund helps address multiple issues in Washtenaw County. Volunteering in the community provides hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of help to non-profit agencies. Advocating on behalf of the people that need help gives them a voice that might otherwise not be heard.
The United Way of Washtenaw County turns small gifts into big results. Workplace campaigns give individuals the power to address nonprofit agencies’ financial needs as well as community needs. Our funding principles hold agencies accountable for results. United Way is celebrating 90 years in Washtenaw County – proof that our mission is the people’s mission and our work in the community matters. The value of living united lies in the people of this community, United Way is the community.