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United Way – How Nonprofits Are Transforming Through COVID-19

This year, we’re inviting our community partners to contribute a series of posts for The Dish. Today, the team at Valley of the Sun United Way (VSUW) provides inspiring examples of how vital nonprofits have found innovative ways to leverage COVID-19 funding support in response to an overwhelming amount of need caused by the pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed the socioeconomic inequities many students, families and neighbors face daily. The nonprofits serving our vulnerable community members face their own new set of challenges: growing needs and decreasing funds.

In response to their growing demands and urgent needs, we launched the United for the Valley COVID Relief Fund in partnership with the Arizona Community Foundation. We opened a grant application cycle as the pandemic evolved and awarded almost $1M to 66 programs in a 4-week time frame.

Since then, we’ve granted more than $2.5 million to 74 vital nonprofit partners and the individuals they serve across Maricopa County. Together, we’ve raised nearly $3 million to respond to the most immediate needs in our community, in some cases, granted funds as quickly as 10 days after receiving an agency’s application.

Despite the constant challenges, our resilient partners continue to meet our community’s most urgent needs. United, they’ve increased the number of meals, services and shelter beds available to our most vulnerable neighbors challenged by the health and economic impacts of the pandemic. Ensuring families and individuals in Maricopa County (and across North America) have a safe place to call home during these turbulent times.

With limited resources and growing needs, our partner nonprofits have amazed us with their creative strategies and courageous efforts. Below is a summary of some of the ways our partner nonprofits are growing their services and expanding their impact in our community:

  • Provided services at a Phoenix-area hotel sheltering symptomatic individuals

  • The organizations East Valley Men’s Center added 16 additional beds to provide shelter for individuals experiencing homelessness

  • Enhanced training for the organization’s case managers allowed them to expedite Social Security claims, increasing income for their vulnerable clients

  • Provided case management services for Maricopa County COVID-19 shelter

  • The organization’s collaboration with other youth-focused nonprofits has allowed staff to create standards for youth services

  • Funding from VSUW allowed Native American Connections to add 50 additional beds in their Sunnyslope facility and 600 additional short-term housing units—they were also able to expand their Stepping Stone program which supports Veterans

  • Opened Project Haven, a hotel-style facility that provides shelter, three meals per day, behavioral health services, case management and housekeeping for vulnerable senior citizens

  • The organization has been operative five hotels for symptomatic individuals in Mesa and Phoenix since July 2020; funding allowed Community Bridges to hire new staff (to operate hotels at capacity) and purchase PPE for residents and staff

  • Added additional beds to multiple shelters that service vulnerable clients, including substance involved mothers, domestic violence survivors and individuals who’ve been recently released from jail/prison

  • Assisted an additional 40 families with rent, utility and immigration support

  • Developed curriculum designed to educate clients on Arizona Tenant’s Rights

  • Hired additional staff to support clients looking for housing during a time of saturation in the market

  • Provided additional equity and inclusion to staff and clients while developing a framework that will empower clients to participate in program design

  • Built new relationships with USDA, Waste Not and McKinney Vento to provide food for clients

Want to learn more about how United Way is supporting the nonprofits in your community? Click here to connect with the United Way chapter near you and learn how your Be the Difference donation can impact the lives of people in your community.


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