United & Thankful in 2020

United Way fights for the education, health and financial stability of every person in Lucas, Wood and Ottawa counties.

Finding hope and things to be thankful for amid the pandemic.

Let’s just admit it…The past eight months have been hard. Whether you “paused” life plans, couldn’t pause because you are an essential worker, were laid off, are homeschooling for the first time, suffering from the mental toll this has taken or you’ve faced other challenges; everything just feels plain hard.

It’s now natural to feel the weight of it, and pretty easy to not always have a more positive perspective.

Our staff here at United Way of Greater Toledo sure aren’t functioning any differently than you. We find ourselves talking about the challenges in the community, in our own homes and doing what we can to get through Zoom burnout. As a human service organization, naturally during our weekly meetings and check-ins, we discuss the realities of the different repercussions of the pandemic and work to create solutions to tackle them. But we also look for “wins,” successes and ways to find hope.

A couple of months ago, during one of these meetings, someone asked if we were doing our “United & Thankful” event that we held last year. If you don’t know, this was a lunchtime event where hundreds of volunteers ascended to our building to build a few thousand weekend snack packs for children in need.

These would go on to be distributed over the long holiday weekend; it was an uplifting time of coming together to do good.

We quickly said “no,” based on it not being safe to pull that many people together in a confined space – as well as the fact that we’ve been doing safer, small builds since March, assembling more than 80,000 packs to date, a few hundred at a time with teams of only five people.

As we left that meeting, the question ran through our minds. A few of us started talking about the words in the title of the event: UNITED and THANKFUL. The conversation began to gain momentum as things like hope, community, commitment and being grateful filled the space, and an idea was formed.

Although we couldn’t hold a large scale event and come together to do good, we could use the month of November to celebrate the thousands of people in our community who have united in different ways to do good – and to thank them for their service.

Through the pandemic, we have watched the community come together as volunteers, mobilizing in varied ways to serve others. People have stepped up to serve with things like snack pack builds, meal distributions, community clean ups, voter registration, working at COVID-19 testing sites, food pantry sorting, virtual and in-person tutoring, and so much more. Donors have given financially for things like accessible food, technology that children need to learn remotely, and to support the infrastructure of our 2-1-1 service, so that people can be connected to the help that they need. We’ve seen companies lend their expertise to help with supply chain issues for much needed products, allow their staff flexibility in schedules so people could volunteer, and even find ways to raise funds or gather supplies at a time when everyone in our community was personally dealing with some type of hardship.

It is because of the things that people have UNITED to do, that we are THANKFUL.

As we have served with people from around the community this last year, we’ve seen different acts that speak volumes as to the true soul of the Greater Toledo area. From the volunteer who rides a bus to us every week to build snack packs, to the volunteers who choose to serve while laid off, to the volunteer who drove over an hour each way to give back, to the volunteer who saw a need for more food as they helped at a pantry and returned the following week with enough food to feed a couple hundred families. The words “You Will Do Better in (Greater) Toledo” …Well, they’ve never been truer.

We invite you to follow us on our social accounts, as we highlight some of the good that folks in our community are doing, celebrating them and learning why they volunteer and give, as well as what they are grateful for. As they share their stories, we would like to believe that you will find some hope and be able to reflect on what you are thankful for, too.

Needs across the community are ever changing, as we navigate our current situation. Despite this, there continue to be ways to help and give, which can truly help our fellow neighbors.

If you would like to serve as a volunteer, you can see current opportunities here – and if you are able to give, please consider donating here. As we tell all volunteers who come build snack packs in our building, the easiest way to help make a difference in our community is to make sure everyone in your life knows about United Way 2-1-1. Simply dialing those three numbers connects anyone to a free, 24/7, health and human services referral resource – and can connect them to the programs they may need.

Be well and know that we are incredibly grateful for you!

As always, United & Thankful-

The United Way of Greater Toledo Team