United We’re Strong
In 1918, a small group of local business owners, religious clerics and community advocates came together with an idea: To create a health and human services nonprofit that would respond to the needs of their fellow neighbors.
Then, this little organization was known as the Toledo War Chest, founded at the closing of the Spanish Flu and World War I, when social services became a key part in families rebuilding their lives amid the aftershocks of conflict and great loss. Decades later, this group morphed into what we know as United Way of Greater Toledo – and in its 102 years, has navigated through countless tragedies, disasters and economic uncertainties.
Today, much like in 1918, this community and communities all over the globe, face yet another catastrophe. One that has revealed the educational, health and financial vulnerability of individuals and families across Lucas, Ottawa and Wood County. Nonetheless, the power of community stems from its tenacity and willingness to meet its most complex issues head-on.
United Way has seen first-hand the power of donors, volunteers, businesses, advocates and government agencies coming together to help respond to the unprecedented needs COVID-19 unveiled.
Since March, more than 1,700 volunteers have given 16,000 hours back to the community through snack pack builds for hungry kids, virtual tutoring and assembling meal bags for families…to name a few. In these small, socially distant gatherings, United Way’s staff has interacted with individuals from all walks of life who want to give back. Even folks who have been laid-off from their jobs have volunteered their time – a true testament that, even in our darkest hours, we can find light through service.
Additionally, $1.7 million has been donated to United Way of Greater Toledo’s Emergency Response Fund. Already, $1.1 million has been spent on increasing access to food, technology, hygiene supplies and other basic needs supports. Corporate partners of United Way have come together to use their buying power to leverage low cost personal protection equipment, like masks for students and social service professionals.
United Way has also advocated for policy change and a much-needed economic response from our government officials. Primarily, its efforts have circulated around protecting the community’s most vulnerable – children – and ensuring that the childcare industry they, and their working parents depend on, will survive this pandemic.
Unfortunately, history repeats itself, even in its ugliest reincarnations. No matter what form a disaster may take, United Way will be here, as it has been here for a century.
Of course, change cannot happen alone, and the path ahead feels rather uncertain. As the year comes to a close, many federal protections around housing and unemployment will end. Coronavirus cases right here in Northwest Ohio are climbing, leading to business closures, layoffs and overall deep health disparities. And where government sometimes fails to act puts an enormous pressure on the nonprofit sector to respond, often outside of their normal parameters.
Prior to COVID-19, the needs of those in Lucas, Ottawa and Wood County were already great, and these needs have been immensely multiplied. It is completely understandable that, during such a time, the emotional toll something like this takes on a community cannot be put into words.
No matter the hardships, history also shows us that the community has always found a way to persevere. You can see that glimmer of hope through volunteerism, advocating and giving – as the community has looked to United Way as a vessel for change over the course of this year.
If you are able to, please consider making a donation to United Way of Greater Toledo’s Emergency Response Fund at UnitedWayToledo.org/Give. Every dollar continues this important work and creates a timely financial response for the unknown tasks that lie ahead.
Only together will we get through this – because United We’re Strong.