Scroll down to find stories, segmented by market, illustrating local United Way impact in our four focus areas (spelled out below). Of course, many stories cross issue areas, reflecting the complexity of both the problems and the solutions.
Children need strong foundations, so United Way provides parents with tools to support their child’s development and education, works to improve learning environments, and helps children and families overcome non-academic barriers to success.
All youth deserve pathways of opportunity, so United Way provides academic support outside school, prepares youth for transition into the workforce, and connects families to resources and services.
Everyone should be able to improve their socio-economic status, so United Way works to create pathways to in-demand jobs with potential for advancement, and helps individuals build a solid foundation for success.
Access to Health
All people should live healthy lives, so United Way connects individuals to quality, affordable health care and mental health care, and increases access to healthy foods and physical activity.
Atlanta: Helping Families Succeed
Ivane and her 7 children were living in and out of extended motels for 5 years. With a household of 8 living in one room, it was difficult for Ivane to find permanent housing.
One of her children’s schools put them in contact with Single Parent Alliance & Resource Center. They helped Ivane with every step of the housing process, and continue to check-in and provide financial workshops. Ivane is happy to be housed and have the space for her kids. Now, she wants to utilize the skills from the workshops to keep moving up.
Motel-to-Home, modeled after United Way of Greater Atlanta’s Street-to-Home Initiative and part of the Economic Stability investment priority, aims to connect families living in motels to their own permanent housing. Homeless families and individuals will often live in motels when they may be on the brink of homelessness. There are motels in every county that families use as a last resort. Motel-to-Home intervenes to provide families with case management, assistance with deposits and follow-up care to capitalize on their existing strengths and income.
Across our global network, United Way is helping families like Ivane's build a pathway to financial stability, and ultimately to economic mobility.
Chicago: Building Stronger Neighborhoods
Ten years after Emmet Elementary School on the West Side of Chicago was closed, community leaders and their partners broke ground on the Aspire Center for Workforce Innovation in the school’s parking lot.
“This is what it takes. It takes a village,” said Darnell Shields, executive director for Austin Coming Together, the community quarterback agency for United Way of Metro Chicago’s Austin Neighborhood Network. “That’s what it takes to be able to transform, to make it right, to rebuild your community. This is what moving forward together looks and feels like.”
The Aspire Center will be a workforce development hub, with a manufacturing training center, local businesses, and community space. The Aspire Center is supported by a $5 million investment from United Way of Metro Chicago, as well as government funding and generous corporate and foundation partners.
Corporate investment in community is key, but so is the physical presence of that investment. Not only is BMO a key investor in the Aspire Center, but they will also be a tenant in the building. Another longtime corporate partner, Illinois Tool Works (ITW), has partnered with United Way and Austin Coming Together to launch the Commit to a Neighborhood Initiative. Through the initiative, ITW will establish a manufacturing facility in Austin and partner with local workforce development organizations to recruit, train, and support residents in their career development.
“Today starts another turning point toward our victory in setting things right,” Shields said. “We are more than just resilient, we are united. Making the impossible, possible. This is a faith story.”
In communities across the United States and around the world, United Way is working to help build stronger, more equitable neighborhoods.
Canada: Supporting Women in Poverty
United Way British Columbia, is tackling period poverty – a pervasive issue affecting many women in the community. The campaign aims to collect and distribute menstrual products to those in need, particularly vulnerable populations who are increasingly unable to afford these essential health supplies.
Research conducted by United Way highlights the urgency of the problem. Approximately 51% of respondents reported struggling to purchase menstrual products, and 26% had gone through a period without access to them. This lack of access to menstrual products harms individuals' health and forces them to miss work, school, and community activities, which only compounds their marginalization.
Community organizations play a key role in alleviating period poverty. The Period Promise campaign distributed over 1.5 million menstrual products across community organizations in British Columbia in the last five years. In 2023, United Way aims to surpass the previous year's record by collecting more than 700,000 products, an ambitious goal that is made possible through the involvement and generous donations from community champions, partner organizations, and individual donors. So far, more than 500,000 menstrual products were collected, and more than $53,000 was raised. The effort will enable more than 100 community organizations to distribute free period products to their clients.
Across the world, United Way is supporting women in under-resourced communities.
Dallas: Working to Stop Child Abuse
United Way of Metropolitan Dallas focuses on education, income and health as the building blocks of opportunity. Child abuse prevention touches on all three of these areas: a stable, loving home provides a foundation for children to live a healthy life, succeed in school and go on to achieve financial stability.
Child abuse remains far too common in Texas. After peaking during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, rates of child maltreatment, neglect, deaths and suicide in Texas have leveled off – but remain tragically high. Last year, advocates say more than 127,000 children were abused in Dallas County; 199 died due to child abuse and neglect.
United Way of Metropolitan Dallas works to prevent child abuse and neglect before it ever begins. With its partners, United Way is providing support services and educational resources to parents to foster healthy, caring home lives. Two of its programs focus specifically on supporting families with young children:
- Healthy Outcomes Through Prevention and Early Support, or H.O.P.E.S., which helps local parents create home environments in which young children can thrive; and
- Texas Home Visiting, which provides direct support from a trained professional for soon-to-be-parents and those with children under the age of five.
With guidance and support from United Way-supported parent educators, young parents are learning how to support their children and create a positive learning environment in which children can thrive. This is the type of intervention that has been shown to prevent child abuse and neglect by empowering parents when they need it most.
Beyond services and resources for families, United Way is also showing community members how to become advocates and help kids who may be at risk. These tips include virtual check-ins with parents of young children, dropping off basic items like groceries to ease parents’ stress, and where to turn when something is wrong.
Every United Way around the world is working to ensure that children have what they need to thrive.
Detroit: Tackling Hunger With Mobile Food Pantries
For more than 30 years, United Way for Southeastern Michigan’s partner, Forgotten Harvest, has helped fight hunger in metro Detroit by rescuing surplus food from restaurants, grocery stores, caterers and more and delivering it free of charge to local pantries and food banks. Since the pandemic, the organization has struggled with surges in demand, fewer volunteers and food shortages that required staff to revamp their overall operating model in a matter of days.
To help, United Way awarded grant funding to Forgotten Harvest, targeting the city of Detroit, where low-wage Black communities had been disproportionately impacted. The grant funding allowed Forgotten Harvest the flexibility and funds to open 17 On-the-Go Mobile Pantries across Metro Detroit, where individuals and families are supplied with 45 to 65 pounds of food each week. The mobile pantries operate using a truck-to-trunk distribution model that allows for safe social distancing.
Omar lost his job and has struggled to provide his family with basic needs, including food. “Because of the help … from Forgotten Harvest, I’ve been able to take care of myself and family,” Omar said.
Across our global network, United Way is fueling efforts to connect people with healthy food.
France: Coaching Youth to Success
In France, United Way is laser-focused on youth education, especially for youth from lower-income families. Called Alliance Pour l'Education (Alliance for Education)-United Way, the organization is building a coalition of employers, educators, government, NGOs and philanthropists to serve young people in working-class neighborhoods. Its Défi Jeunesse program is one example, targeting students from 6th through 12th grade. United Way helps students get excited about and map out their job path, then helps them walk the path with education, tutoring, coaching, job preparation workshops, and more. And United Way connects youth to services and supports, and gives them a bird’s-eye view of the kind of jobs available in their communities.
Omaya, a student at Stendahl College in Toulouse, was coached by two local employees of a local corporate partner. Her exit exam grades were critical to her job-hunting success, so the coaches focused on her oral exam. “The coaches gave me ideas that I will add to my presentation,” she said. “I was very stressed, and it helped me a lot.”
Around the world, United Way is fueling strategies to help young people, especially those from under-resourced neighborhoods, get job training, job coaches and ultimately, good jobs with a path to economic mobility.
Ghana: Empowering Survivors to Combat Human Trafficking
As we take steps towards building a fairer world, we must confront the global crisis that is human trafficking. With an astounding 50 million people, including children, caught in this cycle of forced labor, sexual exploitation, and forced marriages, there is an urgent call for action.
United Way Ghana, in partnership with the International Justice Mission, has responded in powerful, innovative ways. They've launched the Courageous Crew, a self-named, survivor-run advocacy group. Survivors of human trafficking, armed with their unique understanding of the issue, are stepping up to lead local anti-trafficking initiatives in Central Ghana. This is not just about recovery, but about empowerment and transforming painful experiences into a force for change.
India: Local Leaders Tackling Local Problems
Working in communities across India – with local United Ways in Bangalore, Baroda, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai, and Ahmedabad – United Way India brings people together to build stronger communities where everyone can thrive. Here are a few examples:
In Hyderabad, United Way stepped up to help people combat COVID’s multiple waves. Government and private hospitals were overwhelmed. That’s why United Way supported the Ashray project, a new initiative to provide free medical care. Watch this video to learn more.
- In Dehli, United Way Dehli has stepped up during the ongoing pandemic to offer family assistance programs (with corporate support) to support virtual learning, pay rent and support mental health
- And in Benglaru, United Way Benglaru engaged partners to improve schools and infrastructure in 25 rural villages, impacting 7,000 women and children. United Way has also facilitated environmental volunteer opportunities for corporate partners, organizing opportunities to clean storm water drains, gathered trash, planted 300 trees and cleaned up Bannerghatta Biological Park and making and distributing paper bags to street vendors to reduce use of plastic bags in the community.
United Way's global reach and hyper-local impact means local solutions are led by local leaders to address local problems.
London: Boosting Childhood Literacy
United Way of the UK, based in London, is working to give every child the opportunity to succeed. But some 800,000 children in the UK don’t have books of their own at home, and 20 percent of primary schools don’t have libraries.
That’s why United Way started its Reading Oasis program, to address early childhood literacy challenges and give more children the opportunity to develop a love for reading. This positively affects children's ability and potential throughout school and beyond.
The program focuses on children from disadvantaged backgrounds as they face the highest risk of being caught in a poverty cycle. Those with poor literacy levels have a higher likelihood of experiencing financial instability and unemployment later in life.
The United Way Reading Oasis places books into the hands of disadvantaged children through donating an entire library to schools that lack reading resources, where 30% or more of pupils are eligible for free school meals. Designed in collaboration with teachers, educational experts and children, every Reading Oasis includes:
- A safe, inviting space within the school where children can enjoy reading. The library has specially designed furniture to encourage children to pick up a book, sit down, and read.
- Hundreds of new books from United Way’s partner, Scholastic.
- A book for every child to take home and keep.
- A book a month for a year, for every child at the school nursery.
- Resources for parents, child care providers and teachers with tips on reading with their children.
The Reading Oasis program has already installed more than 20 school libraries, donated more than 20,000 books and impacted more than 4,500 children across the UK.
Childhood literacy is a priority for a majority of United Ways across our global network.
Memphis: Breaking the Cycle of Poverty
In Memphis, United Way of the Mid-South has developed a strategy to break the cycle of poverty in underserved neighborhoods, called Driving The Dream. The goal is to tackle the underlying issues affecting generational poverty by mobilizing and aligning community resources to create equitable access to education, financial stability and mobility and health supports for families in poverty. It’s a complex challenge, with no quick and easy solutions.
For example, Deangelo was in crisis – no housing, no job, irregular meals and lacking life skills to move himself out of poverty. He’d grown up in similar circumstances, and couldn’t see a way out. But one of the six nonprofit agencies partnering with United Way referred Driving The Dream, where a care coordinator sat down with him to help identify his challenges, as well as short- and long-term community solutions. His primary goal was to find a safe place to sleep, but he needed a job to get stable housing. After completing a six-month, intensive job training and placement program, he was able to find a job that paid a livable wage. He’s now paying rent in an apartment, and is on his way to realizing his dreams.
Tackling the underlying issues causing society’s – and individuals’ – most pressing problems is a priority for every United Way across the globe.
Mexico: Investing in Our Youngest Citizens
The first few years are critical ones for children to development a foundation for success in school, work and life. United Way of Mexico is fueling United Way's Born Learning program across Mexico, a United Way initiative that helps parents, caregivers and early childhood education professionals give children the resources and support they need to start school ready to succeed.
United Way supports more than 188 child care centers, building capacity and offering training to the teachers and staff (and aligning with local primary schools). So far, more than 28,000 children and adults have been impacted in this long-term strategy.
But United Way also helps the families of Mexico with strategies to lift themselves out of poverty – focusing on job training, literacy classes, and connecting people to services. Technical training for the unemployed and opportunities with allied institutions has created a path of financial opportunity for more than 2,617 people so far.
Early childhood education is a priority for more than 90 percent of United Ways in our global network.
Miami: Engaging Youth in Community Change
Born and raised in Haiti, Epheca Belancourt entered Miami during her sixth-grade year knowing no English and feeling nervous to interact with other young people. At school, she joined Girl Power, a United Way Miami impact partner program. There, she gained positive mentoring and developed the confidence to communicate with her peers. The staff at Girl Power encouraged Epheca to apply for the United Way Youth Institute, a yearlong student institute led by United Way Miami that focuses on empowering local youth to become successful in their careers, lifelong community advocates and agents of change. Epheca became inspired to give back to her community. She transformed a summer 2022 family trip to Haiti into an opportunity to do just that. Epheca created her own English class, for which she developed a curriculum and daily activities. Her goal was to take the confidence, leadership and civic engagement she learned from Girl Power and the Youth Institute and bring it to other young people.
Last year, United Way Miami’s sixth cohort of 20 Youth Institute fellows spent their school year learning about the realities of communities throughout Miami-Dade. They spent time with the Green Haven Project, an urban garden nonprofit that aims to empower area residents to live healthy, sustainable lives. With the Green Haven Project as a hub, the fellows planned and organized a countywide food, clothing and hygiene-products drive. They collected 400 pounds of gently used and new clothes, 100 toothbrushes, 20,000 cans of food, 70 containers of pasta and rice, and other assorted foods and hygiene products. The fellows knocked on neighborhood doors Overtown to inform the residents about the items they had collected and the availability of the community garden for foraging food. On distribution day, the fellows served 95 individuals. They also tended the garden to prepare for new vegetation.
When the fellowship ended, the fellows were more driven to figure out how they can continue to have a positive impact on their own communities and become changemakers of the future.
All over the world, United Ways are engaging youth in community solutions.
Twin Cities: Building Bridges to Economic Mobility
Greater Twin Cities United Way’s pioneering initiative, Purpose Driven Paychecks, bridges gaps in our current educational system by ensuring all students, especially those furthest from justice, have access to wealth-building, purpose-driven careers.
United Way is partnering with seven school districts in Greater Minnesota that work with local manufacturing businesses to provide rewarding work experiences to students from historically under-invested communities. Purpose Driven Paychecks funds increases students' hourly wages from $12.50 to $15, established a mentorship program and helps students develop self-advocacy and self-confidence skills.
In its second year, Purpose Driven Paychecks is also partnering with the Hmong American Partnership, which supports Hmong and Southeast Asian communities. HAP is launching a Certified Nursing Assistant pathways program, tailored to multicultural and multi-generational participants, which addresses unique challenges faced by children and grandchildren of immigrants and refugees.
Over the next year, Purpose Driven Paychecks will facilitate quality work experiences for 600 students, with 257 students landing new jobs. This endeavor unites public education and employment, ensuring all Minnesota students have access to fulfilling and financially rewarding careers.
United Way's program continues to break new ground, catalyzing supportive experiences for students, challenging economic disparities, and cultivating a purposeful career landscape for the youth of Minnesota.
Across the global United Way network, innovative initiatives are being created through listening, co-creating, and partnering with community organizations.
Moline, IL/Quad Cities: Building Economic Mobility
In Moline, IL, United Way of the Quad Cities is empowering more people with the skills and tools to achieve financial stability. United Way has collaborated with community partners to set 10-year goals aiming to drive change and advance racial equity in the areas of education, income and health.
One goal is to increase by 20% the number of Quad Cities young adults who earn a living wage. United Way partners and invests in a range of programs that put residents on new career pathways, giving them the skills and resources to improve their economic mobility and providing them with basic necessities in emergency situations. At the same time, United Way and its partners are working to:
- Stabilize people who are facing hunger, homelessness or financial crisis. United Way funds efforts that provide access to hunger relief, emergency shelter, help low-income individuals/families obtain and maintain safe, affordable, stable housing and provide emergency financial assistance.
- Put hardworking Quad Citizens on career pathways by connecting them with the skills and support needed to get and keep good jobs. We aid in such areas as career development, job training and supportive services.
- Help residents improve their abilities to budget, reduce debt, create savings and improve their credit, help families get, manage and keep more of their hard-earned money.
Watch this inspiring video to learn more.
Many United Ways around the world are partnering with employers, schools, government and nonprofits to help young adults create family-sustaining jobs and build pathways to economic mobility.
Montreal: Focusing on Homeless Youth
In Montreal, nearly one in four children grows up in poverty. That means they are more likely to drop out of high school, earn lower incomes, live in poorer conditions and continue the cycle of poverty. Centraide of Greater Montreal (United Way Montreal) is focused on shifting the odds.
United Way engages 175 community agencies, and invests more than $18M in a comprehensive strategy that includes boosting early childhood development, encouraging academic perseverance, supporting parents and families, and preventing homelessness. Some inspiring results:
- 90,000 children and parents connected with United Way’s network of 30 family homes that offer aid and support across Greater Montreal.
- 90 percent of young dropouts returned to school after their stay at l’Ancre des Jeunes, an agency in Verdun that’s part of the United Way-supported network.
- 850 marginalized youth receive support from street workers from PACT de rue, another agency in the network, each year.
All over the world, United Way is working with local corporate, nonprofit and government partners to give children in underserved communities a stronger chance at success.
New York City: Nurturing Hope
In 2022, an unexpected influx of buses arrived in New York City from Texas and Arizona, carrying over 50,000 asylum seekers yearning for safety and shelter. Their quest for a new life led them to the city's doorstep, prompting an immediate response from trusted partners, including United Way of New York City.
In the face of such a challenge, United Way lived up to its commitment of ensuring everyone, everywhere, has an opportunity to thrive. In response to a request from partners to aid the asylum seekers, United Way activated the Emergency Assistance and Community Needs (EACN) Fund. "The generous response from foundations, corporations, and private donors, which has raised nearly $780,000 to date, has enabled us to deploy resources to community-based organizations offering emergency relief to families and individuals in a dignified way," stated Grace Bonilla, President, and CEO of United Way of New York City.
In April 2023, United Way announced a second round of funding for 10 organizations aiding asylum seekers across NYC neighborhoods, with contributions from benevolent funders like Trinity Church of Wall Street, Share Our Strength, Airbnb, and many generous individuals.
The funding bolsters community center services, provides English as a new language learning, aids navigation through the public school system, and ensures continuous supply of food, among other vital needs, ensuring the asylum seekers get the support they need in their transition to a new life.
Echoing the sentiment of gratitude, Walter Sinche, Executive Director of Alianza Ecuatoriana Internacional, praised United Way for its contribution to training migrants on safe work practices, highlighting the vital role United Way plays in supporting the city's diverse community needs.
In every community we serve, United Way steps up to support people.
San Francisco: Making Housing More Accessible
As the most expensive city in the U.S. in which to live, San Francisco has long been a community of “haves” and “have-nots.” A minimum-wage worker would need to work more than three full-time jobs a week (161 hours) to afford a one-bedroom apartment, experts say. And with inflation driving up the cost of food, getting by is harder than ever.
United Way of the Bay Area was a pioneer in developing one-stop centers to help struggling families meet their basic needs, increase income and savings, build credit, and reduce debt. At United Way’s SparkPoint Centers, financial coaches work one-on-one with clients to set goals, brainstorm strategies, and map out realistic action plans.
Services are free, including credit and debt counseling/repair, budgeting, financial planning, tax prep, job skills training, job search assistance, career development, education counseling. Centers also have a food pantry, benefits screening, rental assistance, connection to housing resources and homeownership assistance. Each SparkPoint Center is a collaborative of multiple nonprofit and government entities working together in a single location to make it easy for families to access services.
To date, SparkPoint Centers have:
- Served 29,152 low-income families in the Bay Area
- Helped 80 percent of them improve income, credit, savings and reduced debt after enrolling in SparkPoint
- Empowered 62 percent to achieve their own financial goals
Across the world, United Way is working to equip people to build financial stability, and lay a pathway towards economic mobility and financial prosperity.
South Africa: Engaging Volunteers
United Way believes that everyone is entitled to a quality education, a family- sustaining income and good health. United Way South Africa works to make sure people get the support services they need right now, while addressing the root causes of key social problems – and engaging people and organizations in that effort.
That's certainly the case for Kas Kovilan and his friends. They recently joined United Way’s effort to combat one of their community’s most pressing need, hunger. The group prepared and distributed home-cooked meals, with fruits and juice, to children around Riverlea Cricket Club.
“We are going to continue supporting and assisting where we can,” Kas said. “It is a real blessing when you are out there, blessing others and doing a good deed.”
And Kas has continued to give back. He launched a school supply and uniform donation drive for children he knew who needed those items to attend school, and he provided them with lunches as well.
Across the world, United Way is engaging millions of people in meaningful volunteerism that is making life better for people.
Toronto: Closing Opportunity Gaps for Children
United Way of Greater Toronto aims to close opportunity gaps caused by inequality and poverty by giving children in their middle years (5 to 12 years) opportunities that will provide a foundation for success in school and in the community. The approach is to focus on enrichment and out-of-school activities for children, and to fund programs that provide support to parents, in order to enable their children’s success.
United Way is particularly interested in increasing its investments in initiatives for children who face a greater risk of marginalization because of systemic barriers to equal access, opportunities, and resources due to disadvantage and discrimination. For example, participating in after-school activities can be more challenging for children from lower income households than children from higher income households. Barriers like not having access to timely and affordable transportation, or having limited income to buy extracurricular supplies may play a role in restricting their participation. These barriers limit their access to healthy opportunities to explore their identity, build new skills and habits, and prepare for their next stage of development.
So United Way Greater Toronto focuses on initiatives that seek to provide children with academic enrichment and tutoring to enable success in school, and which help them build confidence through skills development and positive self-image. Here are a few inspiring results:
- 19,215 children and parents received enrichment and skill-building support to help children achieve their potential
- 11,218 children built confidence through skill development and positive self-image
- 5,900 parents and caregivers improved their understanding of child development and parenting
In communities across our global network, United Way is closing gaps for children in the middle years.
The Netherlands: Supporting Immigrants
Amidst the turbulence of war in Ukraine, approximately 100,000 refugees sought sanctuary in the Netherlands. Disconnected from their homes, communities, and often their families, these refugees faced not just displacement but also the specter of mental health issues. The Dutch healthcare system, grappling with its challenges, such as congestion, language barriers, and licensing complications, struggled to adequately support the refugees.
Recognizing the pressing need for mental health resources among the refugees, United Way Netherlands initiated an innovative and resourceful approach. It contacted Ukrainian therapists, recruited them as "counselors," and connected them to those in need through familiar social media channels such as Telegram. This strategy essentially brought a slice of home to the refugees, offering them solace and guidance in their native language.
A testament to the program's effectiveness is the story of Olena, a refugee from Kyiv. After fleeing her war-torn home and resettling in Amsterdam, she could access the counseling services provided by Ukrainian psychologists through this initiative. The support she received, in her language and sensitivity to her unique experiences, became a crucial lifeline as she navigated the overwhelming challenges of displacement and trauma.
The program is active in Amsterdam, with plans to extend to other cities such as Utrecht. Since its inception, a remarkable 90% of clients have reported an improved ability to cope with their circumstances. Moreover, United Way Netherlandd has amplified the availability of therapists, aiming to extend its scope to other displaced communities from countries like Syria, Afghanistan, and Sudan.
The initiative is rooted in the belief in the power of community as an antidote to isolation and threats to mental well-being. United Way Amsterdam demonstrates that, even in the face of displacement, the connection to one's home, culture, and language can be a powerful tool for mental health support. Their approach underlines the urgent need to address loneliness not as an individual burden but as a collective responsibility, using the strength of community connections to bridge the isolation gap