April 20, 2020

Local United Way Focuses on Mission During Pandemic

United Way of Goodhue, Wabasha & Pierce Counties (United Way) is providing resources to the community, raising funds for local nonprofits, and making internal budget cuts in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Improving access to basic needs, health and education remains at the heart of our mission,” said Maureen Nelson, executive director. “Access to these services was vital prior to the pandemic, and it is even more critical now. To meet the needs of people in crisis, United Way will continue to offer 24/7 access to resources through our 2-1-1 Hotline as well as an online resource guide called People’s Pamphlet. We also created the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund.”
“The Fund will provide support to meet basic needs such as food, shelter, safety, and financial assistance to those most vulnerable to issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Nelson. “Funds will be made available to partner agencies with past experience in meeting the basic needs of people in crisis. Grants will initially focus on the immediate needs of people served by these agencies and then move toward longer-term concerns if funding allows.” Of note, United Way is not charging an administrative fee and only covering the costs incurred from outside processing fees.
“Our local United Way will be affected by the economic impact of COVID19 too; and we are taking significant measures to weather the economic storm,” said Nelson. “We have reduced the hours of our staff and are making program cuts to make sure we are focusing our efforts on activities that will most benefit our community at this time of crisis.”
One of the largest cuts will be the Imagination Library program, which provides books to children ages birth – 5 years for school readiness. “Although providing free books to children is a wonderful feel good program, there are more imminent and profound needs for nonprofit business and client survival that need to be supported at this time,” said Laura Prink, community impact manager.
While the beloved program will be missed, United Way will continue its focus on early childhood literacy in other ways. United Way offers resources for families, including Read, Talk, Play Everyday – an activity book for kids along with a list of several local and online education resources. There are also two Born Learning Trails in Red Wing: AP Anderson Park and Pine Valley Park. Each trail is a series of interactive signs that offer fun learning activities for young children and their families.
In addition, United Way is gearing up to launch the Blue Bookshelf program. The Blue Bookshelves will be placed in businesses across Goodhue, Wabasha & western Pierce Counties. They will be stocked with new books for young children to read and to take home. The launch of this program is postponed until a time when people are able to safely come together and touch physical books again.