United Way makes a push to meet increased needs

Healthy, not-at-risk volunteers are also needed, especially drivers to deliver meals to children and seniors.

ADDISON COUNTY — The United Way of Addison County (UWAC) and four anonymous donors have launched a new fundraising push to help the county nonprofit and the agencies it supports aid those in need during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

UWAC Executive Director Helena Van Voorst said the donors and UWAC are teaming up on the Addison County Responds initiative in which the donors collectively will match every dollar raised before April 1 up to $50,000. 

In an email, Van Voorst said UWAC will put the proceeds toward: 

• Providing emergency funds “to individuals who need support beyond what local, state, and federal resources can provide … through a new partnership between our United@Work program and Addison County Mutual Aid.” 

• Offering “emergency grants to UWAC’s funded partners on the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

• Sustaining funding for “UWAC’s partner agencies who need our support now more than ever,” by extending and enhancing the Community Impact Funding grants UWAC awards.

Van Voorst said UWAC expects to reach its $635,000 annual fundraising target by the end of June, but the current crisis is stretching the agency and its nonprofit partners’ resources thin. 

“The need is great,” Van Voorst said. “We do anticipate meeting our annual campaign goal this year, but considering how we and all of our partners have had to pivot our operations to respond to COVID-19, meeting the goal won’t be enough to help our partner agencies through this time.” 

The agency makes three-year funding commitments to its partners through the Community Impact Funding grants, with commitments set to end this year to the group of nonprofits offering educational services. 

UWAC has made two changes related to those educational grants and their recipients.

First, even though UWAC was in the middle of an extensive review of requests for the next three-year cycle, Van Voorst said given the current crisis the UWAC board voted not to pull the funding plug on any current recipients, despite worthy new applicants. 

“They’re in crisis right now,” she said, adding, “Our education partners were basically competing for United Way funding again, and we just took the competition out of it. We just said you all are getting funded again. We just didn’t feel that now was the right time to spread limited resources and potentially reduce funding levels to our current partners.”

Those 11 partners include youth clubs and centers in Bristol, Middlebury and Vergennes; many of the county’s largest childcare providers and centers; Addison County Readers; The DREAM Program; and Vermont Adult Learning.

Funding levels will depend in part on how well the Addison County Responds initiative performs, Van Vorst said. 

Typically, those grants are awarded for specific purposes. But UWAC will also allow the nonprofits to use the existing Community Impact Fund grants “however it is most useful for their organization,” according to Van Vorst, regardless of their original plans for the funds.

“We basically unrestricted the funds so they can do what they need to do,” she said.

Those in need of a helping hand because of financial distress, homelessness, hunger, job loss, healthcare related issues, transportation or more can also contact UWAC and get help through its new partnership with Addison County Mutual Aid.

Those seeking aid may contact Trish Lafayette by email at trish@unitedwayaddisoncounty.org or by calling or texting (802) 349-7210.

Healthy, not-at-risk volunteers are also needed, according to Van Voorst, especially drivers to deliver meals to children and seniors. Volunteer coordinator Linnea Oosterman can link those interested to opportunities. Reach her at linnea@unitedwayaddisoncounty.org. Nonprofits in search of volunteers can also contact her. 

In short, Van Vorst said she hopes county residents can either take advantage of what UWAC has to offer, donate, volunteer, or just spread the word.

“If they are able to help us spread awareness of Addison County Response just by telling their friends about it or sharing it on Facebook… the more people we can connect with right now the better,” she said. 

“We have a lot of unique opportunities, and they’re changing almost hourly, for people to stay engaged with their community and stay engaged in volunteering and in advocacy.”

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Addison County Independent