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We are all in this together

COVID-19 has had a dramatic impact on our city, state, nation and around the globe.

While West Virginia has not seen the degree of crisis that is happening in many other parts of our country and the world, we are already feeling some of the effects.

We see some businesses closing or changing the way they do business, workers being laid off or facing reduced hours, the inability to visit with those we love… We are all trying to figure out what the new normal is and how to adapt to it.

With everything happening so quickly and news coming from so many sources, it’s hard to know what to think. But at United Way of the River Cities, we knew we had to act.

The United Way organization was born from a recognition that if we pool our resources and work together, we can accomplish more.

Our work came of age in the first half of the 20th century, in the form of Huntington’s Community Chest. Citizens put their trust and their support behind this group that was tasked with meeting needs identified by our community.

More recently, your United Way has developed a strong model of community impact, that bases programmatic and funding decisions on input from those we serve. All along the way, helping people in tough, anxious and uncertain times has been what we do.

So, when it became apparent that coronavirus was going to largely shut down our community, your UWRC team, with support from our board of directors, immediately began forecasting and planning. One result is the United Way of the River Cities COVID-19 Relief & Recovery Fund.

Launched on March 23 and now entering the beginning of its fourth week, the Fund has collected over $105,000 in support. And, over $48,000 in grant awards has been provided to more than 20 agencies and organizations representing all five of the counties we serve.

The overwhelming majority of support has gone to meet basic needs: food pantries and meal-related services, including food packs for students and for seniors who are shut-ins. This isn’t a surprise — we expected to see a big jump in the number of people seeking help with getting food. But we’ve also been able to support groups making masks for medical and non-medical use, as well as Recovery Point, Lily’s Place, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Tri-State and to help establish a new temporary shelter for the homeless.

After all, we’re in this together.

Donations have come mainly from corporate sources, and we’re very grateful these local, regional and national businesses know they can trust United Way of the River Cities to steward these gifts and make sure their dollars go where the needs are greatest. We will continue to apply for these donations, as our community continues to experience unusual levels of need. But now it’s time for us to look to our entire community for help.

COVID-19 affects some more than others, but it touches all of us in some way. Whether by infecting someone we know, causing a family member to lose a job or putting a friend who is a health care worker at risk, this virus doesn’t distinguish.

And so, the need for help is more significant than most of us have experienced before. We all have a role to play: wash your hands, use hand sanitizer, follow the guidelines for social distancing and stay at home if you possibly can. If you can sew, consider making masks to be shared throughout the community.

And help make it possible for your United Way to continue to support area non-profits that keep working every day to serve you and our neighbors in need. Donate to our Fund at www.unitedwayrivercities.org. Gifts of all sizes are welcome. 100% of the donations to this Fund stay in our local community.

We’re in this together, so let’s #MakeImpactWithoutContact.

Carol Bailey is executive director of United Way of the River Cities. Their office can be reached at 304-523-8929.