United Way of the River Cities embarks on research study of Tri-State poverty

Published 2:34 pm Saturday, May 25, 2024

By Terry L. Hapney, Jr.
The Ironton Tribune

One nonprofit that funds other nonprofits throughout the Tri-State, including Lawrence County, is on a mission to determine the region’s most pressing needs and then take action to address them.
The United Way of the River Cities (UWRC), headquartered in Huntington and supporting initiatives spearheaded by multiple organizations in Lawrence County, is gearing up for a major research effort this summer and fall that will help the organization prioritize the work it supports in the six-county region of Lawrence and Gallia counties in Ohio and Mason, Cabell, Wayne, and Lincoln counties in West Virginia.
Jedd T. Flowers, executive director and CEO of UWRC, said the organization’s mission is to “connect our community with resources to reduce poverty and improve lives.” One means by which UWRC does that is via the ALICE (Asset-Limited, Income-Constrained, Employed) initiative.
“ALICE works very hard, but still struggles to survive,” Flowers said.
ALICE stems from dialogue in New Jersey and in the New York Times that focused on the working poor. Flowers said the ALICE effort was spearheaded by United Way of Central New Jersey.
“They work in partnership with United Way Worldwide and United Way organizations across the country,” he said.
United Way nonprofits in more than 30 states participate in the project, putting resources into this research so that it garners zip-code level data about the ALICE population.
“That gives United Way of the River Cities access to data to understand ALICE and what it looks like,” Flowers said.
Once UWRC board members, staff members, and community partners understand the data, they can collectively address what the greatest needs are in the six-county region. Flowers said UWRC is in the process of its Community Needs Assessment. Then it will work on a strategy to help address those needs, which is the Community OpportUNITY Plan.
“We have some scientific data from the ALICE population,” Flowers said. “We want to combine that with all the other needs assessment data that has been done in the region.”
Marathon Petroleum Corporation is helping UWRC by sponsoring the Community Needs Assessment.
“This helps us get the entire process underway so that we can bring people together,” Flowers said. “It will allow us to pay for some research that needs to be done. It will help us to host meetings to bring leaders together so that we can develop a plan of action.”
Flowers is hopeful UWRC can complete the first phase of the research this summer and then launch a community needs survey in the fall. Then UWRC will bring together leaders from the area to examine the collective information and begin ranking what they believe—based on all data—are the most important issues UWRC and its partners need to address.
“Those might be child care, transportation, housing, or food security,” Flowers said.
Corporate partnerships will likely address some aspects of the Community Opportunity Plan, according to Flowers. UWRC can already establish those.
For example, “we could work with a bank that helps provide financial security training,” Flowers said. “We can do that through the United Way model.”
United Way is set up to convene the community resources to meet needs. Flowers said UWRC is in the “perfect place” to facilitate this process and to help address those who are in poverty/the ALICE population.
“This is economic development,” Flowers said. “It has to have all the partners working in all of their different, specific areas—together.”
Lawrence County organizations currently supported by UWRC include the Community Mission Outreach in Chesapeake, Harvest for the Hungry, the Campbell Chapel Church Backpack Buddies program, the Facing Hunger Foodbank and with the City Mission.

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