United Way Sets up Coronavirus Response Fund, Touts 2-1-1 Hotline
(Lara Mossa, April 4, 2020)
Detroit, MI – United Way for Southeastern Michigan has raised $7 million for a Coronavirus Community Response Fund. Launched on March 14, the money is sorely needed during a time when there is a huge increase in need in the tri-county area served by the nonprofit organization.
“At this point, millions of people are being impacted,” said Dr. Darienne Hudson, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Detroit-based group. “We are raising these dollars. We’re working as hard as we can to help. There are a lot of people in need.”
United Way for Southeastern Michigan helps stabilize households and provide services for children in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties. Targeting 680,000 households, 44 percent of households in the community are unable to meet their basic needs, Hudson said. Some of these needs include food insecurity, housing, financial and health issues such as affordability of health care, nutrition, early childhood education as well as college and career preparation.
Local residents who find themselves in need can call a special hotline at 2-1-1 for services, information and referrals. Available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, typically, the organization receives 500 calls a day. But starting in mid-March, that number rose to 1,000, Hudson said. The calls range from queries about food support to housing, rental and utility assistance as well as general questions about the Coronovirus.
“Your United Way is working around the clock to serve everyone in the community at this time,” Hudson said. “If you don’t know where to start you can dial 2-1-1.”
The website, www.unitedwaysem.org/211, also directs people to services.
Funded by donors through a corporate philanthropic model along with federal, state and local grants, last year United Way for Southeastern Michigan raised $47 million. Employees typically give through payroll deduction. Some of the agencies impacted include Lighthouse of Oakland County, Catholic Charities of Southeast Michigan, HAVEN, Oakland Livingston Human Service Agency and Oakland Family Services, among others.
Seventeen local corporate, philanthropic and individual donors contributed to the special Community Response Fund. So far, 92 organizations have received various levels of grant funding to support efforts for emergency relief services, Hudson explained, and grants are still available.
In addition, United Way for Southeastern Michigan recruits volunteers for a wide range of services. While the group had to drastically cut back on volunteer opportunities, there are still 27 ways to help that range from food packaging, distribution and delivery to blood donations. The organization is working on ways to get more protective gear for volunteers and nonprofit agencies, too.
While United Way does not expect to be immediately impacted by the economic downturn, many local nonprofit agencies will and have had to cancel major fund-raising events this spring.
“The world for nonprofits will look very differently when we get on the other side of this,” Hudson said. “They are still providing critical frontline services to our community. It’s profound. It’s difficult and hard to quantify the kind of loss people are experiencing.”
For more information, go to www.unitedwaysem.org.