UNITED AGAINST SUBSTANCE ABUSE
Across the nation, we are witnessing a surge in substance abuse, resulting in increased deaths, broken families, struggling economies and poverty. From opioid addiction to alcohol misuse, communities face an uphill battle in their fight for the health and wellness of their residents—especially youth.
In West Virginia, where substance abuse has led to more deaths than firearms and traffic accidents combined, United Way of the River Cities is mobilizing health and financial resources for solutions. By working through the Cabell County Substance Abuse Prevention Partnership coalition, United Way is raising community awareness; promoting efforts to decrease risk factors; increasing protective factors for young adults; and developing youth leaders to be a positive influence by educating their peers through environmental change and evidenced-based strategies.
In New Hampshire, Granite United Way is working with fire departments, social service providers and community leaders to address substance abuse locally. Through Safe Station, United Way is encouraging struggling individuals to enter any Manchester firehouse for connection to the recovery treatment they need. More than 3,000 people have accessed the program since 2016, with neighboring cities and towns adopting the model. And in Indiana, United Way of the Wabash Valley is utilizing an AmeriCorps member with the statewide United Against Opioid Abuse project to more fully understand how the opioid epidemic is impacting their community. The project looks at the issue systemically, starting with a county-specific report, and engages the community as part of the solution.
In Broward County, Florida, opioids, cocaine, marijuana and alcohol have become the most commonly used drugs. Working with SunTrust, United Way is addressing substance use disorders by bringing together the private and public sectors through the United Way of Broward County Commission on Behavioral Health and Drug Prevention. Alongside 30 community agencies, public schools, hospital districts, police officers and the media, United Way is empowering youth to advance social change; providing parents and school officials with training to increase their protective factors; and creating policy recommendations on issues related to substance use disorders and prevention.
The fight to end substance abuse is a formidable one, but with the concerted efforts of United Way and community partners, hope is on the horizon.
WHERE THERE IS HELP THERE IS HOPE
It is in times of need that we discover the full impact of a community united. In 2017, the power of that unity was on full display as the United Way network stepped up to help with relief efforts and long-term recovery in the wake of record-breaking natural disasters.
It started with Hurricane Harvey on August 25, its winds, rainfall and flooding destroying hundreds of thousands of homes, displacing 30,000+ people and ending close to 100 lives in southeast Texas. And then came Hurricane Irma on September 5, pummeling parts of the Caribbean, Florida, Georgia and Alabama. Within two weeks, two earthquakes hit Mexico, upending communities and killing hundreds of people. Hurricane Maria arrived soon after on September 16, demolishing the Caribbean Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, followed by the California wildfires that torched 1.2 million acres.
In a matter of months, life changed for millions of people. From Houston to Haiti, from the Caribbean to California, people were bound by a shared grief. They needed help. They needed hope.
BOOTS ON THE GROUND
As storms wreaked havoc across southeast U.S., United Way stepped up. With 24 local United Ways directly in the path of the hurricanes, they were uniquely positioned to support on-the-ground recovery efforts. That support included raising funds; providing resources like food, water and shelter; mobilizing volunteers; and engaging local partners to ensure community stability.
In Texas, United Way of Mid & South Jefferson County donated more than 150,000 pounds of supplies to hurricane victims—despite losing their own offices to Harvey—and United Way of Greater Houston raised more than $47 million for local recovery efforts. In as far north as Pennsylvania, United Way of Lebanon County raised funds for Puerto Rican evacuees resettling in the area, while connecting them with emergency services, jobs and healthcare.
Supporting evacuees in the wake of Hurricane Maria, Heart of Florida United Way donated 2,750 water-filtration systems to families in Puerto Rico, while also launching the Hurricane Maria Housing Assistance Program to address the critical unmet need of securing affordable housing.
Meanwhile, Fondos Unidos de Puerto Rico donated 500,000+ pounds of supplies, 100,000+ prepared meals and 50,000+ pounds of ice to municipalities on the island, along with 315 electric generators to nonprofit partner organizations. That rebuilding momentum carried into Mexico, where the earthquakes razed more than 12,000 schools and put 250,000 residents on the street. Fondo Unido México worked with local agencies to reconstruct schools and community centers, while cultivating a culture of preparation for future emergencies.
In California, which had a destructive wildfire season, United Way Bay Area and United Way of the Wine Country formed a relief and recovery fund to provide short- and long-term help to impacted families and individuals; and United Ways of Ventura County and Santa Barbara County raised more than $5 million for recovery efforts through mobile cause campaigns and a $400,000 pledge from the Annenberg Foundation.
COMMUNITY IMPACT AT SCALE
As local United Ways did what they do best, United Way Worldwide worked to maximize their efforts. To enable the donation process locally, we created a United Way Harvey Recovery Fund, which saw the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation make an inaugural donation of $1 million; a United Way Irma/Maria Recovery Fund, giving smaller United Ways a single clearinghouse for donors; and a Mexico Earthquake Recovery Fund. Combined, these funds raised approximately $72 million for relief efforts.
As we stepped up to support the United Way network, our corporate partners did the same. Johnson & Johnson employees and retirees (in conjunction with a company match) donated $1 million to aid children impacted by the hurricanes; Chipotle and Pizza Hut donated a portion of their sales to the United Way Irma Recovery Fund; Ford Motor Company donated $200,000 to recovery efforts in Mexico; and Lyft added United Way to its in-app feature, “Round Up & Donate," among other examples of real-time progress through partnerships.
The Road to recovery
A lot has happened since August. From wading through waters in Houston to mobilizing volunteers in Mexico and Sonoma, United Way was there to help every step of the way. But the work isn’t over yet. Rebuilding communities will be costly and take years, and we’re in it for the long haul. When the first responders leave, United Way will still be there investing in sustainable development. We will continue to serve as a convener for social service providers to assess needs, create partnerships and ensure the delivery of ongoing support. It’s what we do. It’s who we are.
BUILDING A BRIGHTER FUTURE, TOGETHER
During these times of crisis and need, United Way’s network and partners committed to help rebuild lives and strengthen communities. We would like to thank everyone who helped—and continues to help—with our disaster relief and recovery efforts. Together, we are building a brighter future for communities, individuals and families. For a full donor listing, visit unitedway.org/recovery/disaster-recovery-recognition.
HELPING REFUGEES NAVIGATE A NEW REALITY
Fighting to give everyone a good quality of life is at the heart of what we do. That’s especially true for refugees who enter our communities looking for a new start. Across the United States and Canada, local United Ways are stepping up to support refugees who seek shelter, jobs and a chance at a better life.
In Seattle, United Way of King County has partnered with 54 agencies to support immigrants and refugees struggling to acclimate to their new environment—from funding the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, which gives immigrant kids attorneys to help them gain legal status, to helping Ethiopians find housing and employment through the Ethiopian Community in Seattle program.
United Way of Central Iowa is working with the Refugee Alliance of Central Iowa to support refugees and increase community engagement and collaboration. Together, they hosted the 2017 Refugee Summit, which celebrated the accomplishments of local refugees and connected them with employers, community resources—like education and job training—and health care providers for flu shots and health assessments. United Way is also convening supporting residents to set goals and identify actions around housing, mental health, education and career preparation.
In Canada, United Way is investing more than $10 million annually in programs and services that support 170,000+ immigrants and refugees. With nonprofits, businesses, governments and individuals, United Ways are developing integrated response plans and facilitating a coordinated effort at the local level. In Ottawa, United Way is mobilizing resources for the sponsorship and settlement of refugees; in the Lower Mainland, United Way is building collective capacity to support refugees; and in Montreal, United Way is activating its network of community agencies to support refugee settlement.
Local United Ways have long supported immigrants and refugees by easing their transition into new communities. With support from our community partners, we will continue to ensure every family and individual gets the second chance they deserve.
A FUTURE WITHOUT HUMAN TRAFFICKING
Human trafficking has become increasingly prevalent. Once thought to be limited to developing countries, cases are now found in all 50 states and almost every country in the world. It is estimated that more than 40 million people are currently living in modern slavery, of which 25 million are in forced labor situations. And almost 5 million women are forced into sexual exploitation, while more than 15 million victims are forced into marriages. Help is needed.
In September, United Way Worldwide convened its second annual Business Leaders Forum to Combat Human Trafficking in Washington, D.C., where we engaged more than 100 industry, government and NGO leaders to discuss strategies and solutions. Leaders from Walmart, Deloitte, Google, Hewlett Packard Enterprises, Nokia, IBM and UPS jointly discussed what the business community is doing to put an end to human trafficking. Many businesses, like UPS, are educating employees on the signs of human trafficking, ridding their supply chains of labor exploitation and fighting sex trafficking.
This year, through our partnership with UPS, we expanded awareness of human trafficking at the local level. The United Way Center on Human Trafficking & Slavery launched a UPS-funded, community-training pilot across Milwaukee, Atlanta, Denver, San Francisco and San Jose. The training helped United Way partners and communities spot and respond to human-trafficking signs. Through the pilot, more than 400 community leaders were trained across the five cities. With ongoing support from companies like UPS, United Way will keep fighting for a future without human trafficking.