Portland, OR. United Way of the Columbia-Willamette worked ahead of the curve to raise over $600,000 in response to the emerging needs due to the COVID-19 outbreak in the community. It began distributing the funds to needy people in April. “We have been overwhelmed with requests for assistance and receipt of in-kind goods,” noted Cindy Adams, President and CEO. “We have continued to leverage our strong partnerships with culturally responsive and culturally specific nonprofits in the community to distribute funding and in-kind goods to individuals and families who have been impacted the most by the pandemic.” Thanks to the help of its partners, United Way has continued to provide access to assistance in short-term housing, utilities, and access to food.

Here’s a video update from the organization:

The nonprofit focuses specifically on racial and ethnic equity by assisting local families and kid’s projects. Its programs include education-based projects aimed at increasing graduation rates for students of color, and financial assistance for healthcare and housing for families.

United Way (UW) staffer delivers in-kind donations to the Q Center in Portland.

The organization adapted quickly to an online business model, due to a previously in-place telecommuting policy that ensured resources and technology were available for the transition. United Way has done its best to navigate the lack of social contact, making the most of technology like Zoom, virtual cards, and phone calls.

LCSA_UW partner: Members of Labor’s Community Service Agency, a United Way nonprofit partner that received Safety Net funding in response to the pandemic, deliver food boxes to families in need.

As donations continue to come in during the nonprofit’s annual workplace campaign season, the organization will distribute the funds to partners assisting those in need as the community navigates the pandemic. Details of the distribution of funds to organizations can be found here.

Cindy Adams expects the needs of the community to continue to grow. She added, “United Way of the Columbia-Willamette is committed to helping our community transition from response to recovery and then rebuilding a community that is more resilient than ever before. We ask that our community, your readers, stay safe, be well, and think about how we can help those who are maybe less fortunate than ourselves.

From United Way of the Columbia-Willamette:

United Way of the Columbia-Willamette has been bringing our community together to do good for nearly 100 years.

We connect the people, nonprofits, businesses and government agencies addressing poverty in our region.

Our Mission:

Improve lives, strengthen communities and advance equity by mobilizing the caring power of people across our metro area.

We’re working hard to create a future where kids in our region are free from instability and worry so they can be free to play and discover, free to learn and grow.

Free from poverty. Free to reach their potential.

Right now, 20% of kids in the Portland region live in poverty and 1 in 3 families can’t pay for basic needs.

That’s 1 in 7 kids whose families must choose between:

• Rent or groceries
• Heat or healthcare
• New clothes or TriMet fare

Together, we can make our region a better place for everyone.

With your support, we can continue investing in our region’s schools, families and communities.

Schools for Kids 

  • More students are showing up prepared for the first day of kindergarten than ever before.
  • New preschool classrooms are being built, particularly addressing culturally-specific communities.
  • Graduation rates are increasing for students of color with the help of community partners.

Families for Kids

  • Families receive the assistance they need to help pay for basic needs like rent and food on the table.
  • Many families are staying housed one year after receiving service.
  • With free tax services from our partners, working families are receiving important tax credits to remain financially stable.

Communities for Kids 

  • Through Hands on Greater Portland, United Way’s volunteer program, thousands of volunteers are connected to meaningful projects being held throughout our region.
  • The value of service from our volunteers equates to hundreds of thousands of dollars put back into the community.
  • Hundreds of local organizations are receiving service from our volunteers.

When we understand the causes of poverty in our region, we have a better chance of finding solutions. By partnering with local organizations and providing opportunities to convene and mobilize, United Way can address the different areas of need in our community and find strategies that will create the strongest impact.