By Meghan Barp, president and CEO of United Way Greenville County
Over the course of United Way’s nearly 100-year history in Greenville County, it’s safe to say few years, if any, have been quite like 2020. Yet, in spite of it all, we stand more strongly united with our community than ever before.
The arrival of COVID-19 in March compounded existing challenges and dramatically raised the level of need in Greenville County. People who never imagined they would need assistance are now reaching out to United Way for help covering rent and utilities, or a box of food to feed their families.
Through the uncertainty of quarantines, business shutdowns and school closures, one thing remained constant: This community’s incredible generosity and willingness to step up and help each other.
Since the launch of our COVID-19 Community Relief Fund, the combination of individual donors, foundations, corporations and our public CARES Act funding have contributed more than $2.6 million to help our neighbors. These dollars are being deployed to meet Greenville County’s most immediate relief and recovery needs, including additional support to local food pantries, emergency housing initiatives, and utility assistance through the “Keep the Lights On” fund. Though challenges and uncertainty remain around the pandemic, your tenacity and continued support keeps us moving, and for that we thank you.
In May our national community was tested again with the murder of George Floyd, reigniting the undeniable need for systemic change in support of equitable and diverse communities in our country. Cities coast to coast came face-to-face with racism in their own communities by educating and re-educating themselves on historical oppressions that continue to affect lives every day.
To support an ongoing conversation around racial inequities in our community, United Way, the Greenville Chamber of Commerce and Urban League of the Upstate formed the Racial Equity and Economic Mobility Commission (REEM) to identify matters of social justice and disparities in education, health and income regarding the Black community of Greenville County. Through REEM, 36 community leaders are actively collaborating to develop systems-level change in Greenville County.
Simultaneously, 2020 brought a year of change for United Way as we completed a significant evolution of our work, one that will help us better meet the unique challenges we face, and help us realize our vision of a Greenville County where all people have access to the opportunities to achieve their full potential. As result, our strategic shift to improving economic mobility for individuals and families in Greenville County provides a clear focus on education, financial stability and vibrant and equitable community initiatives.
In 2020, we invested over $12.6 million into our partner agencies and direct service initiatives.
— United Way of Greenville County (@UWGreenvilleSC) December 7, 2020
In October, we committed to a $3.75 million investment across 67 partner organizations working to improve lives and strengthen the community through education, financial stability, and vibrant and equitable community work. These investment decisions were informed by over a decade of community conversations, 18 months of focused research, data analysis, and a rigorous application process — all to ensure we are maximizing every dollar you donate in pursuit of our bold community goals.
Investments in partner organizations are only one way we work to make an impact. We are closely connected to the needs of Greenville County residents, allowing us to quickly expand initiatives and fill gaps like no other organization. We invest significantly in strategies like OnTrack Greenville and the Opportunity Center, which directly help people with the most need, in real time. In 2020 we have invested over $12.6 million into the community through our grants to partners and direct service programs.
We believe these investments will help create change where it’s needed most. Working together with our partners, we must do all we can to increase economic mobility and educational opportunities for marginalized, disconnected communities. By reducing social and economic barriers for all who live in Greenville County, we’re creating opportunities for everyone to thrive.
If you have not had a chance to make your 2020 contribution in support of this critical work, we ask you to join us now at unitedwaygc.org/donate. Whether you can give $5 or $5,000, we’re counting on your support.
It’s in times of adversity where true colors shine, and we at United Way have been inspired by the generosity and tenacity of our community in 2020. Together, we can influence and impact lives — shaping a future where all are empowered to reach their full potential. Please join us in this continued mission as we collectively reach new heights, today and in the months, years and decades to come.
Together we are truly Stronger United.
President and CEO
United Way of Greenville County