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United Way leading community coronavirus relief fund effort

As a community partner, the United Way of Mid & South Jefferson County works hand-and-hand with the community, local business and industry to address community needs.

The organization focuses on what it refers to as the building blocks of a better community: education, financial stability and health. The greatest risk to community health and financial stability is the coronavirus, and the United Way is working to support the community through the recovery.

“This is a disaster that we have not seen in our lifetime. The impacts are going to be felt not only in the days and weeks to come but months, if not years. We will face this disaster just as the others before it, UNITED together as a community,” said Janie Johnson, United Way of Mid & South Jefferson County CEO.

Johnson has a background in disaster services and utilizes those experiences and skills to prepare and plan for the organization’s response and recovery work.

In addition to the weekly meetings of the United Way programs, they met (virtually) with organization leaders to discuss current and expected community needs in the wake of COVID-19.

Johnson reported local programs are adapting services (where possible) to continue serving the community and fulfilling their missions.

One example is the transition of the Samaritan Counseling services to provide counseling and emotional support through video chat. United Way and community programs are also preparing for an increase in basic need request following the unemployment rate in the wake of COVID-19.

“It is evident that families and individuals will need support beyond traditional averages due to the COVID-19, as well as services like food, domestic violence shelter, mental health support,” Johnson said. “We will be there to support the programs and our community.”

Nonprofits are facing an uncertain future with their fundraisers postponed or cancelled, funding sources impacted and limited resources to confront the reduction of funds.

Adding to the challenges the nonprofit sector that provides assistance to tens of thousands each year in our community will face an increase is client’s needs. Recognizing the challenges ahead the United Way MSJC has taken action to support our local nonprofits.

The United Way Board of Directors took action last week by creating the COVID-19 fund and designating $20,000 to the fund.

The board also clarified that 100 percent of donations to the fund will be applied to direct services.

In addition to the board designation, the fund has received a pledge of $10,000 pledge and a pledge of an undetermined amount from two companies outside the immediate area that work within the Mid & South Jefferson County area.

“The challenge for every community will be that this disaster is not like hurricanes or other disasters that focus on a specific area, the world is impacted at once,” Johnson said.

The United Way has also expanded its content on Facebook to provide support to individuals and families with additional resources while under stay safe and at home orders.

For area youth that have transitioned to an adapted school sponsored homeschooling environment the organization began sharing educational resources, projects and support assignments.

The organization has also included virtual tours of national parks, cities, museums and farms for those needing a break the homebound reality of COVID-19.

“We hope that with our Facebook posts we will encourage our neighbors to take an adventure through the click of their fingertips from the safety of their homes,” Johnson said.

During times of uncertainty and crisis, people come together to support one another. COVID-19 is a new test of our collective strength.

The United Way is an organization that focuses on bringing people together during all times. Those wishing to be a part of the change, a solution maker can join the Community COVID-19 Relief Fund by visiting unitedwaymsjc.org.