This past year was a time of unprecedented hardship in our region due to widespread impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, it was also a reminder of the dedication of so many community members to helping those in need. Now, as we look towards the future, UWNCM once again seeks to mobilize the caring power of community to reimagine and rebuild an even stronger North Central Massachusetts.

Since the onset of the pandemic, UWNCM has worked overtime in collaboration with our many partners to respond to both immediate and on-going threats. We are heartened by the collective work of our corporate supporters, donors, volunteers and advocates, who joined together to help communities face direct effects of the pandemic and its resulting economic fallout.

In March 2020, we launched our Stand United COVID-19 Response Fund to help local agencies provide for basic and long-term needs of people impacted by COVID-19. Thanks to generous donors, the fund raised more than $385,000. To date, we have distributed $375,400 from the fund in 31 grants to 19 local agencies.

To maximize our impact, we strategically distributed funds in response to evolving needs. Initial distributions focused on providing for basic needs, such as food and household essentials, while subsequent grants targeted worker relief, providing financial assistance to enable people to maintain employment, including housing/rent assistance, utility bills and car payments. Most recently, we distributed additional grants to food pantries to combat rising food insecurity in our region.

Our partners have shared many heartwarming stories of people who benefited from the Stand United COVID-19 Response Fund. For example, an elderly couple from Athol needed assistance after the wife became very ill with COVID-19 and her husband had to quit his job to care for her. The couple fell behind in their bills and feared they would lose their home when they could not afford their property tax. Through the Stand United COVID-19 fund, we able to keep them in their home while they got back on their feet.

In addition to grants, throughout the pandemic, UWNCM led efforts to keep the community updated about COVID-19 resources and needs by holding meetings with local stakeholders and ensuring United Way’s Mass 211 hotline was able to continue to provide comprehensive information and referrals related to the virus.

As vaccinations become more widespread and restrictions are gradually lifted, UWNCM will continue to respond to pressing needs while also shifting our focus to reimagining and rebuilding a stronger and more resilient community—one that is better prepared for future crises and offers everyone the opportunity to thrive.

We will work with our dedicated partners to tackle the root causes of problems, providing solutions that lead to permanent changes in the community as a whole and in individual lives. For example, through our Financial Health for Working Families initiative, we are helping struggling families overcome the cycle of poverty to achieve financial stability by building a network of integrated services including financial coaching and credit building.

Additionally, the UWNCM Community Impact Fund is supporting programs in the region that meet basic needs as well as those that provide a path towards growth and economic self-sufficiency by offering opportunities for children and youth and financial services for families.

“While the last year and a half has put significant strain on our community, we are encouraged by the spirit of generosity in North Central Massachusetts—a spirit that is embodied by one of the most formidable and dedicated fellowship of philanthropic leaders in the country,” says UWNCM President Kory Eng. “Thank you for your support and commitment to building a brighter future for all in our region.”