SJR Column: Sunday December 27, 2020

As originally published in the The State Journal Register.

2020 was a very difficult year for many families. Many in our area lost jobs or experienced significant wage losses due to inconsistent work. Others lost their homes or found themselves unable to pay the bills or afford groceries.

At the beginning of the year, none of us were prepared for what we would confront. And no one knew how many in our community would need our help. Faced with a once-in-a-generation challenge, you stepped up.

United Way donors, volunteers and our entire community came together in an unprecedented way. We helped our neighbors who were most impacted by the global pandemic and economic downturn get the relief and support they needed.

United Way of Central Illinois and The Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln joined together to create the COVID-19 Response Fund to deploy resources to community-based organizations throughout Illinois’ greater capital region. Together we raised over $905,000 for the COVID-19 Response Fund and funds were distributed to 85 local organizations. With support from the COVID-19 Fund, these organizations were able to continue to provide life-changing services to members of our community affected by the pandemic. United We Pipe, the father-son bagpiping duo, also raised more than $10,000 for COVID-19 relief.

United Way’s 211 call center was working on the front lines of the pandemic, providing real-time information on social services and other resources to those in need. If you know a family or neighbor in need, urge them to call 211, or 1-888-865-9903, to talk to a trained specialist who can refer them to programs providing the appropriate assistance.

Even in these trying times, the spirit of community and volunteerism is still alive. Our traditional Day of Actions looked a little different, but our amazing volunteers once again blew us away. In an effort to support local families, over 3,700 diapers, 134 packs of baby wipes, 440 ounces of baby formula and 614 packs of snacks were collected at our United Way Baby Shower. During our Fall Day of Action, more than 1,800 pounds of food was collected for local micropantries.

John Kelker is the President at United Way of Central Illinois.

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