Once again, Heartland United Way is kicking off its annual fundraising campaign. This year’s kickoff will begin at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday at Riverside Golf Club.
And its mission to make a difference in and improve people’s lives however and whenever possible was never more important than now during the coronavirus pandemic.
Year in and year out since 1947, Heartland United Way and its partner agencies have been on the front lines of helping people in need throughout the four counties, including Hall, it serves.
They have dealt with a variety of challenges during the years. Last year it was flooding. Other years, they have targeted poverty and educational needs.
This year, when it quickly became evident that people throughout the area were hurting because of lost wages and resources, as well as the effects of isolation on our mental health, the United Way joined with the Greater Grand Island Community Foundation to form the COVID Compassion Relief Fund.
That effort has raised more than $300,000 to help provide for basic needs such as food, shelter and medical costs, and to support nonprofits facing greater demands for their services.
Now Heartland United Way is preparing mobilization efforts for when a vaccine becomes available, to be able to get information out and provide support for its distribution.
As Karen Rathke, the agency’s president, said in looking back at the 20 years she has led it, Heartland United Way’s team members always are ready to meet any challenge.
They were able to quickly mobilize to meet specific coronavirus-related needs this year because they already were doing so many things to help those in need every day.
A major first step was getting individuals and organizations working together so services weren’t being duplicated.
Starting in early March, United Way began to host meetings bringing together health care, businesses, education, first responders and nonprofits.
That group continues to meet, but now the focus is on recovery and rebuilding as businesses and schools have reopened and people who have been out of work find employment.
For Rathke, the aspiration to help others remains as strong as ever.
“You always want to do more. You always think you can do more,” she said. “Needs change, and you think you get ahead of one need and other things come up, so you’re always reinventing and pivoting.”
Heartland United Way currently has 17 community partners, ranging from the American Red Cross to Hope Harbor to the Multicultural Coalition. It’s estimated they serve about 30,000 people annually — probably even more this year with the increased need due to the pandemic.
Attendance at the campaign kickoff is limited due to COVID-19 concerns, but the program will be streamed via Facebook Live on the Heartland United Way’s Facebook page.
Heartland United Way also encourages us to take part in a Week of Sharing Acts of Local Love this week, including praising a community worker, committing to volunteering, thanking a business and practicing self-care. For more on this, go online to HeartlandUnitedWay.org.
As the fundraising campaign begins, there is no better place to consider investing than the Heartland United Way.
Workplaces throughout the area will be asking employees to make pledges and individuals can make donations and pledges as well. By December, it is hoped that the goal once again will be attained and services to people throughout Hall, Hamilton, Howard and Merrick counties will be ensured the help they need during 2021.
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