United Way is Here for the Long Haul: A Message from Our Executive Director

Long Haul

I had high hopes for this autumn. Maybe you did, too. I had hoped to crowd around tables with friends, laughing, and lingering, and sharing bites of something tasty. I had hoped to travel. Mostly, I had hoped to leave the worries of the past year and a half behind.

I wanted to gather with all of you. To hug you, and to thank you in person. To invite you to join me and celebrate what we did together last year. To tell you about the incredible way this community came together to support each other in crisis. To ask you to stay in it with us for the long haul.

We’re not there yet. We’re still worried, still in crisis, and we still need to protect each other and ourselves. So, I’m telling you here: Thank you. We did incredible things together last year. And, we still need you in this fight.

Your partnership last year resulted in some amazing and positive outcomes for our community. For instance, local food pantries were a lifeline for many who faced loss of income due to COVID or other factors. Here in Henderson County, MANNA FoodBank partner pantries distributed 2,377,140 pounds of food last year, with 65% more local residents accessing food assistance than before the pandemic. Thrive was able to assist 138 clients with housing services, over double the number served in the previous year, while Pisgah Legal Services also saw a big increase in clients needing help to avoid eviction and homelessness. With your partnership and funding support from United Way, many local partner agencies were able to pivot and adapt, finding ways to keep their doors open or using virtual technology to continue delivering critical services during the worst of the pandemic. Our funded partners received $685,277 in grants from United Way this past year.

Helping our nonprofit community sustain and continue important services was just one aspect of United Way’s work last year. It is our long-haul work. But responding quickly to urgent needs was also necessary. We raised and distributed almost $450,000 to organizations on the frontlines of the pandemic through the COVID Response Fund set up in partnership with the Community Foundation of Henderson County. United Way’s Day of Action last August brought the community together in support of our schools, providing 13,000 hygiene kits for every child in our school system. And, our Days of Caring this spring resulted in more than $54,000 raised and distributed to 13 local food pantries, along with 3,500 pounds of foods and 1,500 Kids’ Snack packs.

Last year, we accomplished this long- and short-term work, along with many other initiatives supporting our community, including 2-1-1, Girls Empowered, Rising Leaders, donations of books, clothing, and holiday gifts, SingleCare prescription discounts and MyFreeTaxes. All told, United Way’s total impact for 2020-21 was over $1.9 million. This means that for every dollar we raised, we put over a dollar back into improving our community.

I saw a great math equation recently:

Small actions x Lots of people = Big change.

This is exactly what United Way is about: we are a catalyst in bringing people, businesses, and nonprofits together so that our collective impact goes far beyond our individual actions.

So thank you- from the bottom of my heart. We couldn’t have accomplished this work without you.

We are in this fight for the education, financial stability, health and basic needs of our community for the long haul. I have high hopes for our community and believe that we will continue to respond, recover, and rebuild into a stronger, more caring Henderson County than ever before.

And we can’t do it without you.


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Denise Cumbee Long, Executive Director