Where does the time go? Just like that, we have wrapped up another year celebrating key accomplishments, including 95 years of service and impact in our community. From our humble beginnings in 1924, we have grown to now fund more than 100 programs at over 60 agencies that support education, financial stability and health.
As Miami has grown and changed, so has our United Way – evolving to meet our community’s ever-changing needs. And yet, our focus remains the same, serving our most vulnerable neighbors — now known as our ALICE families – they are Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. These are hardworking members of our community and although they are employed, they are struggling to cover their basic needs like housing, child care, health care, food and transportation. The truth is our community, and our economy, cannot thrive if working families cannot prosper.
There is still much work to be done, but I am immensely proud of what, collectively we have achieved, and I am pleased to share some of our successes with you:
Our work in education continues to push the boundaries and set new records. Our United Way Center for Excellence in Early Education, Demonstration School, Educare of Miami, received high marks from two prestigious national organizations for delivering transformational results for children and their families through our Head Start and Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership. Bellwether Education Partners named the Center’s Demonstration School as one of the top five Head Start programs in the nation, and the Washington, D.C.-based think tank, the Bipartisan Policy Center, praised our Center’s Early Head Start initiative for tailoring high-quality programming to meet local needs. These programs help us ensure that children in underserved communities, from South Dade to Miami Gardens, have the best possible start in order to succeed in school and in life.
As last year’s recipients of a Citi Foundation $500,000 grant, we launched our first employer-based financial wellness program in December 2018 – bringing our work in financial stability to one of our community’s largest employers. We are happy to announce United Way @WORK with Jackson Health System, powered by Citi Foundation is in full swing. Operating at three campuses within Jackson, @WORK is providing on-site financial services in financial coaching, financial education, and tax preparation assistance. Just this tax season, with our support of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, known as VITA, @WORK filed 44 tax returns totaling nearly $100,000 in refunds, with the average refund amount totaling $2,000. In addition, @WORK is piloting several new programs to meet employee demand for greater and easier access to services to better accommodate their demanding work schedules.
Miami-Dade’s small businesses are the backbone of our economy, employing 53 percent of our county’s workforce. As a result, we launched Small Business United to engage these local entrepreneurs and offer them the opportunity to “do good while doing well.” For Small Business United members, it’s a win-win: Employers can create a personalized corporate social responsibility plan that meets their wants and needs as well as grow their businesses while their employees enjoy access to a wide range of United Way services, programs and seminars for professional growth.
Our successes continued into 2019 with the launch of Women United For Our Future – our new endowment fund to establish an additional funding stream for programs supporting the education, financial stability and health of all women and girls, empowering them for generations to come. In Miami-Dade, one in every five women is living below the poverty line and as women continue to drive social change, there is growing evidence that investments focused on women and girls promote a ripple effect that impacts families, communities and even entire countries.
And in April, our United Way turned 95! We celebrated this milestone during National Volunteer Week, resulting in one of our largest turnouts with more than 500 committed volunteers clocking in more than 1,500 hours in one week. It also served as a prelude to our 9500 for 95 Challenge, to recruit 9,500 volunteers for 95 community projects throughout our yearlong celebration, starting with our April 24 commemorative collaboration with six of United Way’s original partner agencies: American Red Cross, Children’s Home Society, Jewish Community Services, Salvation Army, YMCA and YWCA. I hope to count on you to rally up friends, family, colleagues and neighbors – and join us for the Challenge.
Maria C. Alonso
President and CEO