COVID 19 – News & Updates
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a major impact on the economy and caused many people to struggle to meet their basic needs, stay connected and healthy and keep up in school. We’ve seen hard times in our community, but we are also seeing our region come together to help.
Keep reading to learn about some of the ways our local United Way is responding to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
COVID-19 has affected every single person in our region. This unprecedented time called for community organizations in our region to come together to help.
Central Virginia COVID-19 Response Fund
Designed to support front-line organizations in our region, the Central Virginia COVID-19 Response Fund awarded more than $4.4 million* to local nonprofits helping people impacted by COVID-19. United Way partnered with the Community Foundation for a greater Richmond to raise money for the fund, and we provided a $100,000 match on donations made through our website.
More than 70 organizations throughout the region received funding to help them ease the impacts of the pandemic by distributing computers to students experiencing school closures, provide childcare to children of essential personnel, provide basic needs to members of our communities experiencing financial hardships and much more.
*Award amount as of August 4, 2020.
United Way’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program delivers millions of dollars in tax refunds back to low- and moderate-income households in our community year after year. When our tax sites were closed due to COVID-19, we quickly shifted our focus to offer this program online through a secure portal where people could speak directly to our IRS-certified volunteers and have their taxes filed for free. We also provided ongoing guidance and information to help people understand their options as the tax deadlines shifted.
In 2019, United Way’s pilot Kindergarten Countdown Camp helped nearly 20 young children with little or no preschool experience start kindergarten confident and ready to learn. This year, we built on our success in 2019 while making sure students and families were able to stay safe and healthy.
Our virtual Kindergarten Countdown Camp ran from July 6-30 and included the same elements that made last year’s camp so successful. From weekly workshops with parents to new books and supplies for students, this program helped more young children prepare for the school year ahead — something that is particularly important during this period of uncertainty. The 2020 KCC Outcomes Report highlights just how important this program is to our region.
While this program was designed for students and families in Dinwiddie County, resources from this year’s program are available to download on our website. We encourage families across our service area to take advantage of these tools to help your young child prepare for kindergarten.
As we all rapidly adjusted to this new normal, each of us faced challenges in our home and work lives. To help our community work through this turbulent time, we put together resources for anyone to use.
When COVID-19 hit, we launched a toolkit full of resources for individuals, families and employers to help navigate this challenging time. This toolkit includes information for those experiencing a job loss, support for parents who are navigating a changing school landscape, suggestions for employers who want to foster resiliency in the workplace and more. Resources are available online and updated regularly.
Time and time again, we see generous community members reach out and ask what they can do to help in times of need. We put together the below volunteer opportunities that can be safely done during the COVID-19 pandemic.
United Way invited volunteers to write and draw notes to the critical organizations and individuals helping others through the impacts of COVID-19. This opportunity gave all community members a way to encourage others from the safety of their homes. United Way continues to help volunteers distribute hundreds of letters through this initiative.
Access to learning resources outside of the classroom have become particularly important this year. With the help of our dedicated volunteers, we were able to install six new Little Free Libraries throughout the region, complete with more than 1,200 books for the community. You can find a full list of Little Free Libraries and collaborators here.
While our Literacy Kit efforts look quite different this year, we are still working to collect donations of completed kits. In spring 2021, we hope to distribute 1,000 kits to schools in our region with the help of volunteers who support this initiative by collecting, assembling and delivering kits for young learners.
As more people experience hardships brought on by COVID-19, critical services that were already in our portfolio of work are more important than ever.
211 is a free, confidential referral and information helpline and website that connects people of all ages and from all communities to essential health and human services, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. A trained professional speaks to callers, learns about their situation and suggests sources of help — all using one of the largest databases of health and human services in Virginia. As COVID-19 continues to have an impact on people’s ability to obtain food, shelter and stable employment, our support of 211 Virginia has been more critical than ever.
In partnership with Dominion Energy, United Way of Greater Richmond & Petersburg has continued to manage the distribution of funds to households in need of support. This year, Dominion Energy plans to allocate an additional $1 million to expand the program to help small businesses, nonprofits and other people who have been affected by COVID-19.
We have continued to support our funded partners as they experience changes in programming and heightened levels of need. Below are a few examples of how our partners have altered programs funded by United Way due to COVID-19.
Housing Families First
United Way funds the Hilliard House Emergency Shelter which provides emergency housing for families and children experiencing homelessness. Housing Families First has worked to set guidelines for supporting homeless children in a virtual learning environment that are being used by homeless shelters beyond our region.
United Way funding provides access to donated specialty medical care to uninsured, low-income residents. In response to the pandemic, they extended some patients’ coverage while clinics moved from in-person to virtual visits; assisted patients with re-enrollment; reached out to active patients to explain what to expect, including screening questions and area COVID-19 hotlines; and rescheduled some visits to be virtual and explained different protocols that patients could expect.
Circle Center Adult Day Services
United Way funding supports individualized day support services for adults with disabilities and age-related conditions to support community-based living and prevent isolation. When the agency paused in-person programming due to the increased health risks for clients, they worked to develop virtual programming to share with participants and caregivers. The videos covered “a day at the Center” for participants, allowing them to participate in art projects, sing alongs, craft projects and wellness routines such as yoga, while in the safety of their own homes. Circle Center also provided twice weekly reassurance calls for participants and caregivers to keep them connected with the Center and to serve as a resource to connect them to other services they needed.
FRIENDS Association for Children
United Way funds preschool child day care at FRIENDS Association for Children which provides quality childcare services in low-income neighborhoods. When the pandemic struck, FRIENDS remained opened, following health and group size restrictions, in order to provide childcare services for families of medical personnel and essential workers. In addition, FRIENDS converted all meetings spaces at their two centers to provide a supportive study hall space for school-age students who will be doing schoolwork virtually. The students will receive breakfast and lunch, recreation and computer time.