Ours is a history of facing our community’s greatest challenges head on.
Since our founding in 1943, whatever the challenge, we bring people together around the table to listen, to learn, to understand and to problem-solve. The United Way is the ultimate community table.
In the 1940s, the United Way helped feed, clothe, and house the children of local families separated by the call of duty to serve in WWII, whether a father was destined for the Pacific or the desecrated lands of Europe, or a mother headed to San Diego to serve as a wartime mechanic.
During Jim Crow, our United Way made it a priority to help families facing economic and social tyranny. The United Way served low-income working families from Ridge Street—most of whom were African-American—providing healthcare, early education, and child care. The United Way also donated the property for the Janie Porter Day Nursery (now the Barrett Early Learning Center).
In the 1980’s, scientists identified a new disease, AIDS. United Way took a stand to counter misinformation and fear and helped create the fabric of services and public education in our community to ensure healthcare and social understanding for people living with HIV and AIDS.
And today, our approach is no different.
The summer and fall of 2017 was a stressful, fearful time for Charlottesville. Following the unimaginable events of May and August, our organization redoubled its efforts to serve our community as we always have done: bringing people together to build new relationships. The United Way gathered a host committee of African-American pastors, leaders of the synagogue and mosque, community leaders, our Board members, and staff. Together, on October 15 we welcomed about 700 people to A Community Table at the Jefferson School City Center.
It feels like an understatement to say that the event exceeded all expectations—not only the robust attendance itself—but, more importantly, the spirit, earnestness, and humanity that pervaded the atmosphere. Participants embraced our simple ask that they meet someone new and share a conversation over a meal.
We believe A Community Table captures the spirit and intention of the United Way itself by giving people in our community the power to come together around a table and build common ground. This is but one community table—and there will be more. Getting to know one another can lead to greater awareness and understanding, build trust and new relationships, and result in a stronger community. And this begins with,”hello.”
By building new connections and trust, we are demonstrating ‘who’ our community can be.
Informed by new relationships, perspectives, and understanding, the United Way continues to identify new solutions to issues challenging our community’s most vulnerable residents:
Some members of our community experience health care disparities and a lack of access to care. Our community table brings together Sentara-Martha Jefferson Hospital, UVA Health System/Medical Center, the Health Department, and nonprofit health care providers to identify how factors like race and income are related to health disparities and to find effective strategies to overcome health inequities.
Families continue to struggle to become self-sufficient. In 2018, we are ‘seeing’ family stability through the lens of those families who are struggling. We will listen and learn about the obstacles that stand in their way and launch the Family Investment Pilot program to partner with families to remove their barriers to becoming self-sufficient as they work towards independence.
We identified a need for greater access to free tax preparation services for low-income taxpayers, to avoid fees and fraud while claiming refunds and tax credits. While we examine how best to approach access to our Cville Tax Aid program, community volunteers prepare 3,000 returns annually. They create a $4 million economic benefit for our community, and hardworking, local taxpayers save money for their families.
LET’S GET STARTED
Our community will continue to change over time. However, our community table will always exist.
For a community table is a place where people come together to share their unique lens of the community, find common ground, and work together to solve entrenched problems and to offer opportunity. Great communities do not leave families behind.