Bravehearts: Recognizing front lines during pandemic
The Greater Valdosta United Way increased support for agencies throughout the year.
United Way donates money to other area nonprofits annually. Partnerships with businesses have been able to do more for the agencies as they continue to assist people through the pandemic.
“Since the beginning of the COVID pandemic, donors have contributed over $90,000 to Greater Valdosta United Way’s disaster fund to assist families and agencies in our community,” Michael Smith, United Way executive director, said.
In March, six of our 20 agencies saw an increase in allocations to put toward their individual community efforts. Any additional funding came from money coming from the United Way’s yearly campaign and partnership with Georgia Power.
FeedWith5 was a partnership between Jimmy John’s Valdosta and United Way in April.The United Way collected donations of at least $5 that went toward buying meals from one of the five participating restaurants: Jimmy John’s, Relish, Just Love Coffee Cafe, Big Nick’s on Baytree and Jessie’s Restaurant and Catering. The meals were delivered to feed nonprofit staff and health care employees. The amount raised was more than $1,700, Smith said.
During the pandemic, the United Way partnered with CBC Bank, Art and Soul and Miller Hardware to establish the Free Little Pantry downtown and in other parts of the city to donate food. The pantry operates on a take one, leave one philosophy and includes diapers, wipes and personal hygiene items. Smith said the amount donated totaled $3,500 at least.
“We continue to distribute food to needy families daily,” he said. “We have reserves remaining so that we can continue assisting those in need during the winter.”
United Way staff also volunteered with Living Bridges’ lunch line, helping to serve meals to residents in need.
More than $48,000 has benefitted a rent and utilities program the United Way set up early during the pandemic for individuals.
“Over $9,300 in payments for utilities (came) directly out of the United Way office to workers who were struggling to make payments due to layoffs and reduced work hours,” he said.
The United Way received 35,000 masks from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in November in collaboration with Congressman Buddy Carter. The organization gave them to schools in various counties, its partner agencies, area churches and other nonprofits.
“We have to live united to get through this pandemic and economic challenges we face in the future,” Smith said. “We are all essential workers and first responders in the fight for health and safety of our community.”