United Way of Greater Atlanta is on a journey to improve the lives of children and families throughout the Greater Atlanta area. Nearly half a million children in our region live in communities with low or very low child well-being. Through our Child Well-Being Mission Fund, we invest in nonprofit partners that provide the supports necessary to strengthen the community. We recognize that it takes many different nonprofit partners to meet the complex needs of families. In January, we opened a request for proposals for our 2022 Child Well Being Mission Fund with grant awards being announced in May. For this round of investments, we focused on new nonprofit partners with targeted funding opportunities for small; grassroots; and Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC)-led organizations. Overall, the median budget size for the organizations funded was $550,000. We also debuted organizational capacity building opportunities to provide partners with an opportunity to strengthen their organizational processes in order to undergird their programmatic efforts. Overall, 88% of the organizations funded have a budget size of under $2,000,000 and more than half of those receiving grant awards are BIPOC organizations.

“I am very impressed with the intentionality and thoughtfulness during this open request for proposals, and how amazing it is to be able to transition our investments in this way,” says Angel Maldonado, Co-Chair, Community Impact Committee. I know the team has been working extremely hard. I am really inspired that new organizations had the chance to receive funding, and I love the fact that even for those that didn’t get a chance to be funded in this round, the team will continue to work with them and continue to be a resource to them.”

United Way received a total of 122 applications to review across all investment portfolio areas. After a thorough review of each application, United Way is pleased to announce that 32 applicants were awarded grants ranging from $25,000 – $150,000 under the following strategies:

  • Strong Learners:
    • Build Reading Skills – 4 grants
    • Increase Healthcare Navigation – 1 grant
  • College and Career Ready:
    • Career Pathway – 2 grants
  • Economic Stability:
    • Secure Housing – 1 grant
    • Basic Needs and Equitable Access – 6 grants
    • Build Wealth – 6 grants
  • Brighter Future:
    • Strengthen Resident Leadership & Learning – 3 grants
    • Community Organizing & Civic Engagement – 3 grants
  • Capacity Building:
    • Organizational Capacity Building​ – 5 grants
    • Resiliency Planning Capacity Building – 1 grant

 

In this funding cycle, investments were also made through our strategic partnership with the Georgia Division of Family and Children’s Services (DFCS) to address learning loss​ through our College and Career Ready investment portfolio area. Those grant awards are scheduled to be announced by the end of May,” says Mary Benton, Co-Chair Community Impact Committee. I participated as an independent reviewer for grant applications in this open request for proposals. It was very interesting to be able to see the application process and what United Way is asking of the organizations in order to gauge if they will be a good fit to help us reach our goals. I was very impressed with the process and was happy to do it.”

Putting our community’s children on an equitable path to fulfilling their potential requires us to work together toward a single, shared agenda. United Way knows that together, we can ensure this is an equitable, thriving community. That is the work of the Child Well-Being Mission Fund.  For more information on the grant awards for our open request for proposals or to donate to the child well-being mission fund, please click here.

This story was previously published on SaportaReport.com.

United Way of Greater Atlanta is on a journey to improve the lives of children and families throughout the Greater Atlanta area. Nearly half a million children in our region live in communities with low or very low child well-being. Through our Child Well-Being Mission Fund, we invest in nonprofit partners that provide the supports necessary to strengthen the community. We recognize that it takes many different nonprofit partners to meet the complex needs of families.

In January, we opened a request for proposals for our 2022 Child Well Being Mission Fund with grant awards being announced in May. For this round of investments, we focused on new nonprofit partners with targeted funding opportunities for small; grassroots; and Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC)-led organizations. Each of the Requests for Proposals (RFPs) identified specific strategies that we are looking to fund within each Investment Priority area: Strong Learners, College and Career Ready, Economic Stability and Brighter Future. In addition, the fifth priority area addressed was Capacity Building to address significant operational and/or programmatic impacts as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Grantees for the Learning Loss grant will be announced later this month. If you have questions about our RFP process, please submit them here

Grantees: Strong Learners

Leap for Literacy | Strategy: Build Reading Skills | Award: $50,000

The Bonner Office for Civic Engagement  | Strategy: Build Reading Skills | Award: $50,000

Fayette FACTOR | Strategy: Healthcare Navigation | Award: $25,000

Family Heritage Foundation Inc. | Strategy: Build Reading Skills | Award: $25,000

Share the Magic Foundation, Inc. | Strategy: Build Reading Skills | Award: $50,000

 

Grantees: College and Career Ready

Cobb Works | Strategy: Expand Career Pathways| Award: $75,000

Strive Atlanta | Strategy: Expand Career Pathways | Award: $100,000

 

Grantees: Economic Stability

Amani Women Center  | Strategy: Build Wealth | Award: $40,000

On the Rise Community Development, Inc. | Strategy: Build Wealth | Award: $35,000

Rainbow Village | Strategy: Build Wealth | Award: $40,000

Refugee Family Assistance Program | Strategy: Build Wealth | Award: $25,000

S.H.A.R.E House | Strategy: Secure Housing | Award: $50,000

Youth Empowerment Success Services | Strategy: Build Wealth | Award: $35,000

Zion Hill Community Development Center | Strategy: Build Wealth | Award: $35,000

Community Farmers Markets  | Strategy: Basic Needs & Equitable Access | Award: $35,000

Concrete Jungle  | Strategy: Basic Needs & Equitable Access | Award: $35,000

Focused Community Strategies | Strategy: Basic Needs & Equitable Access | Award: $35,000

HABESHA, Inc. | Strategy: Basic Needs & Equitable Access | Award: $35,000

The Common Market Southeast | Strategy: Basic Needs & Equitable Access | Award: $35,000

The Pittsburgh Collaborative | Strategy: Basic Needs & Equitable Access | Award: $35,000

 

Grantees: Brighter Future

Canopy Atlanta | Strategy: Strengthen Resident Leadership & Learning | Award: $35,000

Clarkston Community Center Foundation | Strategy: Strengthen Resident Leadership & Learning | Award: $60,000

EndState ATL | Strategy: Community Organizing & Civic Engagement | Award: $50,000

YouthServ360 | Strategy: Strengthen Resident Leadership & Learning | Award: $125,000

Housing Justice League | Strategy: Community Organizing & Civic Engagement | Award: $125,000

Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University (HEART) | Strategy: Community Led Solutions | Award: $300,000*

*This grant is funded in partnership with the Jesse Parker Williams Foundation 

 

Grantees: Capacity Building

Grove Park Foundation | Strategy: Organizational Capacity Building | Award: $50,000

Showcase Group | Strategy: Organizational Capacity Building | Award: $25,000

Common Good Atlanta | Strategy: Organizational Capacity Building | Award: $25,000

Just Bakery of Atlanta | Strategy: Organizational Capacity Building | Award: $25,000

Together Friends Organization | Strategy: Organizational Capacity Building | Award: $25,000

Georgia Center for Nonprofits – GCN  | Resiliency Planning Capacity Building | Award: $71,250

 

 

For individuals, families, and communities across metro Atlanta, the impacts of COVID-19 have left us feeling stressed, anxious, and struggling to cope. When we think about the impacts COVID-19 on children and adolescents across our region, we are also grappling with the increased vulnerability this pandemic has placed on the mental well-being of our youngest population.

At the height of the pandemic, children endured shifts to their education, social isolation from family and friends, and postponement of meaningful activities: family vacations, sports and club activities, and other social activities. Children were forced to adjust and reimage how they celebrated milestones – we witnessed proms and graduations go virtual; we watched children and young adults shared their frustrations with the world on social media. We also witnessed how children responded to the racial and social injustices happening in our country, all while having to adhere to public health guidelines on social distancing.

In a recent issue brief by the Kaiser Family Foundation, more than 25% of high school students reported worsened emotional and cognitive health because of the pandemic. Over 20% of parents with children ages 5-12 reported similar conditions for their children. While there have been provisions to maintain, or in many cases increase mental health services for children through telehealth services, there was a significant decrease in access to mental health services, as many of these interventions were provided in school settings.

United Way of Greater Atlanta has been a long-standing champion of behavioral and mental health, and school-based mental health services. Over the last 7 years, our investments have supported behavioral health providers, such as Odyssey Family Counseling Center, to render services in communities across South Fulton and through school-based interventions in Fulton County Schools. Under United Way’s Brighter Future Strategy, Community Driven Innovation, our investments helped to create a space where organizations could shift their service delivery models to meet varying needs of the community in real time – and this proved critical during the height of the pandemic. Charles Releford, executive director at Odyssey reflects on the work his organization during this time:

The provision of mental health services went through a series of changes throughout COVID -19 and its variants.  Agencies like ours had to pivot quickly and get creative in delivering services.  Initially, all services went from the familiar face-to-face format to a much less familiar virtual format. It has been off putting, to say the least, for both provider and consumer.  Overlay that dynamic with the behavior profile of a middle school child with attention deficit disorder and you get a very different picture. We have settled on a hybrid model utilizing both approaches.  Clinicians have been very creative and exhibited an extreme amount of dedication.  

Nationally, we are amid the “great resignation” in all fields of endeavor. Many of our clinicians have felt overwhelmed with the serious increase in demand and the related uncertainty of the world at large and have left the profession.  Here at Odyssey, we try to stress “self-care” for our clinicians and have even instituted an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for those who may need it. The advent of COVID may force us as service providers to continue to evolve to meet the ever-increasing need.  The one-hour therapy session every other week may be over.  Shorter more frequent sessions are proving more impactful.  We will continue to listen to our community, students, and parents to offer the most comprehensive therapy and supportive services.

As we navigate a new world with COVID-19, we must collectively prioritize the mental well-being of our children. This comes with the recognition that we must also address the impacts racism and discrimination as part of this prioritization. We must also center the mental well-being of parents and caregivers. Through United Way of Greater Atlanta’s Child Well-Being Mission Fund and the United for Racial Equity and Healing Fund, we have an opportunity to address racial inequities, make investments in communities of greatest need and support organizations, like Odyssey Family Counseling Center, to use their voice to amplify the concerns of the community, increase access point for behavioral and mental health services, such as early mental health screenings and interventions, expand resiliency and wellness efforts, and other strategies that create positive connections for young people. Together, we can do more.

This story was previously published on SaportaReport.com.

The section under race on my mother’s birth certificate says white. That struck me because although my mom is fair skinned and probably could pass for a white woman, she was far from white. In fact, my mother is a third-generation Latino woman whose parents, my grandparents, migrated from Puerto Rico. If anyone were to pull race statistics from the 1940s to better understand demographic shifts related to something like housing policy or healthcare utilization, the numbers would be skewed. My mom relayed that during that time, the option to select “Puerto Rican” was not a possibility. Digging deeper, we discussed our culture and the experiences my grandmother had as a Hispanic woman navigating an environment that failed to recognize us as a people. Too inconsequential to be categorized on one of the most important documents you first encounter in life. As you can imagine, there was many layers to this story – some painful, and some laughed through to mask the shame of being invisible. Her story and her experiences, navigating her proximity to whiteness and how she felt about the erasure of our existence would never make it into anyone’s headline.

In my role as a leader at United Way of Greater Atlanta, I have been working to ensure that the voices and stories of community are an integral part of what informs our work and thinking around neighborhood change efforts. Resident stories are utilized as a tool to shape and drive solutions to many complex issues. And if we are to ensure the well-being of communities, we must consider each other’s lives and find ways to humanize its complexities. Otherwise, our failure to do so will create a power dynamic that reinforces what Nigerian author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichiek, calls “the danger of a single story”. She tells us how deeply power is embedded in the act of storytelling. From “how they are told, who tells them, when they are told, to how many stories are told. How do we increase the opportunities that communities have to tell their stories? What do we miss when we leave out the experiences of whole populations? These are all important questions that should trigger us to persistently think about who gets to tell the story and who is missing. To address this gap in understanding, we partner with organizations like Canopy Atlanta who focus on resident storytelling.

Our investment in Canopy Atlanta is designed to help us achieve collective community change by scaling efforts that center community voice and create continuous learning exchanges between residents, community stakeholders and our philanthropic peers. United Way’s Brighter Future strategy, Resident Leadership and Learning is designed to uncover solutions through deep and empathetic listening and documentation of lived resident experiences. This has helped us in gaining an understanding of how our political and social systems at a pragmatic level, simply do not work for everyone. The bureaucracy imposed in the name of accountability or process misses the mark of who these services are intended to serve or frankly, designed to exclude. A community with deficient and lackluster social, political and economic systems will prevent us from reaching our goal to improve child well-being.

In true partner fashion, Mariann Martin with Canopy Atlanta will discuss how her organization’s work intersects with United Ways vison to expand and strengthen resident storytelling.

The importance of diverse voices and nuanced perspectives is what informs community engagement work at Canopy Atlanta. We believe story telling begins with people and their own voices. As we worked in Clayton County, we listened to the stories of Vietnamese immigrants putting down deep roots in Forest Park and the Hispanic population advocating for a more equitable policing approach. We heard from many voices – Black, brown, white, and immigrant – how they wanted a more transparent government and better food options. Each of these voices helped to tell the broader story of Forest Park.

In addition to listening, at Canopy Atlanta we equip communities to tell their own stories. We provide journalism training for community members and pair them to work with more experienced story tellers. What emerges out of this process is complex and nuanced and sometimes messy and beautiful. It is a picture of a community as they see themselves, not as they are seen. This process also allows residents to view their own communities differently. They are more aware of what is happening down the street, and sometimes they begin to attend neighborhood meetings or continue to write and work in their communities. Many times, the relationships that happen throughout the process are more important than even the story telling. As Darryl Holliday, cofounder at Chicago’s City Bureau notes, “Journalism isn’t just a career path, or a business, or a ‘pillar of democracy’; it’s the best tool we have to shape civic infrastructure and fuel the equitable revitalization of our communities.”

This story was previously published on SaportaReport.com.

This year, United Way of Greater Atlanta will provide assistance to more than 381,000 individuals and families across Greater Atlanta’s 13-county region. From the Child Well-Being Mission Fund, the United for Racial Equity and Healing Fund, and the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund, we’re providing sustainable and equitable improvements for the well-being of children, families and communities.

Because of our generous donors, more children will receive quality childcare, families will receive basic needs and housing, youth receive college planning, and families are provided with tools to build wealth. Read on for some highlights from the last year.

Child Well-Being Mission Fund

The Child Well-Being Mission Fund ensures lasting, equitable and collaborative solutions to the critical problems that stand between us and a better quality of life. The fund includes four investment priorities – Strong Learners, College and Career Ready, Economic Stability, and Brighter Future.

  • $43.92 Million Distributed
  • 223 Nonprofits Funded via 267 Grants
  • 381,000 Services Provided

82% of our grants are direct service grants, which provide active supports, services and/or programming to individuals and families.

Strong Learners 25,703 children will become stronger learners through securing housing and basic needs for their families, providing support to build reading skills, helping to strengthen family engagement, increased access to health services, and access to quality early learning.

College and Career Ready 104,326 youth will be supported for higher education and high-growth careers through strengthened academic support, expanded career pathways, increased college planning and secure housing and basic needs.

Economic Stability 113,062 individuals will gain access to childcare/afterschool care, job skills, financial training, and housing and basic needs, in order to reach economic stability.

Brighter Future 123,389 individuals will be supported through investments that expand key coalitions, increase civic participation, and improve advocacy that directly improves communities in Clayton, South DeKalb, and South Fulton counties.

United for Racial Equity and Healing Fund

Nearly 500,000 children in Greater Atlanta live in communities where the majority of residents are people of color and lack the basic opportunities and resources to thrive. The United for Racial Equity and Healing Fund tackles the systemic issues underlying the correlation between race and zip codes, place and equity.

  • $3 Million Raised
  • 7 Nonprofits Funded Through Initial Grant Round
  • $1.2 Million Granted as Multi-Year Commitments
  • Average Award of $105,889 (Additional round of funding to be considered in Fall 2021)

COVID-19 Response and Recovery

The COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund, in collaboration with Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, provided support grants to nonprofit organizations to provide services to people in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Fund rapidly distributed dollars to nonprofit organizations so that they could quickly get help to children and families impacted by COVID-19.

  • 14 Million Services Provided
  • $28.2 Million Distributed via 598 Grants
  • 481 Nonprofits Funded

We’ve improved the lives of 82,000 children, but we can do more. We know every child whose life we change will go on to change the lives of countless others, and when we work together our community impact grows exponentially to create an equitable future for all.

Work this important is never over or done alone. Can children, families and Greater Atlanta communities count on you? Unite for more today.

When United Way of Greater Atlanta was asked to lead a COVID-19 testing (and now vaccine) strategy as part of a national effort, there was little known of how the community would respond. We certainly knew to do this work, we would need the help of trusted partners to assist with engagement and outreach – and ultimately to be a bridge to access.

Across Greater Atlanta, more than 45 percent (2,721,291 individuals) have received at least one dose, and approximately 41 percent (2,448,248) are fully vaccinated. And although progress is steady, hesitancy and disinterest are common themes we encounter – we are seeing that beliefs, historical distrust in the healthcare system, and economic circumstances are leading factors to vaccine resistance.

In predominately African American, Latin X, and other underserved communities, we are seeing that COVID-19 test positive rates are nearly double that of affluent communities. These are also communities where vaccination rates are low. Additionally, we are seeing the health disparity gap widen, particularly for those managing chronic conditions like hypertension, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, and heart disease. There are other contributing factors: technology has played a significant role in how communities access information. For many underserved areas, access to reliable internet service is a challenge. Also, a large percentage of residents in communities of color are front-line or shift workers, which presents a barrier to access – if vaccine sites are operating during traditional work hours.

The Choose Health Life Initiative centers partnerships with faith leaders, Black and Latin-X led community-based agencies, and federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) to advance equitable access to testing and vaccines within the City of Atlanta, and communities in Clayton, South DeKalb, and South Fulton counties. The initiative utilizes a community health worker (CHW) model to deliver health education and supports in hopes to reverse opinions about seeking out health care, as the nature of the pandemic is ever-changing.

To date, the Choose Healthy Life Initiative in Atlanta has helped more than 4,000 individuals receive COVID-19 testing and vaccinations. In the coming months, we will continue to expand our partnerships in communities to promote education, outreach, and access to health services. We are so grateful for the work of partners like Black Child Development Institute in Atlanta have done to recruit, train and support faith partners throughout this initiative. We are also very proud of the work our health navigators are doing to help improve the lives of people of color in underserved communities.

Together, we are tackling the vaccine hurdle in Greater Atlanta – one Brighter Future community at a time. For more information on the Choose Healthy Life Initiative, go to choosehealthylifeatl.org.

Previosuly pulished on SaportaReport.com

Everyone’s eyes were on the political landscape in Georgia a few short months ago. There was a lot of focus on how we could make an impact on a much larger scale.

But how do we continue this momentum and the discussion of issues that directly affect Georgians? How do we transition this to a larger movement to drive engagement and encourage lasting change?

In order to influence positive change, you need to be proactive. United Way of Greater Atlanta’s Young Professional Leaders and LINC affinity groups met last week to discuss that next plan to action in an “Influencing Positive Change” virtual panel led by Tharon Johnson, CNN contributor and CEO of Paramount Consulting, and Rev. James Woodall, Georgia NAACP President.

Much of the change in Georgia in the past few years could be directly related to the “young coalition of voters,” and grassroots campaigns, Johnson says.

So, the talk centered around that role young professionals can play in influencing change around state and local policies that directly impact children, families and their communities across Greater Atlanta.

One way to do this is through advocating for policy that helps address disparities in our community, Johnson says.

“We got to talk about the changing demographics in [Georgia], and where there were a lot of things that white people didn’t know existed, it was brought to the forefront when we saw the unrest that was going on in this country,” Johnson says. “What I was most proud of, was how the young people stood up and peacefully protested to make sure [this] remained at the forefront.”

He said this was part of what drove people in Georgia to the polls, specifically in Black communities, and then stressed the importance of staying tuned into what was happening at the state level currently with any legislation that would potentially “disenfranchise voters of color.”

“In order to influence change, we have to educate ourselves on the change,” says Jasmine Morgan, a YPL member and senior training consultant for IHG Hotels and Resorts’ Hospitality Young Professionals Exchange (HYPE) group. “This [social] was informative and collaborative, and we got the community involved from the standpoint of having experts at the table to drive conversations around things we as young professionals may not have thought of or been exposed to before.”

IHG was a sponsor for the event, and Morgan says the partnership with YPL was a natural one because it aligned with HYPE’s mission to bring together people who have a shared passion around improving their community.

“This event has really gotten to people,” says Morgan, who leads a remote-based team spread out across the U.S. “We’ve been talking so long about how we influence positive change—whether that be ending racial discrimination, our own unconscious bias—but how do we do it? How do I make myself a part of the fight and a part of the solution?

“Sometimes if you don’t talk to people, nothing happens, and nothing moves forward.”

Attendees were encouraged to become a part of the solution by joining United Way and its work to provide a Brighter Future for neighborhoods in South DeKalb, South Fulton and Clayton Counties—all areas with low child well-being scores.

United Way of Greater Atlanta has recently aligned its work to invest in four priority areas to improve the well-being of children, families and their communities across Greater Atlanta. United, we can make sure children have more. More opportunities, more resources, more chances to grow up as strong learners who are college and career ready. We can also make sure families that are economically stable and set up for more success in the future.

And young people in this country are “literally at the forefront” of this movement to push toward a more equitable Atlanta and a more equitable Georgia, Woodall says. We just have to continue that fight and “right the line,” he says.

“When we are gone to be in glory, we’ll all be able to look down the corridors of history and see our children hollering out in our memory because we didn’t give up,” Rev. Woodall says. “We stayed true to who we thought we would be, we stayed consistent in our pursuit of liberty and justice for all people. That’s what we’re fighting for.”

This was the challenge Woodall left the group with, and Lauren Rock, Director of Individual Engagement in the Office of Development for United Way, says she’s been overwhelmed by the positive response from this discussion.

She said now the goal is to connect with all of those who attended and then introduce them to the work United Way is doing in specific communities where we are fighting to drive equitable recovery and end racial disparities. Now’s the time to inform people about how they can get involved by becoming an advocate and volunteering.

“YPL already has touch points in Clayton County, and we’re all wanting to see the impact in those areas,” Rock says. “We’re continuing this engagement and introducing Brighter Future to people, telling them why this is important and what we’re supporting.

“Beyond that, we’re having conversations at the board level, finding ways to connect with the Clayton County Brighter Future Youth Leadership Council and the work they are doing so that we might support them and amplify their voices. We want to give people the opportunity to plug in.”

Eesha Sasumana, an analyst working for IHG and a HYPE member, was impressed by the event and United Way’s broad vision for the future.

“I think United Way has done an amazing job bringing about positive change to the Greater Atlanta region, particularly in the arena of developing children, young adults and the leaders of tomorrow,” Sasumana says. “I believe continuing that momentum of developing young minds and helping them reach new heights is an invaluable resource and there are always new avenues to explore such as mentorship, skills workshops and professional development opportunities.”

One of the most powerful messages from the panel discussion for Sasumana was that even though much has been done and progress has been made, “it is important to recognize there is still more room to grow.”

There are more opportunities to address disparities and promote equality.

“When the panelists were asked for specific work those interested in influencing change can do to improve their communities and play a part in the larger movement, the panelists stressed that any activity is better than none,” Sasumana says. “They continued with a call to action, sharing resources for on advocacy efforts, tracking current legislation as well as media materials to help stay up to date on current events in this space.”

To learn more about continuing this work and how to get involved, join the LINC and Young Professional Leaders affinity group.