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.

Have you ever stopped to watch a tree swaying with a breeze?

Imagine sitting in your favorite park or looking out your window at a tree whose limbs spread wide reaching out 20 or 30 feet, with branches reaching two, maybe three stories toward the sky. With leaves that are starting to turn golden with the onset of fall, the tree is healthy. But what if instead of stretching far and wide on both sides, there were a set of broken branches? Or what if the leaves in the middle section were shriveling and turning brown?

What if there were signs of decay or damage not only to that one tree but to several other trees in different parts of the park?

When we think about our community, we can think of it like a forest of trees. Some trees represent our health system, some represent our education system, our housing system, financial system and so on. On the surface, the trees don’t seem connected, but what if there was the same problem with several trees?

We would need to look beneath the surface, examine the roots and its groundwater.

For too long in Greater Atlanta and across our country, systems we interact with every day have been trying to fix or help one tree at a time. But the problem is in the groundwater. What should provide essential nutrition and make a system strong has been tainted by systemic racism.

Similar to a forest of trees, a community thrives only from the ground up.

Our challenge is that across the Greater Atlanta region there are too many trees that are not thriving — where the branches and leaves have been fractured by serious storms and weakened at the roots because there was poison in the groundwater.

Groundwater represents the unseen ideologies that feed policies and investments—the roots of our communities. When the groundwater is poisoned, the roots feed that poison into our community through disregard and disinvestment for Black and Brown communities, embedding racial inequities in health, education and economic systems. As these policies “branch” out, our community becomes fragile and unable to weather the next unprecedented storm.

To have the thriving community we all aspire to, we must end systemic racism. We must invest in solutions that look to address the root causes of the problem. In other words: For groundwater problems, we need groundwater solutions.

United Way of Greater Atlanta launched its Child Well-Being efforts in 2017 in hopes of addressing these disparities. But the problems did not start then. To United Way of Greater Atlanta and many of our partner nonprofits across the metropolitan area, the data about racial disparities in health, education, housing and income is not new. What is new is the way we are looking at the connections across those issues.

With a groundwater approach, we see that the problem is not in the struggling students, the overworked parents, the uninsured neighbors. Instead, we see that the way institutions are set up and the policies in place prevent resources from flowing where they are needed most. We see that socio-economic difference does not explain the racial inequities that exist. We see that systems and representatives of those systems treat people differently based on race.

Decades of disinvestment has created instability, limited the opportunity of children and locked Black and Brown communities out of economic prosperity, and these policies have made the branches of Greater Atlanta weaker.

Acknowledging this reality is necessary, but not the end of our journey. We are on an equity journey. Today in the midst of so much turmoil and tragedy we have found information, insights and partners that renew our hope that this community can close the racial divides and strengthen the roots of our community.

By reading publications like Groundwater Approach by the Racial Equity Institute, attending trainings with the National Equity Project, listening to leaders at Partnership for Southern Equity, Annie E. Casey Foundation, TransFormation Alliance, and partnering with organizations like the Housing Justice League and New Georgia Project, to name a few, we call attention to the change needed to create a more inclusive Greater Atlanta.

When United Way announced the United for Racial Equity and Healing Fund in July 2020 to tackle the systemic issues underlying the correlation between race and zip codes, place and equity we knew that others would join taking on this challenge. We knew that it was time to unite and heal together.

“The correlation between race, zip codes and its effect on child well-being makes it critical for United Way to address place and racial equity strategically,” Katrina D. Mitchell, Chief Community Impact Officer at United Way of Greater Atlanta, said previously. “The decisions and actions we make today will significantly shape the future.”

And those actions, Mitchell says, are to invest in structural solutions that create effective, long-lasting change and address the root causes of racial inequity. To address these causes, we must invest in civic engagement, leadership and capacity building and education and awareness.

“The establishment of the United for Racial Equity and Healing Fund adds significant momentum towards the realization of a more just and inclusive Greater Atlanta,” Nathaniel Smith, Founder and Chief Equity Officer for the Partnership for Southern Equity, said in a previous report.

Smith encouraged others to participate in civic leadership, adding that “the journey towards racial equity for current and future generations is a difficult path to follow.” But it’s a necessary path to follow.

Help United Way create a more just, equitable and inclusive Greater Atlanta. Donate today to the United for Racial Equity and Healing Fund.

Jacob Ethel remembers the initial feeling of anger that swept over him when he first watched the video of George Floyd. He says he saw the “callousness” of the police officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck and the surrounding officers who stood by and did nothing.

“It was eye-opening for me,” he says. “Especially being an African-American male in this country, you tend to internalize these images… I can easily see myself as George Floyd in that situation and under the knee of the police officer. That was the hardest fact—that could be me. It was heartbreaking.”

Floyd, a Black man from Minneapolis, Minnesota, died May 25 after being handcuffed and pinned to the ground by a white police officer who held his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly eight minutes.

Floyd’s death was captured on video and shared worldwide, which set off a global movement of protests. Protestors spoke out against yet another senseless and preventable death of a Black individual at the hands of police. These instances are common in Black communities, protestors say, and are a byproduct of systemic racism in America.

Ethel watched as tens of thousands of people assembled in the streets of Atlanta in the days following Floyd’s death to express their outrage and call for change. He wanted to express his thoughts and further the conversation within his own circles, so he began to reach out to friends and colleagues. Ethel, who is serving his second year on the board for United Way of Greater Atlanta’s Young Professional Leaders, says he sent a message to other YPL board members.

“Once I sent that message, I started to get a flood of responses from others telling me how they felt [that day],” he says. “Disenfranchised,” “Anxious,” “Afraid,” were some of the first words that Ethel says the group of YPL members mentioned. But then, as the discussion grew, those morphed into “Determined,” “Motivated,” “Focused.”

“We thought about what we could do to make this a more active communication so we can do something better to support our members as well as the larger community,” he says.

That’s where the conversation started with the Lead. Impact. Network. Change (LINC) and YPL affinity groups at United Way. The group ultimately decided to launch a #howareyouatl campaign to ask its members how they were doing—to check in.

The question, simply phrased, “How are you?” had become hollow, akin to “Hello,” Ethel says. But now, with the current state of the

world—not only in the midst of large-scale protests, but also in the midst of the novel coronavirus pandemic—this question had taken on new meaning.

What that video of George Floyd showed was a small representation of a much larger issue, Ethel says. The actions in that video were “devoid of humanity,” he says.

“We are better than that as a community, and as a country we have to do better,” Ethel says. “No matter who it was—it doesn’t matter the skin color, race, creed or religion. We have to do better as a community. We can’t stay silent any longer and allow these things to continue.”

The deaths of Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and countless others related to racial violence remind us that even in the midst of a pandemic, there is another disease we need to fear, fight and prevent: structural racism.

United Way of Greater Atlanta has always fought to end structural racism and upend the longstanding inequities that undermine the well-being of children, families and communities in our region.

United Way’s Child Well-Being Index, a set of 14 measures assessing the presence or absence of basic opportunities and resources that all children and families need to thrive, showed in 2017 that nearly 500,000 children live in communities of low child well-being. Those communities are occupied by a majority of Black and Brown residents.

The correlation between race and zip code comes with vulnerable populations and low levels of child well-being—making it critical for United Way to address place and racial equity strategically. United Way recently launched the United for Racial Equity and Healing Fund on the belief they are uniquely equipped to play a role in bringing together communities around this critical need. You can donate to this fund today.

The best way to overcome years of inequity is by coming together and creating a dialogue around these issues, Ethel says.

“That’s what we’re pushing for, not only in YPL but worldwide,” Ethel says. “Our board members have taken the challenge to make sure this continues to our individual organizations.

“[United Way] supports a myriad of causes to improve the common good of communities around the world, and that’s why I continue to donate and support with my time,” Ethel says. “That’s why we have to continue these conversations. We need to make sure systemic racism in our country and discrimination is not tolerated.”