Dear United Way Friends,
I hope this continues to find you and yours safe and healthy and that your 4th of July was fun.
In my last note, I wrote about racial equity and how the United Way of Forsyth County is advocating for change at a systematic level. If you didn’t get the chance to read that message, click here to view. As an example, I mentioned our Place Matters strategy that we launched in 2014.
At the time, our team did this work because it was the right thing to do. We recognized that our community had made tremendous progress over the years, but it just wasn’t enough. We saw too many people facing tough challenges that are more prevalent in some neighborhoods than others.
Now, as I reflect on those days, I realize we were actually infusing equity into our work. I’m proud of this but I also know we need to continue with even more intentionality in our work around equity.
Part of equity is ensuring that everyone is invited to the table, listened to, and making sure their voice is heard. In Place Matters, we created an Impact Council for the 13 neighborhoods made up solely of residents. This group set the initial priorities for our investments and continue to make decisions about what programs and services will best address the challenges, as well as assess progress. Their leadership is what makes the Place Matters strategy sustainable and we are grateful for the commitment of so many residents.
The exciting part is that Place Matters is serving as our road map of how we may continue to focus on equity and why. We can see that our entire community is better off when all its neighborhoods are healthy and thriving and that you get better, sustainable results when you build upon the gifts, skills, and talents of the residents.
It’s all about doing “with” rather than “for”.
Through our partnership with Neighbors for Better Neighborhoods (NBN), a local grassroots community organizing agency, we’ve been engaging residents to make sure our investments align with the needs of those who live and experience their neighborhoods and those severe realities every day and we’re seeing results.
Last year, United Way’s Place Matters strategy invested in 21 programs and in just its third year of funding, these programs provided over 12,000 services to residents! With only 5,500 residents in the footprint, it tells us that the programs we’re investing in have value to the people who live in these neighborhoods.
Knowing how critical education is to success, I’m happy to report that last year 72% of students receiving support from our Place Matters’ educational programs improved their academic performance or learned new skills.
Finally, owning your own home is one of those hallmark moments many of us strive for in life. Since we began funding, 9 new homes have been built in the Bowen Park neighborhood because of LER: Building Blocks – a partnership between Liberty East Redevelopment and Habitat for Humanity.
The best part? These were the first new homes built in this neighborhood in 50 years! This is the kind of progress that creates a ripple effect.
We recognize there is still a lot of work to do in our community. Our team spent the first two years building relationships and trust with residents. We couldn’t become true partners without it. We know building equity is not a sprint, but a marathon. With our running shoes on, United Way of Forsyth County is committed to continuing, sustaining, and expanding its impact in the Place Matters footprint and beyond.
We will continue our endeavor to foster a better quality of life for all OUR neighbors.
Thank you for your continued support of our community – and thank you for Living United!
President and CEO
United Way of Forsyth County