Community-Wide Investments

What We Do

Community-Wide Investments

For over 97 years, United Way of Forsyth County has brought our community together to support the wellbeing of all residents in the areas of health, education, financial stability, and basic needs. Today, we envision Forsyth County as a world-class community where EVERYONE holds the power to access opportunities and resources needed to thrive – and no one lives in poverty. UWFC has evolved from being solely a “funding” organization to a “community impact” organization focused on community-level strategies to achieve lasting change for our residents. We continue to engage with diverse partners (nonprofits, businesses, government, schools, neighborhoods, and faith-based organizations) to identify collaborative solutions which will result in positive systemic change for Forsyth County. Community impact work by its nature is an evolving process of learning with our community. Over time, we have learned we cannot effectively break the cycle of poverty unless we also address factors impacting the family unit or entire household.  We are investing in non-profit partners who are working collaboratively with other stakeholders throughout Forsyth County in order to move from transactional service delivery towards transformational outcomes for their clients; we are partnering with those who are committed to working towards our vision.

United Way of Forsyth County is working to create a thriving community by investing in neighborhoods and households with a specific focus on creating equitable communities, improving economic mobility, and ensuring childhood and student success.  Along with these programs, United Way of Forsyth County funds and supports other key initiatives in our community including NC211, Housing Matters, The Data Sharing Project, The Partnership for Prosperity, and our key partnership with Neighbors for Better Neighborhoods.

To access information about our funded programs click below:

childhood and student success

Only 39% of students in Forsyth County are reading on a 3rd-grade reading level. With your help, we will increase 3rd-grade reading proficiency from 40% to 90% by closing the educational equity gap by 2025, resulting in a 90% graduation rate.

1 in 5 children under the age of five grow up in under-resourced neighborhoods, meaning that they begin first grade already behind.

  • Source: United Way Worldwide, 2020.

Why this is Important

Reading is a critical predictor of high school success or failure. This is because children are learning to read until fourth grade; after that, they are reading to learn. Forsyth County continues to have significant gaps in educational achievement by race and income along all age groups of child development. Closing these gaps will be key to ensuring the community’s future workforce can compete on a national scale and thrive. United Way Forsyth County’s educational priorities directly support those of Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools.

Quality education is one of the most powerful tools for lifting socially excluded children and adults out of poverty and into a thriving future; it is a foundational step to creating stronger communities.  While the overall graduation rate has increased to 85.8%, we continue to see significant racial disparity in the areas of reading and math proficiency.  

In Forsyth County in 2018-19, third grade reading proficiency among Black and Hispanic/Latino students hovered between 33% and 38% compared to 74% among white students, and the average graduation rate among Black and Hispanic/Latino students was 81% compared to over 90% for white students. The COVID-19 pandemic pushed virtually all instruction online in the spring and fall of 2020. Due to internet access challenges and other barriers, online instruction exacerbated existing inequities in our school system. Disparities were clearly present in online engagement by race/ethnicity. In Forsyth County, Black and Hispanic/Latino students had significantly lower rates of engagement in online instruction compared to white students. Even among those students who did engage, online learning presented its own set of barriers and challenges. Studies show that a child’s absence from the school environment has contributed to elementary school students losing skills in reading, writing, math, and to exacerbating the achievement gap between children of means and their peers from lower-income families.

What is united way doing to help?

United Way of Forsyth County is investing in programs that are ensuring children ages five to nine are on track to read on grade level by the end of the 3rd grade.  Our investments support evidence-based learning programs that ensure progress towards achieving appropriate literacy benchmarks that measure and enhance developmental and academic success, and social and emotional learning. Our goal is to improve access and empower families from historically marginalized communities to aid their young children in literacy and skills development.  We are also investing in high-quality, community-based tutoring for at-risk children in grades first through third, measuring the children’s progress toward grade level reading.  Our last strategic investment is in community-based summer learning programs to prevent summer learning loss in reading and math skills...

  • Click here to learn more about how UWFC is supporting Childhood and Student Success

    Lead Agency: Action 4 Equity
    Program Name: Freedom Schools Summer Programming
    Program Summary: Forsyth Freedom Schools is a six-week summer program designed to increase literacy, self-esteem, socio- emotional skills, and a love of learning for children in grades K-12. Their program will serve K-3 students at two Freedom School sites in Forsyth County. Through a research-based and multicultural program model provided by Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools, students are inspired participants, known as “scholars,” who spend their summer learning about and believing in their ability to make a difference in themselves, their families, and their communities, with hope, education, and action. Freedom Schools programming encourages scholars to embrace their cultural history and reinforces confidence in their abilities. Throughout the program, scholars will build their personal libraries, establish dedicated reading times, attend field trips, and become energized for learning through the morning rally (“Harambee”) which includes singing, cheers and chants. Freedom Schools are led by young-adult teachers and mentors known as Servant Leader Interns, who come from diverse backgrounds and help scholars envision themselves as future college students, advocates, and leaders. During the six weeks, the program encourages the parents of our scholars to be engaged in their child’s learning through informational meetings in the summer and multiple volunteer opportunities.

    Lead Agency: Big Brothers Big Sisters
    Program Name: Site Based Mentoring Program
    Program Summary: The Big Brothers Big Sisters Site Based program focuses on children, between the ages of K-12 grade, primarily include those from single-parent homes, who have been identified by teachers and/or school guidance counselors as ones who would benefit from having an additional friend/mentor. This program will serve children K-3 at Title One Winston Salem/Forsyth County (WSFC) elementary schools. Mentors will meet with their students during and/or after school, for generally, at least one hour. The program also plans to employ professional paid mentors who will provide weekly group mentoring while “Littles” wait to be matched with their one-to-one mentor. Activities range from reading together and working on homework to playing games or simply listening and talking. Group activities will utilize a curriculum focused on reading, social and emotional growth and on personal accountability. The goal is to support high-quality, community-based tutoring for at-risk children (Grades 1-3), measuring the children’s progress toward grade level reading.

    Lead Agency: The Salvation Army
    Program Name: Ken Carlson Boys & Girls Club
    Program Summary:
    The Ken Carlson Boys & Girls Club serves youth ages 5-18 from 38 schools in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School System. During non-school hours, the club provides a safe place with supportive adult mentors, peer friendships, and high-impact youth development programs. The program has three main strategies to create success for every student including accredited curriculums in academics, character development and healthy lifestyles. Specifically, K-3 students will use this time to hone their reading skills through physical, auditory and online books, educational games, worksheets, and online activities associated with accredited reading curriculum. This specific emphasis will incorporate early literacy programs and best practices, early screenings, individual reading plans, interactions with teachers and parents and periodic assessments to determine progress.

    Lead Agency: The Salvation Army
    Program Name: Boys & Girls Club Summer Camp
    Program Summary: 
    The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club Summer Camp seeks to provide a summer camp experience to keep kids safe by providing a positive environment where they can learn, play, and grow. The program serves youth ages 5 – 18 in the WS/Forsyth County School District. UWFC funding will support 110 K-3 students in the summer camp. Youth and families benefit from our holistic impact model and wraparound services, aimed at building the academic aptitude, health awareness, leadership skills of their youth. The summer program incorporates a variety of educational games, worksheets, reading time, STEM experiments, online academic curricula, a fully stocked library, partnerships with community organizations that promote reading and individualized tutoring to not only reduce summer learning loss but also promote learning gains. The Club offers accredited programs like Summer Brain Gain that halts summer learning loss and also lead to gains in math and reading for many young people.

    Lead Agency: Winston-Salem State University
    Program Name: The Reading and Math Summer Camp (RAMS-C)
    Program Summary: 
    The RAMS-C Summer Camp is a 6-week camp for K-3 students, in which academic tutors instruct students to assist with their retention of concepts. This camp assists in reducing the summer slide or regression once students return to school after summer. The camp consists of focused reading content, specific to students’ performance level and learning modalities which will prepare them for the upcoming grade. All strategies ensure participants are on track towards grade level reading by third grade and utilizes Learning Modality Inventories (LMI) to gain information on how K-3 grade participants prefer to learn related to literacy, comprehension strategies, and mathematical reasoning. This program builds literacy skills and mathematical reasoning, supported by research-based activities creatively aligned with NC curricula. The program’s key activities will incorporate a daily routine of reading and math literacy strategies in the morning and supplemental learning opportunities after lunch. Participants will rotate through two 90-minute rotations based on achievement (pre-test) data. After lunch, students will work in small groups on specific learning strategies from reading and mathematics. In addition, participants will engage in interdisciplinary learning opportunities in STEAM including, arts, music, media, and technology. At the end of the day, participants will engage in reading and math circles where they will explore extension activities.

    Lead Agency: Winston-Salem State Urban League
    Program Name: Read URBAN
    Program Summary: 
    Read URBAN seeks to increase reading performance for rising third graders who attend a Title One school via a six week intensive summer reading program. Read URBAN scholars will attend the program Monday through Friday. The program will target one WSFC elementary school for this program. The program, based on Harlem Children’s Zone literacy success programming, “Read 2 Succeed” will use interactive, modern, intensive instruction to boost reading performance. Scholars will focus on comprehension, vocabulary, fluency, phonemic awareness and phonics. Programming will include instruction in reading, writing, speaking, listening and small group activities. Program goals include stemming summer reading skill loss; increasing reading skill where possible and preparing scholars for 3rd grade reading proficiency testing.

    Lead Agency: YMCA
    Program Name: Summer Learning Academies
    Program Summary: 
    The goal of the YMCA’s Summer Learning Academy (SLA) at the Fulton Family YMCA is to close the socio- economic opportunity and achievement gaps ensuring every child regardless of income or background, can learn, grow, and thrive. The program is designed to provide differentiated and targeted academic support to kindergarten through third grade students in core subject areas with a primary focus on reading. The program aimes to: 1) Provide a summer experience that prevents summer learning loss and prepares and excites students for the coming school year. 2) Primarily focus on improving reading proficiency for kindergarten through third grade students; 3)Employ certified teachers to provide tutoring and academic instruction; 4) Create a differentiated learning environment utilizing a variety of learning modalities. This 10-week program incorporates the best parts of the Y’s traditional day camp with the middle 6 weeks of the summer focusing on reading proficiency for rising 1st through 3rd grade students. Students will participate in 12 hours of academic instruction a week during the SLA portion of the program. Tutors hired from our feeder school will provide instruction in a 1:10 tutor to student ratio.

    Lead Agency: YMCA
    Program Name: Best Choice Center – Academic After School Programs
    Program Summary: 
    The Best Choice Center’s mission is to help at risk children succeed academically and inter-personally. The center strives to ensure children ages 5-9 (K-3rd grade) are on track to be reading on grade level by the end of third grade. Certified teachers and staff access children upon entry to the program and based on the assessment work with them through tutoring and mentoring to improve any deficiencies that may exist. The After School program provides: • Certified teachers; • A computer lab; • Healthy snacks, hot dinner after school: breakfast and lunch during camp sessions; • Parent-friendly hours – open until 6 pm Monday-Friday; • Transportation from school to the Center; • Gift cards quarterly to students named to the honor roll. The certified teachers and Best Choice staff work with the children on homework, test preparation, and school projects. They provide a hands on mentoring environment for children to learn with The Crosby Bigs for Success program. It complements the academic work with confidence and school functioning skills.

    Lead Agency: YWCA
    Program Name: Best Choice Center – Summer Camp
    Program Summary: 
    The Best Choice Center’s mission is to help at risk children succeed academically and inter-personally. The summer program maintains a critical focus on reading and math over the summer and works to ensure children ages 5-9 (K-3rd grade) are on track to be reading on grade level by the end of third grade. Certified teachers and staff assess children upon entry to the program and based on the assessment work with them through tutoring and mentoring to improve any deficiencies that may exist. During the camp the children spend the morning in enriching activities that keep them engaged in reading and math. The program encourages parental involvement and staff/parent collaboration in promoting the students’ success. Summer camp provides: -Certified teachers; -Teaching assistants; -Experienced and well-trained staff & counselors; -Breakfast, lunch, healthy snacks; -Computer lab; -Parent friendly hours – open from 7 am to 6 pm; -Swimming lessons, tennis lessons, basketball at the YWCA wellness center; -Field trips to science museums and performance venues in the state; -Career Day with inspirational speakers; -Exposure to arts, music, entertainment.

Economic mobility

UWFC is investing in highly impactful organizations using results-oriented projects and programs demonstrating comprehensive approaches to services designed to provide Pathways to Economic Mobility for low-resource individuals and ensure a strong safety net of basic needs and health services to stabilize households. Our strategy is based on a three-prong approach: Pathways to Economic Wellbeing, Socioeconomic Wellbeing – Basic Needs, and Socioeconomic Wellbeing – Health.

Today in Forsyth COUNTY

Economic mobility can have a multi-generational, positive impact on overall wellbeing be increasing access to quality healthcare, improving housing options, and broadening educational opportunities. Unfortunately, Forsyth County ranks as one of the worst counties in the country for economic mobility for children in poor families. For many, systemic racism hinders movement up the economic ladder. Effective economic mobility work operates with a commitment to racial equity. UWFC supports programs that build Pathways to Economic Wellbeing in our community.

  • Source: Winston-Salem State CSEM, Economic Mobility in Winston-Salem Forsyth County, NC, 2018.

25% of children in forsyth county under the age of 18 currently live in poverty.

  • Source: US Census Bureau, 2018.

In north carolina, 30% of a family’s budget is spent on child care

  • Source: The UWNC Self Sufficiency Standard, 2020..


Forsyth County is ranked third from the bottom in the entire United States in terms of economic mobility. This means that if you are born poor in this county, the odds of you getting up and out of poverty are worse than nearly anywhere else in the entire country. Fewer new jobs are being created for workers with only a high school diploma. Of the 11.6 million jobs created since the Great Recession, 99% have gone to workers with at least some postsecondary education.

  • Source: Winston-Salem State University’s Center for the Study of Economic Mobility, 2018.


UWFC works with programs and partner agencies to increase economic mobility for those with the greatest need, by developing lasting solutions and addressing the root causes of poverty and inequity. In 2019, $5 million in refunds were returned to over 3,000 Forsyth County residents through free tax preparation assistance and over 4,000 residents received job skill training and assistance finding a job.

  • Click here to learn more about how UWFC is supporting Pathways to Economic Wellbeing

    Lead Agency: CARes Project
    Program Name: Car Ownership Program
    Program Summary: The Car Ownership Program moves people toward financial security by providing community funded vehicle loans and building skills through financial and credit coaching.  Reliable transportation is essential for sustainable employment, managing a household, and pursuing education.  Car ownership is an asset that removes many barriers for low-income families seeking financial mobility.  The Car Ownership Program offers financial literacy education, credit counseling, and teaches budgeting skills.  Participants are assisted with a low interest loan for a warrantied used car and matched with a long-term personal Financial Coach for the duration of the loan.

    Lead Agency: Enrichment Center
    Program Name: Employment Gateway
    Program Summary: The Enrichment Center provides employment training for adults with intellectual and physical disabilities through the Employment Gateway program, which is part of a nationwide, vocational rehabilitation network of services that helps adults with disabilities find full or part-time work. An Employment specialist helps pair the individual to a job that matches his/her skills and interests and provides on-the-job support until the individual can perform the job independently and successfully.

    Lead Agency: Experiment in Self Reliance
    Program Name: New Century Individual Development Account (IDA)
    Program Summary: The New Century IDA program provides financial literacy training for low-to-moderate income residents of Forsyth County, preparing them to become first-time homeowners or small business entrepreneurs. The program teaches clients budgeting skills and how to choose and use credit and banking products, along with other important information about finances. Clients are provided with a success coach who supports the establishment and growth of their savings account, in which they will have saved $1,500 by the time they have complete the program.

    Lead Agency: Experiment in Self Reliance
    Program Name: Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) – Forsyth Free Tax
    Program Summary: Forsyth Free Tax provides free tax preparation at eight sites throughout Forsyth County during the tax season.  This program is free to any resident making less than $57,000 per year and prepares electronic returns for about 4,000 low-to-moderate income taxpayers in Forsyth County each year.  The program promotes the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).  This credit allows qualifying residents to build their savings, pay off debts, and improve financial capability.  Volunteers are certified by the IRS.  The program ensures that everyone who qualifies for a tax credit receives it.  Two tax sites will have drop-off capabilities and accept appointments.

    Lead Agency: Experiment in Self Reliance
    Program Name: New Century Individual Development Account
    Program Summary: New Century IDA provides financial literacy training for low-to-moderate-income residents of Forsyth County preparing them to become first-time homeowners or small business entrepreneurs.  Participants work closely with a success coach to budget, build savings, and generate sustainable wealth.  Economic literacy workshops and a small business curriculum teach clients budgeting skills, techniques for improving credit, and financing options.  Participants actively work to improve their financial position and achieve asset goals.  Clients will establish a savings account they funded during the program.  Upon completion, these savings will be matched by New Century IDA and applied to a down payment or closing costs on a home or used to enhance their business.  These types of investments, homeownership, and small business ownership, are proven to help move low-income workers out of poverty.

    Lead Agency: Financial Pathways of the Piedmont
    Program Name: Center for Homeownership (CHO)
    Program Summary: The Center for Homeownership (CHO) serves prospective homeowners in Forsyth County of all income ranges but is especially useful to first time buyers and those in search of subsidized mortgages and other supportive programs.  They guide potential homeowners with comprehensive housing education, counseling, referrals, information on financing options, and other resources to prepare participants for responsible homeownership.  Additionally, CHO is a premier advocate for affordable housing needs in our community.  Enhancing homeownership stabilizes the community, allows individuals to begin to build assets, and improves the overall tax base.

    Lead Agency: Financial Pathways of the Piedmont
    Program Name: Financial Management, Education & Debt Counseling
    Program Summary: Financial Management, Education and Debt Management offers certified financial educators and counselors to assist individuals and families as they improve their financial health and reach financial goals.  Participants are assisted through individualized counsel and educational workshops in resolving debt, improving credit, budgeting, and avoiding financial crises.  Services are available to residents in Forsyth County seeking money management skills, student loan counseling, mortgage default and foreclosure intervention, and other forms of financial education to improve self-sufficiency.  This program is committed to supporting residents as they recover from the pandemic through rebuilding lost wages, assets, and greater stability.

    Lead Agency: Financial Pathways of the Piedmont
    Program Name: Senior Financial Care
    Program Summary: Senior Financial Care (SFC) provides personal financial counseling to residents in or around Forsyth County who are 60 years old and older.  For over 30 years, SFC has supported senior citizens as they navigate emerging barriers to their financial wellbeing.  SFC was established to provide remote and in-home money management services for seniors including checking writing for bill paying, bank statement reconciliation, budget and credit counseling, debt negotiation, housing and Reverse Mortgage counseling, fraud awareness, insurance counseling and assistance in choosing Medicare supplemental plans.

    Lead Agency: Goodwill Industries of NWNC
    Collaborating Partner: Financial Pathways of the Piedmont
    Program Name: The Prosperity Center
    Program Summary: Since 2008, The Prosperity Center has focused its efforts on promoting economic mobility by helping individuals through address under/unemployment, managing income, and fulfilling basic needs.  The under/unemployed services include vocational coaching; job readiness, advancement & retention training; skills training referrals; and access to more with a certified financial counselor.  Individuals are provided information on applicable State, Federal, and private resources such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Medicaid, food/nutrition services, and veterans’ benefits.  The Prosperity Center encourages continued growth.  Before fully exiting the program, clients are expected, for a year, to remain in contact by phone, emails, and face-to-face for sustained support from The Prosperity Center.

    Lead Agency: The Parenting Path
    Program Name: GREAT Forsyth Program
    Program Summary: The GREAT Forsyth Program, a collaboration with Forsyth Technical Community College, provides services to parents and guardians attending Forsyth Tech.  Participating “student parents” engage in parenting seminars, are matched with vital community resources and navigation through a process of holistic case management and will have scholarship opportunities.  According to Diverse Education, student parents are four times less likely to complete their degrees when compared to students without children.  GREAT Forsyth supports work to ensure parents/caregivers remain enrolled, persist to graduation, and find economic mobility.

    Lead Agency: YMCA
    Program Name: YMCA Literacy Career Path Initiatives
    Program Summary: The YMCA Literacy Career Path Initiatives targets adult native English speakers in East Winston-Salem who read on a 4th to 8th grade level and are looking to advance their employment opportunities.  The program offers group classes 3 times a week, one-on-one tutoring sessions, career preparation, and counseling to adult learners.  Their model focuses on job-related certifications, and mastering job-specific vocabulary.

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