News & Events

Success by Third Grade: A Communitywide Movement

September 8th, 2023

When we strengthen families by helping them access resources, we also open up opportunities for their children to be better prepared to learn and succeed in school. Your gift to United Way stays here to benefit our community today and strengthen it for tomorrow. Our work is powered by people and local businesses that are committed to supporting the strength, vitality and resilience of our community. We can do more UNITED than we can alone. Join us to be part of making our community a better place to live for all.

The Hardy Center: Providing Opportunities for Children and Youth in Linden

September 8th, 2023

The Hardy Center offers after-school and summer programs that provide children in Linden with school-based instruction, individualized tutoring and homework help, healthy meals and caring adult mentors. Children develop a sense of belonging and have access to opportunities that prepare them for future success in school and life. The center is just one of many out of school time programs across Franklin County that receives support from United Way’s Community Response Fund. Stephen Garland, the executive director, is highly invested in the children and families who attend the center. He visits their homes, attends parent teacher meetings at schools and forms partnerships across the community to ensure the kids have computer access, qualified tutors and nutritious meals. In many cases, the staff and volunteers have come back after having attended the programs as young children. Katherine Higgenbotham grew up in the neighborhood and is the center’s program director. “I know the Hardy Center impacts kids because we see the results. We see students who have made it to college,” she says. “And without the Hardy Center, I don’t know that they would’ve had enough support or even enough confidence to know that they can get there.” Together, we can make…

Festa’s Free Summer Lunch Camp

September 8th, 2023

United Way of Central Ohio partners with nonprofits across our community to strengthen families in numerous neighborhoods. As poverty has spread to Franklin County’s suburbs, so have our investments. With support from United Way, Festa’s Free Summer Lunch Camp feeds and nurtures hundreds of children each summer when free and reduced lunches through school are not available. This year, we helped Festa’s summer program serve 668 children representing 49 nationalities and 20 central Ohio ZIP codes. The eight-week camp served 7,015 lunches, saving families an average of $36.96 per week. According to Kim Emch, Festa’s founder and executive director, there are many children who don’t look forward to summer, because they know they’re going to go without meals. This camp, she says, resolves that fear and allows kids to just be kids without worrying about where their next meal is coming from. Festa camps are in their 17th year and are located in the suburbs where poverty has spread, but free camps and food are not as accessible to families as in the city. Festa welcomes children facing poverty from culturally diverse backgrounds to attend the daily camp for friendship, recreation, reading support, special activities and a nutritious, free lunch….

Out-of-School Time Programs Provide Opportunities and Resources

September 21st, 2022

According to 9-year-old Cesar, his favorite thing about the Boys & Girls Club is playing sharks and minnows with his friends. His dad, on the other hand, appreciates the Club because it has opened up a new world of friends and opportunities for Cesar. Like many children in families where English is not widely spoken at home, Cesar had communication barriers at school and at the Club when he began attending in first grade. With patience and guidance from the Club’s staff, his behavior and academic skills have improved significantly. The Boys & Girls Club is just one of many out-of-school programs supported by United Way that provide safe places with caring mentors for children and teens. Children like Cesar develop a sense of belonging and have access to opportunities that prepare them for future success in school and life. Sisters Annarose and Adeline love the fun activities and friends they’ve made through Girls on the Run Central Ohio. Their mother says the program gives them confidence and a sense of belonging. Youth programs also provide caring mentors and safe spaces, while teaching critical life skills and positive behaviors that help children succeed in school and life. Give today to…

Lakeea’s Story

September 21st, 2022

When Lakeea talks about her daughters, Zoe and Calliah, her face lights up. “We’re like the three amigos,” she says. “They are my world.” After a sudden eviction notice turned Lakeea’s world upside down, she was referred to United Way’s Stable Families program. Her Stable Families coordinator, Nate, shared Lakeea’s desire to keep life as stable and consistent as possible for her daughters. He worked with her to find new housing in their same community, set goals for budgeting and saving, and to re-enroll in college. Today, Lakeea has a new job and a home she loves, and her girls are excited about kindergarten and first grade. She was so inspired by and grateful to Nate that she’s studying to become a social worker so she can help other families overcome crises. Together, we can help families build stronger financial foundations that help them, and their children, thrive.

Daylon and Rob’s Story

September 21st, 2022

Rob was matched with his Little Brother, Daylon, more than ten years ago. Back then, Daylon says with a smile, Rob could easily beat him in basketball, their favorite pastime. That, and many other things, have changed now that Daylon is age 19 and getting ready to start college. With encouragement and guidance from Rob, Daylon has grown into a leader and role model with a passion for speaking out about the impact of gun violence. After losing three close friends to gun violence, he had the confidence to speak in front of city council and has even created a nonprofit to help keep kids safe and off the streets. “At his high school graduation, it was like everyone in his family was getting to go to college because they were so excited for him. It’s truly an achievement for him,” says Rob proudly.

Creating Brighter Futures for Urban Students

March 16th, 2022

For Chris Martinez and Joy Carson, Community for New Direction’s (CND) FOCUS program provided them with exactly what the name says – focus. Through CND’s Future Opportunities Created for Urban Students (FOCUS) program, central Ohio students like Chris and Joy tour local colleges, participate in monthly student-led service projects, and learn about viable career options from influential community leaders and local business owners. According to John Dawson, the organization’s CEO, Community for New Direction serves children and youth ages 5 to 23 through its annual summer day camp, after-school program, and mentoring and tutoring programs in more than 20 Columbus City and Reynoldsburg schools. The FOCUS leadership program, funded in part by United Way, provides leadership and development opportunities for urban teenagers. “We put a lot of energy in preparing each student to understand what college life is about. FOCUS is the vehicle that teaches them that they can be more than what they see in their current environments,” says John. For the program, staff use an evidence-based curriculum called Winning Futures, which prepares students for the job force and higher education. All students participate in a monthly service project and receive a $20 stipend per session attended. In addition,…

Tanya Rose: Helping Kids and Families Thrive in Franklinton

January 4th, 2022

You likely won’t find a stronger, more passionate advocate for Gladden Community House or its preschool program then Tanya Rose. And for good reason. Tanya grew up in the Franklinton neighborhood near the settlement house and remembers her parents using the food pantry and other services in hard times. Then she placed her son in Gladden’s preschool and was so impressed with the program and the director, she decided she needed to be a part of it as well. “The teachers were really amazing. The director was amazing,” said Tanya, who was working at a different child care center at the time. “I really wanted to be involved at a preschool to get children ready for kindergarten. When I saw the improvements being made in my son, it really encouraged me to be a part of that, not just for him but for other children, too.” Tanya is currently the director of the preschool program and has been working at Gladden for 14 years. It’s not just her very important role in helping children be ready socially, emotionally and developmentally for kindergarten that makes her excited about working there. Tanya also appreciates the holistic services the nonprofit provides for families….

Joy Carson: Heading into a Bright Future

December 2nd, 2021

Joy Carson was a good student at a Columbus City Schools high school, but she admits she lacked motivation and direction at times. That all changed when she joined FOCUS during her freshman year. After seeing the friends and opportunities her older brother gained through FOCUS, which stands for Future Opportunities Created for Urban Students, she decided she needed to be involved as well. Offered by Community for New Direction, FOCUS is one of the many local programs supported by United Way of Central Ohio that provide opportunities and resources to our community’s teens. The youth-led leadership development program serves about 30 high school students annually. FOCUS prepares students like Joy for the job force and higher education by connecting them to monthly service projects, community leaders and business professionals, college tours and other opportunities they might not otherwise have. “The FOCUS program gave Joy the opportunity to learn about things that will help her be successful, not only in college, but in life,” said Linda, Joy’s mother and her biggest fan. “It’s a program the community needs for our youth to know someone cares for them.” Joy says there are many things she appreciated about her four years in…

Student Success Stores: Meeting the Basic Needs of Central Ohio’s Students

October 22nd, 2021

Meet an inspiring local hero. As a leader behind Student Success Stores, Sarai Exil is helping students throughout central Ohio get access to basic needs. While serving in schools through AmeriCorp, Sarai noticed many students were unable to meet their basic needs. Knowing how this lack of resources impacts learning, she helped launch Student Success Stores, a nonprofit providing students with free food, hygiene products, clothing and school supplies. Since winning United Way’s Pitch to Ditch Poverty grant in 2015, and with United Way of Central Ohio’s continued support, Student Success Stores has helped more than 700 central Ohio students. “United Way has been one of our biggest partners since the beginning. They gave us $7,500 in seed money to start our first three stores,” said Sarai. “That was a whirlwind of a year—learning how to provide the service, but also realizing how many lives were being changed simply by having a space where basic needs are met.” Her “stores” are a safe, anonymous space where students are treated with dignity as they shop for the items they need for school and for their families. Whatever item a student might not have – whether it be deodorant, a notebook or…

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