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Column: Together, we proved that when we stand UNITED, we shine like stars

April 13th, 2022

Reprinted from The Columbus Dispatch – April 13, 2022


While our community will feel the effects of the pandemic for years to come, it’s important to acknowledge the incredible ways we stand united in times of crisis.

In 2021, United Way of Central Ohio, together with our corporate partners, individual donors and volunteers, raised $24 million resulting in program support for thousands of nonprofits.

That money helped local families meet basic needs, children and youth achieve student success and much more.

For example, Star House provided 819 youth experiencing homelessness with food, clothing, and a safe place to stay. Community Development for All People provided fresh and healthy food to 23,500 people. And Directions for Youth and Families helped 100% of children in their program improve Get Ready to Read scores.

We measure success by actual lives changed, and those are just a few of the actual, tangible results that come from supporting United Way of Central Ohio.

We know corporations and individuals have many ways and opportunities to support the causes they care about, and we’re grateful for their unwavering support.

In 2023, United Way of Central Ohio will celebrate 100 years of working together with our neighbors to create a community where everyone can thrive—because that’s what we stand for. We strive to address today’s challenges and tackle the root causes of our community’s most pressing issues, particularly third grade reading proficiency and equity.

During the 2020-21 school year, 12 out of 16 Franklin County school districts did not meet third grade reading proficiency standards.

It is a major concern because research confirms that when children can’t read proficiently by third grade, they are four times more likely not to graduate high school, impacting their ability to succeed economically later in life.

United Way of Central Ohio, together with school districts, community leaders and nonprofits, is mobilizing all of central Ohio to help more children reach critical milestones, ensuring our community’s future success.

Also, while the pandemic amplified the need for social services and community support, the most vulnerable people in our community were already left behind. That’s why United Way of Central Ohio is focused on improving diversity, equity and inclusion. For example, our nonprofit partners must maintain or achieve a racially diverse board of trustees by 2025, and we’ve increased funding for nonprofits led by CEOs who are people of color.

We also launched the Learn United educational series, which highlights the cultures and concerns of underrepresented local populations. Together, we are aligning resources and partnerships to ensure fair treatment of everyone.

It’s true that when central Ohio stands united, there’s nothing we can’t achieve. In 2021, we logged more than 1,500 volunteer hours and added more than 1,000 new users to our volunteer platform, which provides local in-person and virtual opportunities for groups, families and

Whether reading to kids, hosting online book drives or delivering meals to seniors, our community is a powerful force for good.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Only when it’s dark enough can you see the stars.” So as we slowly re-emerge into the world, wary from struggle, do not forget that this challenging time revealed a strong and resilient community.

Together, we proved that when we stand united, we shine like stars even in the darkest of times.

Lisa S. Courtice is president and CEO of United Way of Central Ohio, one of the largest United Way organizations in the country. 

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