Op/Ed

Letter to the editor: United Way offers ways to care during coronavirus

Addison County residents, businesses, and nonprofit organizations seem to be changing daily. Social distancing is undoubtedly an appropriate measure to take in an effort to prevent/limit the spread of COVID-19. It has also resulted in many local businesses and nonprofits assessing how they can meet the needs of their employees and the people they serve in new ways during these changing times. 
As needs in the community increase, so does our need to persevere in our good work. United Way of Addison County is getting creative in how we stay connected to the people and organizations that need us the most. I wanted to let you know how we’re responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and how you might be able to help.
Caring for our Staff: Our first order of business is to keep ourselves healthy so we can continue to connect others to the resources they need to weather this storm. In addition to basic hygiene protocols, we have a telecommuting policy in place for staff that need to work from home due to their own illness or need to care for loved ones.
Caring for our Partner Agencies: We are working closely with Middlebury College to better understand how we can support local nonprofits during a time when their operational needs and volunteer work may be changing to adapt to public health requirements. If you represent a nonprofit that has changing needs, please take a few moments to update your organization’s profile in our online Volunteer Center. This information will also help to inform and improve community coordination and communication as we all work together to address the shifting landscape during this public health challenge. If you are healthy, not at-risk, and interested in helping us meet some of these emerging needs, please visit the Volunteer Center and create a profile so we can match your interests/skills to the current needs in our county. 
Caring for our Local Economy: The needs of local employers are also changing. Some local businesses have been forced to reduce hours resulting in a loss of pay for members of their staff. We have offered a few resources for employers navigating the pandemic, including United@Work, which provides confidential, compassionate support to employees facing barriers such as emergency financial assistance, childcare, transportation, substance use, or anything that may disrupt their employment. While these meetings have typically been held in person either on or off the worksite, we are currently offering phone, text, email, and online conferencing support to our clients. Learn more at tinyurl.com/UWAC-form. 
Caring for our Community: We have cancelled or postponed many of the events we had planned for March/early April. We have moved other large group meetings and events to online formats. This includes our Community Impact Funding team meetings and site visits which will be conducted online instead of in person this year. We have continued to collaborate with all of our local partners, but have found new ways to convene and share information. 
Pandemics don’t make for easy fundraising, but if people want to help make a difference and aren’t sure how, making a gift to their local United Way is a great place to start. UWAC’s continued investment in free clinics, food shelves, meal programs, shelters, affordable housing, childcare, and transportation is critical in helping Addison County remain resilient through times like these. We truly could not do this work without you.
Your steadfast support is providing stability and allowing us to respond to a time of change from a place of strength. Please do not hesitate to call or email me if you have any questions. 
Helena Van Voorst
Executive Director
United Way of Addison County

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