This week is United Way of Anchorage Community Campaign Week. The week begins on Tuesday and features keynote speaker William Browning at the annual campaign-kickoff lunch. Browning, United Way Worldwide’s senior vice president and chief strategy and transformation officer, will talk about coming together to mobilize the caring power of community – in a time when so many use technologies to isolate and divide us.
The week ends Friday with the Day of Caring Food Drive to make sure everyone in Anchorage has lunch every day.
Friday’s goal is ambitious. So is the rest of the agenda of United Way and its partners throughout Anchorage and Alaska. The good that we’ve done and that we mean to keep doing is fundamental and long-range:
• Achieve a 90% graduation rate for our high school students. And then go for 91 percent.
• Make homelessness rare, brief and one-time in Anchorage — for anyone who experiences homelessness here.
• Work to make sure everyone in our city has access to health care.
• Help everyone in our city reach a level of financial security with enough food, clothing, shelter, opportunity and hope.
Our reach exceeds our grasp, and that’s deliberate because timid aspiration gets us nowhere. But, working together, what we have accomplished gives us the heart to keep reaching:
• We’ve raised the Anchorage high school graduation rate from 59 percent in 2005 to 81 percent in 2018.
• We’ve housed 100 families experiencing homelessness in the last few years, and after three years in the making, have begun a permanent supportive housing initiative to find stable homes for some of the hardest-to-house people in Anchorage.
• United Way of Anchorage has won the entire federal grant for Alaska to provide health care insurance navigators to help people find affordable insurance, which makes a world of difference in their lives.
• The volunteer tax prep program returns $5 million a year to Anchorage individuals and families – and eases the stress of filing.
• Our Alaska 2-1-1 helpline, a referral system with no equal in the state, rose to the challenges of a becoming a calm, reliable source of information after the Nov. 30, 2018, earthquake, and in the uncertain days after the governor’s first round of vetoes in late June.
This is only a partial list; you can find much more here on our website.
As always, we’re reaching out this year to companies and businesses for workplace campaigns, but we’re also reaching out to anyone who wants to make common cause with us to make life better for all of us.
The theme for this year’s campaign is Champions of Change. We’re blessed to count our champions in the thousands, from corporate donors who write six-figure checks to those of us who can hardly spare a dime, but still spare a dollar. To make lasting change we rely on the constancy of giving, one of the better angels of our nature that Abraham Lincoln called upon. That’s a bedrock quality of Anchorage, and the reason why United Way has flourished here for more than 60 years, the reason why we can dare to take on the toughest problems, dare to set goals for three, five or 10 years down the road.
Whether Alaska has been riding high or trying to ride out the recession, Alaskans have given what they can to make life here better. There’s been ebb and flow in the numbers of our annual campaigns, for sure; between economic flux and political turmoil, doubt draws purse strings tighter. We understand that. But through the ups and downs, we’ve come to a deeper appreciation for the value of what we all do together, of United Way as a convener of good that maintains its work through changing times and trends.
And the longer we do this work, the better we understand that steadfast partners are the greatest Champions of Change, that working together we can accomplish exponentially more than any of us can do alone, and that anything given – time, treasure, a passing kindness – contributes to the whole.
To all of you who have given as donors, volunteers or with any other support – thank you on behalf of all the people whose lives you have changed for better, from a student struggling for that diploma to a family living out of their car to that 2-1-1 caller who doesn’t know where to turn. You are Champions of Change. That’s not hype. That’s the truth.
And we extend an open invitation – there’s always room for more champions.