“UNITE to THRIVE” is the theme of the 2021 United Way of Anchorage Community Campaign. We chose that theme knowing full well that some current and recent events, both local and national, make this look like a bleak season for unity.
But we’re not whistling in the dark. The rallying cry of “UNITE to THRIVE” is based on current and recent events right here in Anchorage. We’ve even got the numbers to call our theme data-driven. And the stories to illustrate its power.
You can find both the numbers and some of the stories in our 2020 annual report here.
That annual report is an encouraging pandemic chronicle of how Anchorage responded to the COVID crash that left thousands of our neighbors out of work, businesses shuttered, and hope shaken – especially for those who already were struggling to make a living and keep families afloat.
Many of you reading this now were among those who underwrote that response in the early days of Anchorage CARES when United Way and its partners like Lutheran Social Services were first on the scene with rent and utility assistance for out-of-work families.
The continuing contribution of people like you give us confidence that “UNITE to THRIVE” rings true as both an aspirational message and the method by which we work every day.
We’ve learned that while COVID is an affliction without prejudice, some deeply ingrained systemic biases based on race, income, and other factors have made some our neighbors far more exposed to both the health and economic woes of the virus.
That’s been a stark eye-opener for some of us and cause for serious reflection.
What’s been encouraging, however, has been the community response to these lessons.
Through strong partnerships and the combination of private and public money, we’ve provided rent and utility relief, childcare support, created the triple-win Restaurant and Hunger Relief that did exactly what its name implies for restaurants, their workers, and hungry Alaskans at more than 30 nonprofit sites around Anchorage.
We’ve supported learning pods so young students of struggling families could keep up with schooling – and be fueled for learning by the meals of Restaurant and Hunger Relief. We’ve maintained the Back on Track program that helps at-risk high school students earn their diplomas, even against long odds that none of us should have to face.
We took our health navigators to online and phone only – and still increased the number we connected to Affordable Care Act health insurance, Medicaid and Medicare.
And Alaska 2-1-1 has continued to be the state’s go-to line for information and referrals, standing up as an official source for both the Municipality of Anchorage and the State of Alaska.
That’s not a complete list. But you get the message.
You created the message.
Much of what United Way of Anchorage and its partners have done in response to the pandemic has been a pivot off long-range work we’ve been doing for years – in education, housing, nutrition, health care, and financial stability. That’s why both city and state have turned to us to administer millions of dollars in federal pandemic aid, why we’ve been able to swiftly get help where it was needed.
We didn’t have to build from scratch. We’re already working with friends, colleagues, and fellow nonprofits across the city. For 65 years, our donors, volunteers, and partners have powered us to be a steady light in our community, ready to respond when the call comes in.
Trust, good stewardship, and an invitation to common ground run strong dating to 1956. That’s why we’ve become a regular part of the community work of business leaders and their companies, why some of those companies’ workers have entrusted us with a piece of their paychecks for years. They know they can count on us, that all of us together magnify and multiply all the small acts of kindness, help, and fellowship that sustain us.
Today, “UNITE to THRIVE” is an expression of a new, stronger, more just community we aim to build together out of the struggle against the pandemic. We ask you, our friends and our very foundation, to stay with us so we can build that community.
You understood the value of “UNITE to THRIVE” long before we made those words the theme for the 2021 fundraising campaign.
“UNITED to THRIVE” is an expression of that steady light. Join us this year, and together we can move from last year’s herculean efforts of “Uniting to Survive” to our future state of strength, resilience, and a community where we all are thriving!