One year ago, our city and state issued a stay–at–home order as COVID-19 began to spike. I don’t know about you, but what I remember most was fear and uncertainty. What would this mean for our two kids, who were in pre-k and second grade at the time? How could we keep our colleagues and families safe? How long would this last – two weeks, a month, until summer? Frankly, the only thing we were certain about was that we needed to act quickly to help our neighbors.
Looking back, this year proved to be more difficult than we could’ve ever imagined — we’ve lost loved ones and friends, neighbors, and caregivers. We’ve missed out on the celebrations of life and love that bring us closer to each other. And we’ve lived through great grief and stress, both emotionally and financially.
All I can say is thank you for facing the unknown with us and turning to United Way to support our community through this difficult time. Together, we fed families, housed people so they can safely quarantine, gave people financial aid to pay their bills, and provided critical health services like COVID-19 testing. Truly, you’ve helped save lives.
Here are just a few highlights of what we’ve done to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic with your support:
- Just days before the state shutdown was issued last March, United Way of Metro Chicago and The Chicago Community Trust launched the Chicago Community COVID-19 Response Fund. With your support, we raised $8 million in the first day and raised a total of $35 million over eight months. We quickly deployed those dollars to large networks and hyper-local organizations to supply food, financial aid, PPE and other necessities. Essentially, we did three years of grantmaking in just 3 months.
- In partnership with the Chicago Mayor’s Office, Chicago Public Schools, Kids First and the philanthropic community, we launched Chicago Connected, a four-year, $50 million initiative to get free internet into the homes of 100,000 CPS students.
- All around our region, neighbors have looked out for one another, helping when and where they can and inspiring others to do the same. One young woman’s generosity inspired MacKenzie Scott to invest nearly $100 million in Chicago-area organizations, including $25 million in our United Way.
No matter how big or how small, your actions in the past year have made a difference in the lives of our neighbors. We are proud of the work we have done together and hopeful about the continued progress of vaccine distribution. However, we know that COVID-19 and its impact on our region will endure for years to come.
As we look to the future, our commitment to you is to not return to normal. Rather, we are committed to building the Chicago region back stronger and more equitably. In the coming months and years, we are focused on:
- Making real, lasting investments in neighborhoods by accelerating community strategies that are already in place and changing the reality that someone’s ZIP Code can determine their destiny.
- Launching a new effort to advance equity by partnering with smaller, neighborhood–based and community–led organizations.
- Leveraging the incredible support of MacKenzie Scott to bring more donors and partners into our network.
- Bringing 211 – a vital, non-emergency hotline to Chicago, creating a simple way for individuals and families to access resources.
Thank you for your support this past year. As we begin to move from pandemic response to recovery, we hope you’ll continue to invest in neighborhoods through United Way. Together, we have helped the Chicago region get through some of its darkest days. And United, we will move it into a brighter, more equitable future.
President and CEO
United Way of Metro Chicago