Calls to the United Way of Dane County‘s 211 nonemergency help line have dramatically increased during the coronavirus pandemic.
Nearly 5,000 people called for assistance during July — a 55% increase from the same month last year. And 1,165 calls came in during the first week of August alone.
Desperate people are seeking food. Others need help paying rent or covering utility bills. Some are looking for shelter or want a COVID-19 test.
On short notice last spring, after the potentially deadly virus began spreading here, the local United Way helped raise $2 million in emergency donations to address the most pressing needs caused by COVID-19.
Now the United Way is launching its annual fundraising campaign — with more urgency than ever. Because of health risks, the nonprofit can’t hold a high-profile kickoff event at the Madison Mallards’ Duck Pond to draw attention to its critical work and mission. Instead, it must seek donations online and from employers and their staffs through company videos and community webinars.
So please give to this noble cause if you can.
The United Way of Dane County hopes to raise $17.8 million during its annual campaign, which is 3% less than last year. With so many people out of work and businesses closed or struggling to stay open, the group’s goal is ambitious yet doable.
Paul Kundert, president and CEO of UW Credit Union and this year’s United Way campaign chair, told the State Journal editorial board this week that heightened attention in recent months to economic disparities in Dane County should help engage more first-time donors.
We hope he’s right.
The United Way does more than charity, after all. It steers individuals and families to better lives, while measuring its programs for success and constantly striving to improve. Even during this pandemic, for example, the nonprofit is figuring out how to continue tutoring students online in reading and math with an army of volunteers. Even as older volunteers understandably stop driving meals to elderly shut-ins because of health risks, the United Way has been able to recruit younger drivers. Employees from Epic Systems filled vacant routes in just a few days, according to United Way staff.
If you can’t afford to donate money this year, you can still volunteer your time. The United Way is collecting school supplies for struggling families this month and needs help labeling and packaging items.
Everyone should get involved so our community comes out of this public health crisis stronger than before.
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