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September 14, 2020 - The United Way of the Coastal Empire kicked-off its 2020 annual fundraising with a goal of $8 million. Typically, kick-off means a big event with hundreds of donors and volunteers gathering at the Savannah Civic Center. Due to the pandemic, the organization celebrated the campaign entirely via social media and with creative support from local media friends. 

Funds raised from this annual campaign will be used to support some of the region’s best-performing nonprofit agencies that are working on the frontline to ensure that every child has the potential to succeed, adults can provide for their families, and everyone can lead a healthy life.

The generosity of our business community leads the way. In 2019, workplace giving accounted for nearly 85% of the annual campaign. Led this year by Campaign Chair Chief Terry Enoch, Chief of Police of the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System, United Way will continue to conduct its workplace giving campaigns via video-conferencing and physically distanced-presentations.

“Despite the challenges of running a campaign this way and learning as we go, I could not be more proud or inspired. The need is greater than ever, but so is our courage and resolve as a community,” remarked Chief Enoch. “Raising $8 million for our friends and neighbors in need will take all of us, from every walk of life, pulling together to give what we can.”

For more than 80 years, the United Way of the Coastal Empire has provided much-needed support to families in need. United Way does what no single agency, donor, volunteer, or sector can do alone. By focusing on Education, Health, and Financial Stability, United Way mobilizes resources, corporate partners, civic groups, and governments to positively impact the lives of people who live here. 

The needs in our four-county area – Bryan, Chatham, Effingham, and Liberty – continue to grow as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to bring new challenges. In our region, nearly 120,000 individuals and families were living paycheck to paycheck with no reserves even before the pandemic. Many of these

hard-working individuals had two or three jobs to make ends meet. They make more than the Federal Poverty Level, but not enough to cover a bare-bones household budget. The cost of living outpaces their earning ability. And now, many have lost some or all of their income. 

“Many people who have never needed help before are reaching out to United Way for support through circumstances that vary almost as widely as people do,” said Brynn Grant, President and CEO of United Way of the Coastal Empire. “And many of our partner agencies are seeing great increases in demand for their services as well.”

In mid-March, United Way of the Coastal Empire activated the COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund to strategically support those who had experienced a critical loss of income directly related to the pandemic. Since that time, the community has contributed nearly $700,000 and helped more than 1,800 people, mostly with housing and utilities. More than 90% of those assisted have never needed help before. 

Because of the effective system United Way built over the past six months through the 211 resource and referral call center and in collaboration with key partner agencies, the organization was approached by the City of Savannah and Chatham County to help deliver CARES Act money specifically to assist those facing evictions, foreclosure, and/or shut-off of utilities.

Grant added, “While it is not without challenge or risk, United Way knew it had to do this important work to help more people and get this capital flowing through our regional economy.”

“United Way was built for moments like this,” stated Chief Enoch. “United Way was designed by leaders of the community for the benefit of our community. From the Imperial Sugar Refinery explosion in 2008 to hurricanes, and now a pandemic, United Way has been there working to rebuild and restore lives.”

United Way’s annual fundraising campaign will run from September 10 through November 19.

Individuals who need help can call 2-1-1. Anyone who wants to contribute can do so by visiting uwce.org or texting IMPROVE to 40403.

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