As we begin our new fiscal year, I want to take a moment to provide you with an update on our work and where we are heading in the future. It’s hard to imagine a time before mid-March when the COVID-19 pandemic hit our community. The pandemic’s impact was quickly followed by the tragic death of George Floyd and subsequent protests and riots, which brought about increased attention to systemic racism and racial inequality beyond what was already known, felt and lived by communities of color. There is not one neighborhood, not one corner, not one individual that hasn’t been affected by the events of the last few months.
The onset of COVID-19 provided an unimaginable challenge to our community and created an overwhelming need unlike anything we have seen in the last century. The pandemic exposed broken places in our community and left those already marginalized in even more desperate situations.
Your United Way of Tarrant County immediately responded by activating our Emergency Relief Fund. We quickly infused $50,000 into the community to offset some of the immediate economic and personal impacts felt by many in our neighborhoods, especially our more vulnerable population of senior citizens. Since then, we have invested $1.4 million into the community through more than 60 organizations assisting more than 550,000 people in Tarrant County with basic and critical needs.
In addition, through federal and state grants administered by United Way of Tarrant County’s Area Agency on Aging, and through a partnership with Meals On Wheels and Sixty and Better, more than 203,268 meals were delivered to 2,480 senior citizens over the last four months. The total cost for this effort so far is $1,113,636, and we expect to continue meal deliveries throughout the course of the pandemic.
For many people, assistance by United Way of Tarrant County meant food on the table, formula for babies, ability for many to pay rent, mortgages and utilities and so much more. For some, it was the difference between making an impossible choice of buying food or a health-sustaining prescription. The long-term consequences of choices like these will be with us for some time to come.
To provide long-term assistance to the community as it recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, United Way of Tarrant County established the Rebuild Tarrant County Fund. The new fund replaces the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund and represents the organization’s shift from emergency response to ongoing recovery efforts.
It is also part of a new campaign, Reimagine Tarrant County – Rebuilding a Stronger Community, supported through print and digital advertising and social media. The campaign focuses on rebuilding a more resilient community by helping lift those who have suffered devastating personal and economic losses since the onset of the virus.
The new fund allows United Way of Tarrant County to provide much-needed support to the community as we move forward and heal from the pandemic. This includes providing funding for meals for senior citizens, students and families, assistance with rent, mortgages and utilities and other basic needs. The fund will also help create job development and training programs, educational programs for PreK-12 and college readiness, and programs for general and mental health.
Throughout the pandemic, your United Way of Tarrant County staff and board worked tirelessly to ensure our campaign finished strong while we turned our focus to helping our community during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thank you to our chair, James Powell, for leading our board of directors. James will continue his leadership role for another year. And a special thank you to our campaign co-chairs, Patricia Linares, PhD, and Hadley Woerner, for their hard work and dedication leading our important workplace fundraising efforts. Hadley has agreed to serve as chair of the annual campaign this year. I also want to recognize Kristin James, who served as chair of our steering committee in Northeast Tarrant County and Patra Stroemer, who served as chair for Arlington, as well as Kristy Odom and Shannon Fisher, who served as co-chairs of our community investment cabinet. Our volunteer board and committee members are the foundation on which we build our community support. I also want to wish a major ‘hats off’ to our incredible staff, which is led by an experienced and dedicated executive team, for going above and beyond to meet the increased work demands resulting from the pandemic. And last but most certainly not least, to our donors. None of our work would be possible without your support, trust and commitment. You’ve made it possible for UWTC to invest vital resources directly in those neighborhoods most in need of healthy food options, quality and affordable childcare, access to healthcare, veterans support and benefits navigation and a host of additional services.
Finally, we cannot continue to ignore the connection between racial inequality and our community’s health and well-being.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Black people makeup 23 % of all COVID-19 deaths and are 2.5 times more likely to die from the disease as white people. Other groups, particularly Latino, are disproportionately affected as a result of socioeconomic disparities and chronic illnesses, among other factors.
These numbers confirm what we already know in Tarrant County. As we look toward the future and imagine a vibrant and strong community, United Way of Tarrant County will place even greater focus on systemic inequality and its relationship to health and well-being. Our plan is to use our knowledge and partnerships to create awareness and develop programs that bridge the gap, so all people in our community have equitable access to healthcare no matter their race or financial status. You will hear more from me as we move forward.
It is my honor and privilege to serve as president and CEO of United Way of Tarrant County. Many challenges lie ahead, but I am confident with continued support from all of you we will get through the pandemic, assist those most in need and rebuild Tarrant County into an even more vibrant community.
Leah M. King