United Way Midland campaign off to a strong start

United Way of Midland County has raised $1.9 million after almost three weeks into the agency’s 2021 campaign. The goal is $4.7 million. Money raised will help local partners bring hope and help to residents in need, especially following a global pandemic and devastating flood.

Holly Miller, president and CEO of United Way of Midland County (UW), calls it  “a one-two punch.” 

“The combination of a global pandemic and a 500-year flood have taken their toll,” she says. “The response from our community to lend a hand through those emergencies has been inspiring. But like any disaster, we are just now seeing the long-term impact. The needs in our community are on the rise and we are working collaboratively to ensure we create stability, hope and a path forward.”

Holly Miller is the President and CEO of United Way of Midland County,Miller explains that UW focuses on three key pillars that are the building blocks for a good life: Youth Success, Health, and Household Stability. They partner with nonprofits and invest in health and human service issues identified by the community.

Paul Schroll, assistant principal at Jefferson Middle School, told the story of a young student who was impacted by the UW money raised. Her story can be viewed on the United Way’s Facebook page. Each week, a Dear Neighbor video and a campaign update video are featured.

That student was accepted into the Dow College Opportunity Program through West Midland Family Center and gained the confidence and support she needed to reach her potential. She’s now studying to be a teacher and hopes to help other kids find their path toward a brighter future.

“This is just one of the many stories about someone in our community who has been impacted by our donors' support,” says Miller. 

The COVID-19 pandemic and the flood that followed after the Edenville and Sanford Dams failed have caused a lot of needs for “vulnerable people,” explains Miller. Basic needs like health care and food can bring stability and help lift someone in need. From March 2019 through March 2020, there’s been a 400% increase in mental health issues, specifically loneliness. 

“There’s a new level of anxiety, stress and fatigue. Demands are increasing,” she says. “It’s across the board and happening among all ages. This has been a difficult chapter for everyone. UW is here to provide hope.”

How United Way helps

United Way shares that 1 in 3 people in Midland County are food insecure. Through programs offered by partner agencies, over 700 seniors received healthy delivered meals and over 440,000 pounds of food was rescued and redistributed.

UW reports that 45% of third-graders are not reading at grade level. Through nonprofit programs supported by the funds raised during the campaign, over 1,700 kids received free monthly books and over 240 were paired with a tutor or mentor. 

Mary & Todd Draves are the co-chairs of this year's United Way campaign.Money raised goes directly into community programs to help people thrive in the areas of Youth Success, Health, and Household Stability. Support of the campaign provides resources for 56 programs provided by 26 nonprofit agencies.

Local campaign teams are getting creative at ways to raise money, says Miller, including holding trivia virtual events, yoga sessions and presentations from motivational speakers. MidMichigan Health kicked off their employee campaign with tie-dye shirt sales, which sold out completely. 

To learn more about how lives are being changed, check out United Way’s Facebook page. Each week, a "Dear Neighbor" video and a campaign update video are hosted by co-chairs Mary and Todd Draves. The campaign will continue through Oct. 29.
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Read more articles by Erika M. Hirschman.

A veteran freelance writer and former reporter with The Midland Daily News, Erika has covered a wide array of topics in and around Midland and Saginaw counties. She’s an award winning reporter, and holds a journalism degree from the University of Detroit-Mercy/Marygrove College. When Erika is not writing, she enjoys dancing in her kitchen with her two dogs and family. She loves to read, cook, travel and go to concerts. She’s lived in Saginaw County for 26 years.