We welcome United Way back to the downtown

Published 2:23 pm Friday, April 23, 2021

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A ribbon-cutting was held this week for the new office of the United Way of the East Tennessee Highlands in downtown Elizabethton.
The United Way has long been a dominant fixture in the Elizabethton community and through the years has financially helped a number of community organizations. It’s easy to sometimes forget that you’re one of the lucky ones, especially when you have a job, and you do not have to depend on a food bank for the next meal, nor worry about where the rent money is coming from.
However, many in our community are struggling. Because of the pandemic, they have lost work, they struggle to put food on the table and don’t know where next month’s rent will come from. Some cannot afford childcare, so they had to give up their jobs to stay home with underage children. We have neighbors, who are living on the razor’s edge, and the trauma that comes with that.
The United Way for years has been assisting households in every corner of Northeast Tennessee with food and rental assistance. Locally, the United Way of the East Tennessee Highlands goal is to break the cycle of poverty by uniting people and resources to strengthen the health, education, and financial stability of every person in this community.
They create partnerships, find new solutions, and utilize all resources to help individuals and the community.
Although United Way has changed some over the years, the need is as great, if not greater than ever before.
There was a time when Carter County had a number of industries and employees, who gave to United Way through payroll deductions. Those funds were a big part of the United Way budget. Finding local funding for this vital works is still an uphill battle, with many traditional fundraising methods off the table. It is not a time that the community can sit out.
Another barrier to giving is that many companies have work-from-home policies in place to protect employees from the pandemic so traditional United Way workplace campaigns are less visible. The economic crunch also has individuals and organizations signaling that their contributions will be down.
But, the need is still there. As stressful as the past year has been for everyone, it’s been relentlessly brutal for many of our neighbors. And it isn’t over by a longshot. It’s never been more important to have United Way in our community, so we welcome them to the downtown. The strength of United Way at local levels — as so many have experienced it — has been in its role as gatherer and distribution of resources to strengthen local safety nets. In the best cases there was a commitment to the funding of operating costs for mainstay organizations like Boys and Girls Clubs, local women’s shelters, community centers, and foster care agencies…all badly needed and all expressions of community concern at the local level. United Way still does some of that, but its initiative is now much bolder. United Way’s new initiatives are aimed at helping working families, who are struggling financially, increasing the number of adults and youth that are healthy, and moving into a new direction to make the community stronger. It is reinventing the way it delivers services to agencies and, in return, individuals in need.
Education, income, and health are the foundation of any community. They are the building blocks upon which quality of life is built. If any of these blocks becomes compromised, overall stability of life is jeopardized. No longer is United Way a band aid fix, but it wants to work with the community to develop a permanent fix.
United Way invites you to invest in each other. Together across all sectors — large and small businesses, government organizations, nonprofits, faith groups and caring individuals — we can address challenges and build sustainable communities.
We each have a role to play in making our community a better place to learn, work, and live. Collectively, with United Way we can build quality of life for all by helping one person at a time.
It’s never been more important to donate, and to encourage others to give.

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