Dear Friends and Supporters,
While United Way of Metropolitan Chicago focuses much of our work on the building blocks of lasting individual and community success, at this time of year we call special attention to meeting people’s most basic needs—a hot meal, a warm bed, a safe place free from abuse. During this season of thankfulness and generosity, we are also keenly aware that the days are getting colder, the daylight hours shorter and the struggles faced by our neighbors in need more severe. United Way sees the big picture and focuses on long-term positive change, including providing the safety net that stabilizes families so that they can take the next step to more sustained progress.
In that spirit of gratitude and generosity, we thank all of those who participated in the Adopt-A-Family holiday gift drive for families in our Neighborhood Network communities of Brighton Park and Robbins/Blue Island. The abundance of warm clothes, books, toys, grocery cards and other gifts will make the season brighter for more than 375 families in need. Gifts were distributed at neighborhood centers with carols, activities for children and light refreshments.
The need many of our families are experiencing is even more significant this year in part because of the budget stalemate in Springfield. In our state’s sixth month without a budget, the lack of action continues to adversely impact both our partner agencies and the people they serve. Between child care, job training programs, and help for the disabled and mentally ill (to name just a few services), many people who were barely getting by are now in dire situations.
In our role as advocate for the human services sector and to shine a brighter light on those who are often invisible, I stood together with Jorge Ramirez, President of the Chicago Federation of Labor and Paul La Schiazza, President of AT&T Illinois—both United Way Board members—on October 20 to ask state leaders to work together urgently to pass a budget. We also shared the alarming data from the second survey conducted by United Way of Illinois (UWI) highlighting the impact the stalemate is having on our agency partners and the people in need they support. Similar press events were also held all over the state. You can see some of the press coverage here.
More than 500 agencies responded to UWI’s survey, most of whom shared that they have cut programs, reduced the number of people they serve and face depleted cash reserves. You can see more of the data on our website. Important to understand beyond the immediate challenges for nonprofits who rely on state funding is the damage done to the infrastructure of these agencies as they lay off staff and lose reserve funds they’ve been building up for years.
In addition to advocating for the human services sector, United Way of Metropolitan Chicago plays a critical role as a steward of the communities in our region, particularly in engaging cross-sector partners on our most pressing community challenges. Recent events in the City of Chicago present a wake-up call and an opportunity for all of us who are concerned about the violence of all varieties that plagues too many of our communities. Through our efforts in neighborhoods in the city and suburbs, United Way of Metropolitan Chicago will continue to look for ways we can help move things forward to ensure success for those in need in our communities.
As we look back on the year and its challenges and accomplishments, we thank you for your generous support. With so many demands on your time and resources, we are tremendously grateful that you make room for those in need in greater Chicago.
Warm wishes for the holiday season and the new year to all of you and your families from United Way of Metropolitan Chicago.
All the best,