OPINION: Starting today, give for tomorrow

By Bill Bechtold, United Way of Franklin County 2020 Campaign Chair

At the beginning of the year, none of us were prepared for what we would confront. And no one knew how many in our community would need our help. Faced with a once-in-a-generation challenge, Franklin County stepped up. United Way staff, donors, volunteers and our entire community came together in an unprecedented way. We helped our neighbors who were most impacted by the global pandemic and economic downturn get the relief and support they needed.

As United Way of Franklin County’s 2020 Campaign Chair, I’ve witnessed first-hand the positive impact we have as a community. Over the course of the pandemic our caring community has enabled United Way of Franklin County to:

  • Raise more than $104k for the COVID-19 Crisis Response and Recovery Fund
  • Respond to the immediate unmet needs – such as food and housing – of 19 local nonprofit programs through the Crisis Fund
  • Reach thousands by launching a COVID-19 Resources Hub to provide information and resources
  • Continue paying monthly grant allocations to 26 Program Partners without wavering
  • Work with 13 individuals on job training and goal setting through Stepping Forward Works

But there is so much more to do. Thousands in our community still struggle with unemployment, food insecurity, housing and health challenges. Many don’t know where their next meal is coming from, or how they will pay the rent or the bills. Even more are teetering on the edge without back-up savings. Kids are struggling with an unconventional school year. Adults are facing mental health challenges like anxiety and depression.

Consider this:

  • At least 30% of households in our community are living paycheck to paycheck (PA ALICE Report)
  • 5,300 Franklin County residents are unemployed (U.S. Department of Labor & Industry)
  • More than 1 in 10 Central Pennsylvanians don’t know where their next meal is coming from (Central Pennsylvania Food Bank)
  • Almost three in 10 adults have no emergency savings (PA ALICE Report)
  • 21% of kids in Franklin County struggle with childhood obesity (Wellspan Community Health Needs Assessment)
  • Two out of three children don’t read proficiency for their grade level (The Nation’s Report Card)
  • 1 in 7 students don’t graduate high school (National Center for Education Statistics)
  • Nearly 1 in 5 adults live with a mental illness (National Alliance on Mental Illness)

These are our neighbors. And they cannot wait any longer for relief, for support, for equality, for the opportunity to live a healthy, thriving life.

At United Way of Franklin County, we are working toward a new tomorrow for our community, one that offers:

  • Strong starts for children
  • Safe homes and warm meals
  • Greater equity
  • New career paths
  • Fresh starts
  • Access to health care
  • Opportunities for physical activity
  • Thriving families

We must build a better future for our community, one where every person has an equal opportunity to thrive. Let’s not put off until tomorrow the work that we can start today. Respond to the new year with hope, with possibility, with action.

Together, we can build a tomorrow that is better than yesterday. For every single one of us. All we need to do is Start Today United.

Give, advocate, and volunteer at www.uwfcpa.org, call the office at 717-262-0015, or donate by mailing a check to United Way of Franklin County, 182 S. Second St., Chambersburg, PA 17201.