The COVID-19 pandemic has tested social safety nets across the board, including the United Way.
Kim Shippey, executive director of the United Way of Haldimand and Norfolk, says demand for support spiked in the weeks and months after the global pandemic was declared in March.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has really affected marginalized families,” Shippey told Norfolk council by video link on Nov. 17.
“A lot of parents have lost their jobs.”
In her presentation, Shippey said the local United Way has delivered $723,800 worth of support in partnership with associated agencies so far this year. Much of this has been channeled through local schools.
Since September, the United Way has learned that the only meal many children receive in a day is connected to in-school lunch programs. Child nutrition has thus emerged as a priority. The local United Way has increased its support for local food banks and the provision of food baskets through other agencies.
The United Way also works with area farmers to make food hampers available to needy families.
Not surprisingly, the United Way’s Stuff the Bus campaign this year was busier than ever.
This fall, the United Way provided backpacks filled with school supplies to 735 children at 16 schools in Norfolk County and 11 schools in Haldimand County. Total cost per donation was about $8.50 due to bulk purchasing and economies-of-scale. This compares with a little more than 600 children in 2019 and 125 in 2018
“It takes a community to build a community,” Shippey said. “And we are a resilient community. We are better when we work together.”
The local United Way campaign supports and collaborates with 10 agencies delivering 14 programs. Vulnerable communities such as those struggling with mental illness, foster children recently graduated from foster care, and those with autism are also counted as priority groups for support.
In 2019, the local United Way had a direct impact on 15,750 lives in Norfolk and Haldimand. Norfolk Mayor Kristal Chopp appreciates the work they are doing.
“I think it’s a great partnership you’ve had with Norfolk County this year,” Chopp said after Shippey’s presentation.
“Thank you for everything you do.”