On March 11, 2020 the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. On March 26, United Way Elgin Middlesex launched the Local Love in a Global Crisis community response fund, answering the call to support our community’s most urgent needs as we battled the COVID-19 crisis.
“As quick as the pandemic hit, we heard from corporations, labour and community leaders, and individual donors, asking what they could do to help people right now,” says Kelly Ziegner, President & CEO, United Way Elgin Middlesex.
By April 20, United Way deployed its first round of funding—$167,540—to ensure that essential local services could meet growing needs for people already facing barriers like poverty, homelessness and mental illness who had no way to respond to how COVID-19 was affecting their family.
As co-host of the Mayor’s Social Impact and Recovery Task Force, a cross-sector table of social service agencies, local government and other partners coming together to coordinate relief efforts, United Way gained a unique vantage point to do what it does best: connect key stakeholders to make change happen.
“United Way was a natural choice to co-host this vital work given the organization’s vast reach, and its demonstrated ability to drive effective and meaningful change,” says Mayor Ed Holder, City of London. “Thanks to United Way’s relentless dedication as part of this effort, there is no doubt in my mind that lives were not only changed—lives were also saved.”
Three more rounds of Local Love in a Global Crisis grants followed in quick succession, informed by priorities identified at the task force and in consultation with the municipalities of Elgin and Middlesex and Community Foundations in the region.
“Our shared intent was to get money out the door quickly so that those who were most vulnerable didn’t get pushed farther into the margins,” says Ziegner.
By the end of the year, over $1 million from the Local Love in a Global Crisis fund was working in the community, along with $4.5 million from United Way’s annual Community Fund. Grants helped to keep essential programs and services running, and to scale up the most critical programs with new technology to replace in-person services or PPE to allow them to operate safely.
“Our imperative was to get funds to agencies who could do the most good on the ground,” says Sara Middleton, Director, Community Impact, who lead the United Way staff team and volunteers responsible for funding decisions.
“Many agencies expressed relief that they could focus on frontline services because of the work we did to ensure funding.”