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December 19, 2021

By Kevin Zwick, CEO


As 2021 comes to a close, the holiday season is in full swing, and many of us are taking time away from our day to day to focus on what matters most, we at United Way Bay Area have been working hard, as we do year-round, to make the season brighter for all in our community. Given the unique challenges of the past two years, our model of impact has felt more suited to meeting the moment than ever before. One of the ways we’ve been able to do that most profoundly has been by delivering rent relief through our SparkPoint Centers to individuals across the Bay Area struggling to make ends meet in the face of mounting challenges.

No one conveys the impact of this support more powerfully than those we have the honor to serve. After receiving rent relief support from the SparkPoint Center at College of San Mateo, Kyla shared:

“Without the assistance, I would have had to uproot myself and start over in almost every area of my independent life, again – and face huge losses to my future goals and my current stability. Receiving SparkPoint’s rental assistance subsidized three months of rent expenses for me [and allowed] me to remain where I live, where I work, learn and serve my wonderful community.”

Especially at this time of year, we are deeply grateful to the community of donors, funders, volunteers, advocates, and partners who make it possible to make such a difference in the lives of Kyla and so many others throughout our region this year.

Looking back at last year, on the one hand, we see a lot of parallels with December 2020. But, in so many other ways, we are all in such a strikingly different place than we were a year ago. While grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic continues, and the specter of another winter wave due to Omicron is looming, we now have effective vaccines and boosters that can help prevent higher hospitalization rates and deaths – keeping ourselves and our neighbors safer and our public health system from being overwhelmed. While the climate crisis must continue to stay in focus as unprecedented storms and flooding devastate communities across the country, most of our region has been spared this year from the catastrophic wildfires of previous years, keeping our focus on the long process of rebuilding and recovering. And while we still have a long way to go as a nation toward focusing on what unites us rather than what divides us, transformational policy decisions and relief measures such as the Child Tax Credit and the Golden State Stimulus have put us much closer than ever to ending child poverty and ensuring basic needs can be met for all.

At United Way Bay Area, we too are certainly in a very different place this December. Throughout 2021, we continued to meet the moment, responding to the urgent and long-term needs of our community, mobilizing the Bay Area to dismantle the root causes of poverty and build equitable pathways to prosperity. As we conclude our first 100 years of service and prepare to celebrate our Centennial in 2022, we are in an even stronger position to continue this vital work going forward. We have a new and more diverse team of leaders in place, supporting a growing organization with expertise coming from 30+ year veterans to those who joined us just this month. Also, this year we launched a new Housing Justice Initiative, answering the call to engage more deeply on that critical issue. Finally, this year we charted a new path forward for our next century of impact with a bold, inclusively designed strategic plan which we’ll be excited to share with you in the new year.

Until then, we wish you all the best this holiday season! We hope that you continue supporting our efforts to make this season brighter for all and that you will continue investing in our enduring vision for a more equitable Bay Area where all people have the opportunities and resources needed to thrive.