By Kevin Zwick
CEO, United Way Bay Area
3 minute read
On December 23, United Way Bay Area officially turns 100. As we get ready to turn the page on this centennial year, it’s important to take a look back at a few of the many ways this particular year has been special and how we’ve chosen to mark the anniversary.
In May, we held our Centennial Celebration. It was such a pleasure to see so many friends, old and new, come together to honor the work of so many of our friends, colleagues, and partners – past and present. It is hard to overstate the impact United Way Bay Area has had on our region over this past century as we’ve worked collectively to help many of our neighbors in need.
2022 has been a banner year for us at UWBA for other reasons too. From the very beginning of my tenure at UWBA – and throughout our recent strategic planning process – we have stressed the importance of addressing the housing crisis in the Bay Area head-on. We took a meaningful step in that direction this summer, awarding UWBA’s inaugural round of Housing Justice grants to 30 organizations in our area.
A total of $1M has gone to help increase access to stable and affordable housing, address the racial wealth gap, prevent homelessness, and support organizations engaged in policy advocacy around the issue. What makes these grants especially unique is that our Ambassadors, people with lived experience battling the housing crisis, were a part of the decision-making process and had a voice in directing some of the funding.
Just last month, we opened our 23rd SparkPoint center at City College of San Francisco (CCSF). In addition to expert coaches teaching students new strategies for long-term financial success, SparkPoint also provides a variety of resources like one-on-one career coaching, tax preparation, and credit counseling – all at no cost to the student.
This SparkPoint project was near and dear to the heart of Lileen Shannon, our former Director of SparkPoint Services. As some of you may know, Lileen passed away in September, while she was deeply involved in planning the opening of this latest center. Lileen’s legacy and story at UWBA is one of strength, openness, and power; I know I speak for my colleagues when I say that we miss her and think of her often.
Part of celebrating 100 years of impact has been about re-focusing our attention on our stakeholders, and we’ve made intentional efforts to engage with members of our community. This fall we hosted the first in a series of ongoing Town Hall events and Community Partner convenings across the region to deepen the connection with our neighbors, to hear directly from them about their most pressing needs, and to explore new ways to collaborate.
Connecting with community members, stakeholders, and leaders of our partner organizations to strategize about impact and effectiveness has always been one of our best tools in creating more equitable opportunities in our ongoing fight against poverty. After a couple of years of virtual contact, it’s been a joy to see so many of you in-person.
Right now, as we enter the winter season, it is a special time for many of us. While the craze of the ending calendar year is upon us, and many folks are getting ready to spend time with their friends and family, nonprofit organizations like ours are continuing the work to leverage our resources and help meet community needs throughout this holiday season and beyond.
For me, this time of year is a good moment for reflection. My winter faith tradition is Hanukkah, which roughly translates to “re-dedication.” That is where my family likes to center our experience during the holiday season. We use this time to re-dedicate ourselves to the work we take on, to the causes we care about, to the values we cherish, and to each other. I hope many of you get that same chance with your loved ones this season.
As we wrap up our centennial year, we know the work goes on, and we are looking forward to our next century of impact in partnership with all of you, dismantling the root causes of poverty and building equitable pathways to prosperity for our neighbors and friends. We have laid out an ambitious strategic plan to guide us for these next 3 years, outlining our plan to serve 1,000,000 people through 2025, and it includes you and your ongoing support and partnership.
Our plans for this next century of impact are big and bold. But what they really come down to is making sure our Bay Area neighbors, students, individuals, friends, and families have equitable opportunities to thrive throughout every part of our region. These are the very same individuals and families we will connect with or see out and about as we make our way through this holiday season. From now until the end of this year, your donations will be MATCHED, which doubles your impact. When the holidays have come and gone, the need will remain, and we will continue working together for a better Bay Area. Thanks to all who continue to make a choice to join us on this journey!
We’ll see you in the new year as we launch our new century!! Happy holidays!