Cecilia Russo Turner is the Founder and CEO of Cecilia Russo Marketing, a company she…
2020 has been one unforgettable year! Despite whatever challenges we’ve had to overcome, United Way of the Coastal Empire is choosing to acknowledge our most positive moments…all made possible because of YOU.
January Workforce Initiatives Fund
The Child Care Resource & Referral of Southeast Georgia at Savannah Technical College (CCR&R), the Savannah Economic Development Authority (SEDA), and United Way of the Coastal Empire (UWCE) collaborate to offer the Workforce Initiatives Fund. The fund has been used to advance targeted workforce solutions— beginning with assisting licensed child care facilities in Chatham County to become Quality Rated through capital improvement mini-grants.
January Community Fund Program Grants
Staff and volunteers from United Way of the Coastal Empire visit different organizations to learn more about the programs and services that are offered. More than 65 volunteers participated in our 2020 Community Investment Grant Process, recommending $3.64 Million in funding to 82 vital programs at 54 nonprofit organizations across our four-county region.
FEBUARY United Way Gets A New CEO, Brynn Grant
United Way of the Coastal Empire welcomes our new President and CEO, Brynn Grant, starting the year off with much excitement. Smiling staff gathered around our new leader for a picture-perfect moment.
MARCH 2-1-1 Call Center
At the start of Spring, the 211 call center and county service center for United Way are overwhelmed by phone calls from residents all throughout the region. Due to the sudden spread of the COVID-19, service representatives were receiving four times the amount of calls than normal—averaging 1,900 calls per week. People grew increasingly destitute of food and shelter, which led to an increase in volunteers, extended work hours, and cross-training among several staff members. By the end of 2020, the 211 call center and county services center had received 35,000 calls from our friends and neighbors in need.
What is 211?
APRIL First Donations to the COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund
Companies present checks to United Way of the Coastal Empire for the COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund. The fund was activated to support residents of Bryan, Chatham, Effingham, and Liberty counties—many of whom have been financially impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. The following companies were some of the first to contribute funds to those in need: The Chatham Foundation, The Savannah Community Foundation, Gulfstream, South State Bank, Wells Fargo, GAF, Colonial, Truist Foundation, Sterling Seacrest Partners, Care Source, and many more. With the help from our donors, we successfully raised more than $700,000 towards the Covid-19 Rapid Response Fund. Ultimately, we were able to assist more than 1,300 people throughout the community. Read more about the Rapid Response Fund.
APRIL WTOC Day of Giving Telethon for Covid19 Rapid Response Fund
WTOC-TV hosts a “Day of Giving” virtual telethon, which generated $209,000 for the COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund. People everywhere called-in to donate funds to the cause. While the event was being televised, a mother and her daughter (right photo) were driving by. When they discovered what was taking place, they immediately drove to the nearest ATM to withdraw $100 in order to support the fund.
On any given day, United Way is about helping people in need and investing in high-performing non-profit organizations. WTOC is proud to be able to lend a hand and provide resources to support our community in such a critical time. We are also grateful for every single person who made a donation during this virtual telethon and extended their hands to help others in need.”
-Board Chair and WTOC-TV General Manager, Larry Silbermann
MAY & JUNE COVID-19 Effects
Local residents cope with the effects of COVID-19, as the spread of the virus picks up speed. Numerous cars were seen lining up for miles in order to receive food baskets. United Way of the Coastal Empire collaborated with food banks, such as America’s Second Harvest of Coastal Georgia and Backpack Buddies, to actively feed the community. Additionally, local Sheriff Departments, school transportation systems, and civic groups assisted with food deliveries to senior citizens as well as residents in rural areas of the region. In partnership with local community health providers, COVID-19 testing sites were also available at many of the Mass Mobile Food Pantries that were supported by United Way. Throughout the year, brave staff and volunteers risked their health to provide food to 21,000 people across the region—and the work is still ongoing. United Way is continuing efforts to increase food security.
JULY Race, Equity & Opportunity Committee
The COVID-19 pandemic allows for previously existing racial inequities in education, income and health to be more visible and more acute. In 2020, United Way formed a board-level Race, Equity & Opportunity Committee to assess our current work and recommend strategies to ensure that United Way operations, services, and community investments better reflect, respect, and represent the communities we serve so that all people can thrive.
JULY Women Who Rule Presented by Vaden Automotive
Vaden Automotive President, Jane Vaden Thacher, sponsors the WOMEN UNITED® program. WOMEN UNITED® has championed a social media campaign, Women Who Rule— which raises money and awareness for women who are without dependable transportation. Because of the incredible support that we’ve received from individual and corporate donors, $36,000 have been raised towards the Women Who Rule Campaign. Local women have been provided with gas cards, bus passes, minor car repairs, and monthly transits. Corporate donors include: SERVPRO of Savannah, Gulfstream, and Bank of America. Together, we are empowering the women of our community. If you would like to know about one of the women who has been helped through WOMEN UNITED®, please click here.
AUGUST Distribute CARES Act Fund
The City of Savannah and Chatham County partners with United Way of the Coastal Empire and Family Promise to initiate the CARES Act Fund. A conference was held amongst team leaders to discuss the needs of the community. With the success of the COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund, United Way had exhibited tremendous success in our endeavors to reduce hardships for individual households and prevent evictions and foreclosures. To best support our mission, City of Savannah and Chatham County dispersed $4.3 Million to the CARES Act Fund.
SEPTEMBER A New Kind of Campaign Kickoff
Campaign Chair, Chief Terry Enoch, kicks-off the annual campaign of United Way of the Coastal Empire on WJCL-TV, WSAV-TV, and WTOC-TV. For the first time in 82 years of establishment, the United Way Campaign Chair was leading a fundraiser in the midst of worldwide pandemic. United Way depended heavily upon its social media outlets to reach their donors.
Despite the challenges of running a campaign this way, learning as we go, I could not be more encouraged. The need is greater than ever but so is our courage and resolve as a community.”
-Campaign Chair Chief Terry Enoch
SEPTEMBER Our Residents Tell Their Story
United Way of the Coastal Empire follows up with various individuals, who have achieved much success in ways that were once deemed impossible. Through the work of our funded agencies, United Way has assisted many residents within our community, and we are continuing to change lives for the better. Using the donations we have received, individuals and families throughout the region have been provided with the tools they need to succeed. United Way matters because they matter. If you’d like to read more about the people who represent what we do, please visit our blog.
OCTOBER Getting Creative with the Always United Challenge
Various companies participate in the Always United Challenge to further engage community members in the act of giving. The challenge was implemented to inspire businesses, specifically, to give back in the most creative way possible. Food companies, like Leopold’s Ice Cream, created an entirely new item to generate sales. The proceeds from such items were donated to United Way of the Coastal Empire’s annual campaign.
OCTOBER Workplace Campaigns for United Way
Company Donors participate in the race towards victory. Workplace campaigns contributed greatly to the success of this year’s fundraising, with the help of our 2020 Campaign Cabinet and Ambassadors. Over 80% of the funds raised stem from workplace campaigns where generous employees selflessly donated a portion of their earnings to the cause. Despite the setbacks, many company donors held strong throughout the region—with special recognition of the top campaigns: Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation, Colonial Group, Georgia Ports Authority, International Paper and retirees, Savannah-Chatham County Public School System, Georgia-Pacific Savannah River Mill, Chatham County government, and St. Joseph/Candler Health System.
NOVEMBER Campaign Victory Celebration
Despite the many challenges, United Way of the Coastal Empire successfully surpass our goal of $8,000,000! At the height of a pandemic, United Way received much love and support from numerous donors. We matter because YOU matter!
One of the many remarkable things about United Way’s annual fundraising campaigns is how the enthusiasm and generosity of the supporters remain so high year after year. It would be understandable if the effort began to feel routine. Yet, high spirits prevail once again — in the midst of some of the greatest challenges we have ever faced — and we celebrate the conclusion of the United Way campaign today. Reaching this milestone assures that the support for United Way’s funded programs and services will continue to improve lives of thousands of people in our community.”
-President & CEO Brynn Grant
DECEMBER Read United
Children are provided with new books, given to them by local volunteers. Sponsored by Vaden Nissan Hinesville, the Read United Program aims to promote early childhood literacy. Through the gift of books, various local schools, businesses, and volunteers have worked together as a community to support a quality education for children throughout the region. . This year more than 7,500 books have been distributed to children across the region, ranging from Pre-K to 1st Grade.
DECEMBER Young Leaders Board Readiness Graduation
United Way of the Coastal Empire hosts its first Board Readiness graduation ceremony for United Way Young Leaders, professionals seeking to improve lives in the community. The Young Leaders program was initiated, this year, to build new communal leaders—representing all four counties: Chatham, Bryan, Effingham, and Liberty.
This has been a challenging year, and so many beautiful things have come out of that incredible challenge. And truly this is one of the most beautiful. It is something I am so proud to share with others.”
-President and CEO Brynn Grant
DECEMBER Canady’s Coat Drive
Canady’s Heating Air Plumbing launches its annual “Canady’s Coats for Kids” drive for the winter season. Canady, WTOC-TV, and United Way have come together to provide coats to for children aging from infant to 17 years old. Nearly 1,000 new, unused coats had been collected from contributors, such as the Springfield Methodist Church Youth.
DECEMBER Continued Giving
Local companies and individuals continue their support for United Way of the Coastal Empire, even after our Victory Celebration. Many of them have pledged their support into year 2021. All donors have the opportunity to give to United Way all throughout the year. We appreciate all of you, and we look forward to your continued support as we come together to improve lives in the Coastal Empire. Thank you!