United Way has never been a single-issue organization. Rather than simply feeding a family, the non-profit aims to ensure that the children are educated and their parents find steady employment, along, of course, with providing them fresh food and shelter. The organization recognizes that problems exacerbate further problems, often leaving the least fortunate to be the most vulnerable, especially in the face of unexpected tragedy. This is why United Way and its plethora of local branches analyze the needs of the community and the individuals within, working to solve them through a multifaceted approach.
Central Florida’s own Heart of Florida United Way addresses a number of our community’s most critical needs: health, education, basic needs and financial stability. It operates the 211 Emergency Hotline, which received over 112,000 calls in 2021 alone, and recently launched “988” as the new number for the Suicide Prevention Lifeline, making it easier than ever to reach out to professionals regarding the mental health of yourself or a loved one.
However, the organization also addresses the emerging needs and unexpected crises that Central Florida faces, such as COVID-19 and, most recently, the devastating effects of Hurricane Ian. Shortly after the storm hit, Heart of Florida United Way established the Hurricane Recovery Fund, which aims to provide each approved applicant with several hundred dollars in funds through gift cards for food and supplies. Within four hours, the organization had already received 1,000 applicants seeking help in recovering from the losses they endured during the storm. Clearly, this was something the community was in desperate need of.
However, a nonprofit on its own can only do so much, so HFUW began to rally community support for donations. Top organizational supporters included The DeVos Family Foundation, The Walt Disney Company and Lockheed-Martin, among many others. However, support from concerned individual members of the community was also vital, as demonstrated in the organization’s partnership with WESH 2 News for the “Day of Giving Hurricane Relief Telethon.” Ultimately, within the span of a single week, Heart of Florida United Way raised over $1.5 million for distribution to those whose lives were affected by the hurricane.
“I’m incredibly proud of the work being done by Heart of Florida United Way and the generosity of the Central Florida community as we strive to overcome the hardship caused by Hurricane Ian,” said Jeff Hayward, President and CEO of Heart of Florida United Way. “With the help of organizations and individuals across several counties, we’ve been able to make an impact in the lives of countless people searching for food, supplies and shelter in the wake of this natural disaster.”
To learn more about the work being done by Heart of Florida United Way and their wide variety of programs, visit their website at https://www.hfuw.org/.