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Philanthropy Thought Leadership

Atlantans face serious challenges, but nonprofits are stepping up to provide support

By Bradley Roberts, Content Manager, United Way of Greater Atlanta

Even under the best circumstances, Atlantans face serious challenges. 

These are not the best circumstances, of course. But there are organizations across this region who are actively working to find solutions to make sure the needs of this community are met. 

On Wednesday, the Corporate Volunteer Council met virtually to hear from Milton J. Little Jr., president and CEO of United Way of Greater Atlanta, to discuss the most pressing needs in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic and United Way’s response. 

The coronavirus, responsible for causing the COVID-19 disease, is spreading across the world at an alarming rate, and pressure has now been placed on the work of our nonprofit agencies to provide essential relief to their community. 

And that’s why this discussion was necessary—a brain trust of nonprofit practitioners and community experts gathering together to talk about ways to help Atlanta’s most vulnerable populations in these most desperate times. 

Poor children and their families suffer disproportionately in times of crisis, Little says. He says recent studies show nearly half of the families in Greater Atlanta do not have $400 on hand in case of an emergency, and they’re going to need much more than that. 

“Poor children in Atlanta have among the lowest rates of social and economic mobility in the country,” Little says. “With a base like that compounded with the types of folks we’re hearing from now, we will face some very serious circumstances. 

“We’ve been fortunate enough to launch a Greater Atlanta COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund in partnership with the Community Foundation [for Greater Atlanta].” 

The fund was announced March 17 with Community Foundation committing $1 million and United Way of Greater Atlanta contributing $500,000 to seed the fund— in the days following, the Coca-Cola Company, Robert W. Woodruff Foundation, and the Arthur M. Blank Foundation each donated $5 million to the fund in support. Other current funders include the City of Atlanta and Truist Foundation contributing $1 million each, Wells Fargo and Global Payments contributing $250,000 each, The Primerica Foundation contributing $50,000, and $25,000 jointly from 11Alive, WXIA-TV & the TEGNA Foundation.

“The purpose of that fund is to both respond to the need that we are seeing among residents in the community, but also to help those emergency assistance nonprofits remain in business and be able to provide the needed support that people are seeing,” Little says. 

There has been an increase in calls to United Way’s 2-1-1 Contact Center over the past couple of days, and Little says a majority of those calls have been regarding food assistance and emergency financial assistance. 

“Those requests at the top of the list are: food assistance, people looking for access and directions to food banks and other feeding programs, emergency financial assistance—people are looking for jobs because they have had their hours cut, asking for information on COVID-19 testing and access to free prescriptions and other drugs that may help ameliorate the COVID-19 virus should they test positive,” Little says. “Those are things we’re seeing right now.”

The increased number of calls have put added stress on 2-1-1, which is a free, confidential referral and information helpline connecting people of all ages from all communities to the essential health and human services they need, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

The 2-1-1 Contact Center is accessible by phone, email, text, chat and online, but United Way’s digital platforms will give you the fastest service. For fast self-service, text 211od to 898-211 or download United Way’s 2-1-1 app to access our searchable database of resources, which can also be accessed online here.

“We have a whole range of folks who are about to hit hard times,” Little says. 

Little was asked if there was an overall goal for the fund, and he said this would be an ongoing fundraising effort. 

“The response and recovery we anticipate is going to be very long-term, and we’re going to be doing our best to help people with housing, with food, with all other kinds of emergency assistance needs,” he says. 

Little says in the coming days a set of criteria will be established so grants can be written, and funds soon distributed to nonprofits in our community. 

During the meeting, other Atlanta nonprofits expressed the need for volunteers specifically for food distribution. Agencies are taking precautions and following the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. United Way is currently planning a number of local and virtual volunteer opportunities, which you can find here. 

You can help Greater Atlanta in this time of need. Donate today to the Greater Atlanta COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund and join the effort. 

Little asked members of the Corporate Volunteer Council to communicate the availability of this fund and “strongly urge people in their network to support” the fund.

“The organizations we depend on… rely on you and me and others to take on the job of volunteering as the needs increase,” Little says. “We need the guidance and encouragement to be able to volunteer safely. To not cut back on those activities is going to be essential to how we are going to get out of this.”

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