Atlanta’s United Way gives away $3.6 million while promoting collaboration

By Maria Saporta

The United Way of Greater Atlanta demonstrated its commitment to collaboration Wednesday by awarding four local teams a total of $3.6 million over the next three years to lead transformation in their communities.

Milton Little, president and CEO of Atlanta’s United Way, said the social and human services organization has been looking for ways to promote collaboration between various sectors — public, nonprofit and private — to tackle the core human service needs in the region.

It launched the “Dare to Forget the Box” competition so agencies and organizations could join forces and seek funding for innovative programs in the areas of early education, workforce readiness, healthcare, housing and self-sufficiency.

Little said that the goal was to “find a way to create systematic change.” United Way originally set out to offer a total of $3 million in grants for its “Dare to Forget the Box” initiative. It received 170 expressions of interest and 64 applications that were reviewed by about 40 experts from the 13-county region.

On Wednesday, United Way announced the four winning teams at an event at the Loudermilk Center.

The winners were:

  1. Talk With Me Baby: It is an education and health initiative with a focus on the important role that parents play in developing language skills with their children. The Marcus Autism Center is the lead collaborator. The other collaborators include the Georgia Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, Georgia Department of Public Health, Georgia Tech, Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing at Emory University and the Georgia Department of Education. The team will receive $500,000 a year for three years.
  2.  College Park Enrichment Center: It will establish a community transformation pipeline to enhance economic knowledge and coordinate health services for students entering the sixth grade along with their parents. The lead collaborator is the Future Foundation. Other partners include: Siemens, Banneker High School, Willie J. Freeman College Park Regional Health Center and Youth Enhancement Services. This group will receive $300,000 a year for three years.
  3. VEO Workforce and Social Enterprise Initiative: This collaborative will assist homeless veterans in finding permanent housing as well as helping them find and retain employment. The lead agency is the Veterans Empowerment Organization of Georgia. The other member of the collaborative is Refugee Family Services. This team will receive $300,000 a year for three years.
  4.  The Childhood Acute Mental Health Practices Program: This will provide comprehensive mental health services on site in an early-learning environment. The lead collaborator is Premier Academy. The other Team members are the Heritage Academy, Wholistic Stress Control Institute, Heartwork Counseling Center and Mental Health America of Georgia. This team will receive $100,000 a year for three years.

Originally the competition was for a total of $3 million in prizes, but Little said that an anonymous donor to United Way made it possible to give out a total of $1.2 million a year in grants. That increased the total giving of the “Dare to Forget the Box” competition to be $3.6 million.

Susan Bell, board chair of Atlanta’s United Way and managing partner of Ernst & Young in Atlanta, helped give away the winning grants  saying that these gifts would reap rewards for years to come.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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