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United We Improve Lives

Why We Improve Lives

Since United Way of the Coastal Empire was founded in 1938, we have remained driven by volunteers and committed to improving lives through the caring power of our community. Whether it is a global crisis or one of life’s everyday storms, United Way is here. 

Each year, decade after decade, our community comes together to support each other with a safety net of programs and services for the most vulnerable and pathways for upward mobility to help everyone thrive. 

45% of households in our region DO NOT earn enough to meet basic needs

47,000+ people are food insecure

An Investment that matters

Through your investment to the Community Fund, United Way provides annual program grants to high-performing nonprofit organizations working on the front lines of our four-county service area. A single donation goes to support over 80 programs across more than 50 local nonprofits. 

Addressing Critical Needs

Whether it’s providing emergency rental assistance, coordinating disaster response efforts, or funding programs that play a pivotal role in supporting individuals and families facing various challenges –  United Way works to provide a safety net of services to help those that are most in need.  

Direct Services

  • Backpack Buddies
    The Backpack Buddies program in Liberty County currently serves 500 students. This program sends four meals home each weekend to students who are food insecure,

  • Canady’s Coats for Kids
    Partnering with Canady’s Heating & Air again this year for their third annual coat drive, over 1,000 coats were distributed across our four counties to benefit children in need, ages infant to 17 years old.

  • Caring Closets
    $13,177 was provided in assistance during the 2022-2023 school year through the Caring Closets program. Located in every public school in Effingham County, Caring Closets provide students with essentials needed to be successful in school like uniforms, school supplies, clothing, shoes, reading glasses, personal hygiene items, and more.

  • Churches United
    In 2022, $15,562 was contributed in assistance to Effingham County residents through Churches United. This initiative is a unique collaboration between United Way and local churches in Effingham County. We leverage resources for housing, utilities, food, transportation, and more by sharing the responsibility of serving the most vulnerable in our community. 

The Impact of our Investments In 2022:

43.7K medical and dental care visits were provided to low-income, uninsured, or under-insured individuals

$5M+ worth of free or discounted prescriptions were provided to those in need of medicinal care

165K meals were delivered to home-bound seniors or those with disabilities

1M pounds of food were distributed by local food pantries

Advancing Upward Mobility

United Way is dedicated to creating pathways for our friends and neighbors to thrive. It is through our four bold goals that we aim to achieve this:  Quality, Affordable Childcare, Financial Skills for Success, Ready & Resilient Workforce, and Safe & Stable Housing.  

Direct Services

  • Read United
    Read United is a year-round series of programs dedicated to improving early language and literacy for all children in Bryan, Chatham, Effingham, and Liberty counties. On the 2023 Read United Day, the most visible of these programs, volunteers visited nearly 60 schools to read to over 950 classes and deliver 19,000+ books.

  • East Savannah United
    In an effort to create transformational change in historically impoverished neighborhoods, East Savannah United serves as a bridge, connecting community leaders with resources and partners to invest in neighborhoods to achieve equitable outcomes for those living there. This sets a new course for East Savannah, creating quality mixed-income housing, a cradle-to-college education pipeline, and community health and wellness programs. 

  • Junior Achievement Colonial Group Discovery Center
    United Way of the Coastal Empire is proud to be a part of the Junior Achievement Discovery Center in Savannah where students can learn the importance of philanthropy and volunteering. Through this center, students act out a simulation of adult life to learn critical business and finance skills. Last school year, the center served 13,000 students from 44 schools and seven counties. 

  • Women United Transportation Fund
    Every Year, an average of 2,000 individuals/families in Bryan, Chatham, Effingham, and Liberty counties receive gas cards, bus passes, minor car repairs, and more to help increase access to reliable transportation so that people in the Coastal Empire can get to work, school, medical appointments, training opportunities, and other critical resources.

The Impact of our Investments In 2022:

Quality, Affordable Childcare
628 children aged five years old and younger demonstrated improvement in essential skills to prepare them to enter school ready to learn

Financial Skills for Success
2,344 individuals adhered to a monthly budget or payment plan after financial counseling and mediation sessions

Ready & Resilient Workforce
600 individuals completed a job training program

Safe & Stable Housing
1,947 households avoided foreclosure

Building Vibrant & Equitable Communities

Through United Way’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, we champion advocating for our community to be one where everyone has the resources, opportunities, and support they need to live fully. We provide Nonprofit development resources, the 211 Information & Referral Service, and connect Volunteers to causes that strengthen our community.   

Nonprofit Development

  • Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) Nonprofit Leadership Symposium
    Offered for the first time in the fall of 2021, this nonprofit and career development program offers free training on topics such as sustainability strategies, marketing, public relations, board and staff relationships, and more.

  • Community Investment Volunteers
    Our robust grant-making process is supported by comprehensive volunteer training to ensure that Community Fund dollars are going to nonprofit organizations that will make the greatest impact. Community Investment Volunteers are trained to review funding requests, visit local nonprofits, analyze program outcomes, and make funding recommendations to United Way’s Board
    of Directors.

  • Gulfstream Learning Series
    Through the generous sponsorship of Gulfstream Aerospace, the Gulfstream Learning series features nonprofit trainers delivering workshops for free to the public.

  • Lunch and Learn Series
    We offer free virtual sessions during the lunch hour, providing entry points and overviews of topics critical to the success of nonprofits such as: Board 101, social media best practices, effective HR strategies, and more.

  • Young Leaders Board Readiness Program
    The Board Readiness Program leads select members of United Way Young Leaders through a series of training sessions to prepare them for nonprofit board service. Graduates are connected with local nonprofits seeking board members.

211 connects clients with resources for food, healthcare, housing and utility assistance, employment services, veteran services, childcare, counseling, disaster assistance, and more. In 2022, 211 Information & Referral Specialists answered 13,000+ calls for help.

Volunteers are at the core of United Way’s many volunteer projects and initiatives throughout the community. Over 3,400 volunteers made an incredible impact in 2022, contributing more than 24,000 hours of time. Their efforts translate into an estimated value of $743,165, encompassing not just community service hours but also in-kind donations. This represents an outstanding 44% increase in impact over last year!

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