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A United Way Forward

June 8, 2020

The events involving the recent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery have once again made us painfully aware of the divisions and inequities which undermine the well-being of our community and communities across our nation. These deaths, combined with the COVID-19 pandemic, highlight the continued health, education and economic disparities that exist within our communities of color. Data demonstrates that Wisconsin has the dubious distinction of being the worst place for an African American person or family to live (source below). This should and must be of concern to us all.
United Way Blackhawk Region's (UWBR) mission is to improve lives by mobilizing the caring power of communities. As an example, UWBR is focused on learning from and advocating for those in our community who are living in poverty as defined by the Federal Poverty Level and those who are Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed (ALICE). We envision an inclusive community where all individuals are able to meet their basic needs and have equal opportunity for stability in their health, education, and financial stability. Current events clearly demonstrate that physical and emotional safety, as well as the recognition of the need for healing from recent and historic traumas, is essential for us to achieve this vision.
As we look to the immediate future and beyond, UWBR will continue to engage in the necessary systemic advocacy work that will bring about lasting change both within our organization and throughout our community. Our history of collaboration with diverse stakeholders must continue so that multiple perspectives are represented, respected and engaged as we forge the path forward. Now more than ever, we need to LIVE UNITED. Silence is not an option. The UWBR Board of Directors and staff will do our part to show up, listen, share our voices in ongoing community conversations and be part of the solutions.
Mary Fanning-Penny, President & CEO United Way Blackhawk Region
Al Hulick, Chairman, Board of Directors United Way Blackhawk Region
More information about ALICE click here


UWBR Funded Partners

June 8, 2020

The past few weeks have been incredibly challenging. A blinding spotlight is being shone on the tremendously difficult issues of race and equity across our country. Recent events involving violence and threats to Black people expose our society’s racism and privilege. In the midst of this we must come together to reject racism and violence, bigotry and hate. And, we must stand with partner organizations that espouse the same core beliefs, and that bring the voices and perspectives of those that are underrepresented and marginalized into this work. Now, more than ever, we must take action on matters of race, equity, diversity, inclusion, intersectionality, etc., as they are more relevant than ever to our shared mission, and to the fundamental essence of our network.

The Blackhawk Region is #United for Frontline Workers

May 4, 2020



Join United Way Blackhawk Region on May 5 as we rally the entire community to say thank you to the essential workers who have tirelessly and bravely continued to do their jobs. Our effort is part of a global day of giving and unity called #GivingTuesdayNow.

Every year people come together on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving for #GivingTuesday, a global generosity movement. As an emergency response to the unprecedented need caused by COVID-19, we are joining nonprofits and individuals around the world in a special #GivingTuesdayNow event. We will take action to collectively drive an influx of generosity, citizen engagement, business and philanthropy activation, and support for communities and nonprofits when its needed most.

7 Ways to Say Thank You

There are many ways to say thank you, here’s just a few we put together. Choose one – or more – so frontline workers can know how much our community appreciates them!
1. Donate a meal
If you are thinking about donating a meal, be sure to coordinate with the location so the delivery can be made efficiently and safely. Many local businesses are delivering meals to support frontline workers. Remember meal donations can be a great way to thank hospital workers, as well as emergency management, first responders, police officers, firefighters and grocery clerks.
2. Make a sign for your window or front yard
Make someone’s commute or neighborhood walk brighter by posting a sign in your window or front yard telling frontline workers how much they mean to our community. This is a great project for kids!
3. Be kind
Essential workers who are keeping grocery, convenience and pharmacy stores open see large groups of people every day. When you must shop at one of these stores, be respectful of the people working there. Tell them thank you, wear a protective mask, keep a six feet distance from others and be kind to team members and other customers. These small acts can help folks feel appreciated and safer at their jobs.
4. Share a message on social media
As we all keep our physical distance, connecting online has become even more important. Using social media is a great way to thank frontline workers. You can tag people you know or send a general message using the hashtags #FrontlineLove, #FrontlineHeroes, #COVIDHeroes or #InThisTogether. On May 5, you can also share posts from our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn channels.
5. Leave items for delivery workers
Delivery workers are putting in long hours. Help them feel appreciated by leaving items such as tips, snacks or thank you notes.. Remember to sanitize the items you leave and have delivered, as best you can.
6. Advocate
Show frontline workers you appreciate their work by helping them get the support they need. During this time of uncertainty and economic crisis, many people, including those still working, need a boost to make ends meet. Vital services like 211, the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit, and SNAP can provide relief for frontline workers – and others – in need. You can encourage your representative to increase funding for these services. Use this form to email your member of Congress.
7. Stay at home
The most important thing you can do to thank frontline workers is to stay home. When we all stay home, we limit the spread of COVID-19. So limit outings to essential trips, such as  the grocery store, medical appointments, picking up prescriptions, and walking pets. When outside, use social distancing to stay at least six feet away from others.
Even though we are apart, we can still be United. Let’s show frontline workers that we are in this together!

National Volunteer Week

April 21, 2020

With everything going on in the world right now, it might seem strange to stop and celebrate, but that's what we want to do this week. We want to thank you and all of the amazing volunteers who give of their time and expertise year-round. National Volunteer Week is an opportunity to celebrate the impact of volunteer service and the power of volunteers to tackle society’s greatest challenges, to build stronger communities, and to be a force that transforms the world. Especially now, we’re grateful for those who are stepping up and answering the call to serve during this pandemic.

Volunteers are the lifeblood of nonprofit organizations. It's never been more evident how important volunteers are to our community. Thanks to volunteers, seniors continue to receive a safety check and nutritious meal through Meals on Wheels. Volunteers are helping to keep local food pantries open and hospital patients are receiving life-saving blood due to American Red Cross donors and blood drive volunteers. More than 80 local “mask warriors” are sewing with care and delivering homemade, protective masks for essential workers. In order to move resources quickly and adapt to the evolving needs in our region, United Way’s volunteer Community Impact Council is meeting regularly to review applications and determine funding awards from the COVID-19 Action Fund. For essential nonprofits and those working remotely, volunteers continue to provide board leadership, committee service, and help to raise dollars at a time when the demand for service is high but special events and fundraisers are on hold. 

Despite social distancing, there are still ways you can volunteer. We are working with our community partners to identify any volunteer or in-kind material needs they have during this crisis. Those needs are posted on a special COVID-19 section of our volunteer page at  

A few years ago, United Way Blackhawk Region launched this free website to help match volunteers to opportunities throughout the region. You can view projects, email project coordinators, and sign up as an individual or team all with a few quick clicks of a button. The site will also automatically track your volunteer hours and provide you a transcript showing all your volunteer activity – a great tool for anyone who needs to keep track of service hours. Any nonprofit, service club, church, municipality or other community group looking for volunteers can create an account to post and manage their volunteer opportunities or material requests.

On behalf of the Blackhawk Region nonprofit community, thank you for volunteering! We look forward to the day when we can get back to normal volunteer activities, but in the meantime we greatly appreciate any help you are able to provide during this time of crisis. 

COVID-19 Update from President & CEO Mary Fanning-Penny

April 9, 2020

I know the past few weeks have been a blur for all of us … and the uncertainty of what’s to come weighs heavy on our hearts. The dedicated team at United Way Blackhawk Region is working with tireless resolve to keep our thumb lovingly pressed on the elevated pulse of our community. 

As we fight this new foe, we are doubling down on our support for boots-on-the ground health and human service providers. We stand with our partners and the thousands of people served by United Way donor dollars throughout the Blackhawk Region, on the cusp of this extraordinary time that for so many is filled with uncertainty, fear and a deep sense of foreboding. To demonstrate this commitment:

  • United Way immediately empowered its partners to utilize grant dollars in the most effective ways possible to care for our community and sustain operations. 
  • Our board of directors swiftly authorized the COVID-19 Action Fund, which is at the heart of United Way’s mission to improve lives by mobilizing the caring power of communities. Today, the first round of grants from the COVID-19 Action Fund were announced totaling $33,476. 
  • Alongside sister United Ways, we successfully advocated for inclusion of nonprofits in the federal relief package. 
  • Separate from the Action Fund but directly tied to the pandemic, UWBR also awarded more than $13,000 in emergency grants to agency partners for shelter food and pantry needs.‚Äč            

Helping to lead this compassionate charge is our Vice President Denise Peters-Kauihou and the volunteer Community Impact Council. Each week, United Way has been speaking individually with our 29 agency partners to inquire about challenges the nonprofits and the families they serve are facing, assess how service models are shifting, and most importantly provide reassurance that we are in this together. Last week, we phoned every funded partner to ensure their awareness of the CARES Act, specifically the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) available to small businesses and nonprofit organizations via the Small Business Administration. We also shared multiple PPP resources with other local nonprofits digitally. And on this upcoming Friday, we will virtually convene all funded partner directors in another effort to foster collaboration and solidarity.

As United Way, we are called to lead. My Team and I are up to this challenge. Now, more than ever, we invite you to join us as we fight for the health, education and financial stability of every person in every community. #LiveUnited