United Way Teams Up with Ossining Schools and Village to Build a Born Learning Trail

Staff from the Ossining School District as well as the Ossining Parks Department assisted the United Way of Westchester and Putnam in building a bilingual Born Learning Trail at the park next to Park Elementary School in Ossining on Thursday, Sept. 17.
The Born Learning Trail turns everyday experiences into teachable moments. This interactive trail contains signs with instructions for simple games that will turn an excursion at the park into fun learning moments for young children. The trail’s theme of Watch! Stop! Learn! Play! encourages parents and caregivers to follow the child’s lead, building the child’s curiosity and confidence, and reinforces learning opportunities present in everyday life.
“I am so thankful for our partnership with the United Way,” said Ray Sanchez, Superintendent of the Ossining School District. “The Learning Trail is going to help enrich the lives of our youth.  I know this trail is going to make a difference to our community.”  

United Way Provides Student Support in Westchester and Putnam

Studies show that school readiness contributes to a student’s success. The United Way of Westchester and Putnam invested and leveraged nearly $150,000 in education initiatives that positioned students to succeed in the remote learning environment. 
Through the first round of COVID-19 Response grants, UWWP funded the purchasing of tablets, Chromebooks, printers, and other electronic devices for organizations such as Latino U College Access (LUCA), the Guidance Center, and the Youth Shelter of Westchester. 
UWWP also provided the traditional school supplies—backpacks filled with school supplies to 2,400 students in Yonkers, New Rochelle, Mount Vernon, White Plains, Port Chester, Mount Kisco, Ossining, and Peekskill as well as throughout Putnam County.
In addition, UWWP distributed over 10,000 books through food pantries and other nonprofits to children from low- to moderate-income households. 

United Way’s Partnership with H.O.P.E. Community Service is ‘Vital’ to helping the people of New Rochelle

UNITED, we can change lives.
In the midst of the economic crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, H.O.P.E. Community Service in New Rochelle has been distributing food and providing other services to thousands of families. However, a wrench was thrown into its capacity when its commercial air conditioning unit broke during the hot days of summer. As a result, produce was going bad quickly and the team of staff and volunteers were working in sweltering conditions.
The United Way awarded H.O.P.E. Community Service a grant for $8,000 to go toward the air conditioning repair, in addition to other funding that the former distributed to the latter earlier in the year. Collectively, H.O.P.E. Community Service has received $46,500 through the United Way as well as thousands of essential goods to distribute to their clients.
“The partnership we have with United Way has been vital to our ability to meet the increased need in the community,” said Walter Ritz, Executive Director of H.O.P.E. Community Service. “United Way has helped our food efforts by not only providing us the means to purchase more food but by awarding us funds to fix our air conditioning unit, has provided us the capacity to keep the food we do get fresh longer. Through the Emergency Food and Shelter Program, HOPE was granted money to help with eviction and foreclosure prevention. In addition, it has supplied essential goods such as socks, school supplies, and books to support our families.”
H.O.P.E. Community Service was also a recipient of UWWP’s COVID-19 Response Grants and of the Emergency Food and Shelter Program.

United Way of Westchester and Putnam Hosts Sold-Out Day of Golf

White Plains, N.Y. (September 2020) – United Way of Westchester and Putnam honored Kevin J. Plunkett, Esq., Director of Strategic Initiatives at Simone Development Companies and Former Westchester Deputy County Executive at its 2020 Day of Golf, presented by PepsiCo at Scarsdale Golf Club on September 14.

“Kevin has been a longstanding supporter of the United Way of Westchester and Putnam. Specifically, he was instrumental in getting our 211 Helpline recognized as an official County partner,” said United Way President and CEO, Tom Gabriel. “Today, our 211 Helpline answers tens of thousands of calls each year from frightened residents here in Westchester and throughout the Hudson Valley and beyond.”

Funds raised help to support United Way’s continuing COVID-19 pandemic response efforts and the local nonprofit community. The Day of Golf Committee members included Plunkett, John M. Flannery, Esq. of Wilson Elser, Bud Hammer, and Cathy Hoffman of Atlantic Westchester Inc., and William Mooney III, Esq. of Signature Bank.

“United Way has distributed more than 310,000 lbs of groceries and prepared meals to over 14,000 households,” Gabriel continued. “We have donated more than $2.3 million in essential goods to assist people with their basic human needs and have distributed over $1.3 million in grants to nonprofits serving our most vulnerable residents.”

United Way of Westchester and Putnam recognized Kevin Plunkett as the honoree of their 2020 Day of Golf. Pictured Margaret Tramontine, Chief Development Officer, Tom Gabriel, President and CEO, honoree Kevin Plunkett, and Rebecca Snyder, Director of Special Events and Development

The sold-out event featured a round of golf with contests, BBQ lunch on the course, a cigar rolling station, and a grab and go gourmet dinner. Players also took their best shot in a “Beat the Honoree” contest, to try to hit farther on a par 3 hole than the event honoree.

“I am very proud to be recognized by the United Way of Westchester and Putnam,” honoree Plunkett said. “Over 400,000 households have been helped in Westchester and Putnam counties by United Way over the last year. It is a great honor to be here, to be recognized, and to have a golf outing in these tough times to support this great cause.”

The tournament’s Long Drive contest winners were Bill Winters of Tompkins Mahopac Bank and James McHale III of JP McHale Pest Management and the Closest to the Pin winners were James McHale Jr. of JP McHale Pest Management and Desmond Lyons of Lyons McGovern LLP. The Day of Golf event was generously sponsored by Allan M. Block Agency, Inc., Apple Bank, Atlantic Westchester, AtwoB, Casamigos Spirits Company, Charles Newman Co., CPL Architecture Engineering Planning, Enea, Scanlan & Sirignano, LLP, Jean Marie Connolly, and Mark Iannucci, JP McHale, Kensico Cemetery, LeChase Construction, Levitt-Fuirst, Lyons McGovern LLP, Matthew Lyness, Mutual of America, PCSB Bank, PepsiCo, Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 21, Plunkett Attorneys at Law, Bill and Tom Mooney at Signature Bank, Simone Development Companies, Skunktown Distillery, Tompkins Mahopac Bank, and Westfair Communications.

United Way’s 211 Helpline Answers the Call for Help

United Way’s 211 Helpline has been a source of information, comfort, and hope to callers during the COVID-19 public health crisis. In March 2020, both Westchester and Putnam counties designated the 211 Helpline as the public’s point of information for COVID-19 related issues. The 211 Call Center in White Plains answered 59,572 calls between March 1 and August 31, 2020. Most calls were not about physical health or testing questions about COVID-19. Instead they were related to food or financial assistance, housing issues, or mental health issues.

For instance, a woman called from White Plains, she was sitting in a park with her husband and two young children. Her family was homeless and the shelter they were staying at told them to leave and gave them the number to a shelter in Mt. Vernon to call. The Mt. Vernon shelter told them that the husband needed his birth certificate in order to stay there. Since he did not have a way of getting that document, the family was told that there is nothing that can be done for them. The 211 Call Specialist contacted the Westchester Department of Social Services manager, provided the details of the call and was able to get this family assistance.

Mrs. O from Mahopac is a recent kidney transplant recipient who called in need of food. She asked if she could confide in the 211 Call Specialist. “I am eating my service dog’s food to take my medication,” Mrs. O admitted. The call specialist took her information and told her that someone will call her back. The situation was shared with United Way of Westchester and Putnam, which arranged for the caller to have groceries delivered to her that day, as well as for her to be enrolled in the Heroes and Homebound Hot Meals program and the Putnam Emergency Food Distribution.

“During the pandemic, United Way and the 211 Helpline helped me get food and groceries delivered when I could not leave my home,” said Mrs. O.  “They are godsends for sending meals and groceries to me.”

A caller was concerned about a neighbor’s mental health; the neighbor was traumatized from 9/11 and was emotionally fragile. The viral outbreak has her “freaking out” a bit and was using language that the caller had concerns about. The caller does not feel the person is suicidal but was worried that the person may hurt themselves. The 211 Call Specialist provided options to the caller- the phone number to the NYS Mental Health hotline and suggested that her neighbor could also call 211 directly anytime.​

United Way Gives Hope By Alleviating Food Insecurity

Food insecurity became a reality for many families in Westchester and Putnam that were struggling to live paycheck to paycheck as well as homebound seniors during the COVID-19 Public Health Crisis. The Hudson Valley 211 Helpline saw a 1,370% increase in food assistance calls between March and August 2020 as compared to the same timeframe in 2019. The calls identified that food insecurity was two-fold: for those homebound who could not leave their houses to get food and for those who lost their jobs and could not afford to pay for food.

“This program is helpful because due to the circumstances, there isn’t a lot of work and our incomes have diminished. We are very thankful that it helps with our meals to feed our children”Marta, White Plains

“Like many people, we lost our jobs due to the pandemic and have struggled very much with the burdens of bills and food. Your programs
have allowed us to make sure we can focus on our bills being paid while ensuring that we still have food on our tables. Your help in this time is something that cannot be replaced and will never be forgotten.
”- Amanda, Mahopac

“We are so thankful for the grant from the United Way of Westchester and Putnam. It has been a tremendous help as our emergency food distribution has increased 1,200% since the crisis began.” Kathy Purdy, Executive Director, Hillside Food Outreach

United Way of Westchester and Putnam (UWWP) partnered with more than 50 nonprofits in Westchester and Putnam counties, as well as local governments and school districts to address the food-related issues. Through its first round of COVID-19 Response Grants and the Emergency Food and Shelter Program, UWWP administered over $525,000 in funding to local meal programs and food pantries. We also distributed 310,00 lbs of produce and groceries to families and seniors in need as well as coordinated 4,305 restaurant-prepared delivered meals through the Heroes and Homebound Hot Meals Program.

United Way Non-Profit Leadership Summit to Focus on Encouraging Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Westchester County, N.Y. (September 2020) – United Way of Westchester and Putnam’s Nonprofit Leadership Summit 2020 will focus on a topic that now more than ever is relevant in the corporate and not-for-profit worlds: Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.

The theme for this year’s summit is “Preparing for the Success of Tomorrow Begins with Embracing Equity Today.” The goal is to help encourage not-for-profit organizations to focus on diversity and inclusion as core values throughout their operations, programs, and leadership.

“This year we have seen that the message of equity, diversity, and inclusion is more relevant than ever before,’’ said United Way of Westchester and Putnam President and CEO Tom Gabriel. “We cannot move forward into the future by holding onto to old ways that don’t serve our communities or our nation. Leaders of the future should be reflective of the communities we represent.’’

Over five days, this year’s virtual event will feature high-level speakers including Richard Brown, Vice President of Philanthropy for American Express, who will close out the week’s programming.

The summit will be held virtually from Monday, October 5, through Friday, October 9, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Each day will have a 1:1 speed networking session followed by a keynote presentation and ending with a Q&A session. The event is $25 for a weeklong pass thanks to the generous underwriting of TD Bank. Continuing education credits and certificates of completion are available to those who attend all of the keynote presentations.

The goal of the Nonprofit Leadership Summit is to build professional excellence in the purpose-driven organizations of Westchester and Putnam counties. The keynote speakers will speak on this theme through the lens of the nonprofit sector.

Speakers for this week will include:

Monday, Oct. 5

Marco Davis, President & CEO, Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, former Deputy Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics will discuss creating a more equitable social sector.

Tuesday, October 6  

Sean Thomas-Breitfield, co-director of the Building Movement Project, and co-author of the Race to Lead Report, will address the nonprofit racial leadership gap.

Wednesday, October 7

Kishshana Palmer, CFRE, a nonprofit consultant, coach, fundraiser, and author/blogger for “Secret Lives of Leaders”, will speak on promoting diversity in your marketing and fundraising efforts.

Thursday, October 8

Chitra Aiyar, a TED Speaker who is the former Executive Director of Sadie Nash Leadership Project and co-producer of “Claiming Our Voice,” will discuss cultivating space for marginalized populations.

Friday, October 9

 Richard Brown, Vice President of Philanthropy at American Express, who will talk about the importance of diversifying the current landscape of nonprofit leaders and transforming an organization’s capacity to attract, develop, and retain leadership talent.

Each day’s schedule will be as follows:

11:30 a.m. – 1:1 speed networking (5-minute intervals)

12:00 p.m. – Keynote

12:55 p.m. – Q&A

1:30 p.m. – Event Ends

Tickets can be purchased here.

The Summit attracts a diverse audience of professionals and volunteer leaders in the nonprofit sector – across disciplines, fields, and experience levels. Last year over 600 people from over 250 organizations attended the event.

In addition to the generosity from TD Bank. The United Way of Westchester and Putnam would like to thank the Summit sponsors Con Edison, Nonprofit Westchester, Council Services Plus, HRG – Hospitality Resource Group, Marks Paneth, Paycor, Association of Development Officers, Fordham University, MVP Healthcare, Pace University, Westchester Local Development Corp., and Westchester Library System.

United Way Releases Latest ALICE Data on Financially Struggling Families

Even before COVID-19 hit, 38% of households in Westchester and Putnam counties were already one emergency away from financial ruin, setting the stage for an unprecedented economic crisis in the Hudson Valley for the next several years, according to the latest local ALICE® Report released by United Way of Westchester and Putnam.

ALICE® stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. ALICE households earn more than the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), but less than they need to afford a basic survival budget. There is no room in their household budgets for emergency expenses.

The 2020 ALICE® report shows that low-income families in Westchester and Putnam systematically lost buying power and financial stability as the cost of essentials outpaced wages. Meanwhile, the number of jobs that provide a living wage did not keep pace with the state’s population. The result was that 141,922 of the households in Putnam and Westchester counties were ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed), a large number even before the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The 2020 ALICE® NY Report provides a reliable baseline of pre-COVID ALICE households to best direct resources,” explained Tom Gabriel, President and CEO of United Way of Westchester and Putnam. “We can use this information to ensure we don’t leave ALICE behind again as we recover from the current economic and health crisis.”

The report calls for stakeholders across all sectors to use its findings to remove obstacles to financial stability, identify gaps in community resources and build data-driven solutions to help ALICE families achieve economic stability, bolstering the state’s economy overall.  United Way of Westchester and Putnam offers key resources for those living paycheck to paycheck, including our 24/7 211 Helpline, our ALICE $ense Financial Empowerment program, and the FamilyWize prescription discount program

The most recent ALICE report shows that over the last few years, New York and the Hudson Valley’s economy rebounded and the state made investments to assist those living in poverty. However, there is still a large number of Hudson Valley residents who lack sufficient income and resources to pay for housing, food, child care, transportation, and health care. The report continues to show that ALICE lives in every part of our region, from our largest cities to our most rural areas.

Using data from the census and a number of economic studies produced in 2018, The 2020 New York ALICE report shows that:

  • The City of Peekskill jumped from 55% in 2016 to 61% in 2018 of its population falling below the ALICE threshold. Peekskill now has the highest percentage of households living as ALICE or in poverty as compared to any community in Westchester or Putnam.
  • To meet the ALICE threshold for survival, a Putnam 4-person household (two adults, two children in care) must earn $109,236 in Putnam and $78,156 in Westchester.
  • To meet the ALICE threshold for survival, a single person must earn $42,636 in Putnam County or $27,321 in Westchester County to meet the household survival budget.
  • 71% of Single-female headed households with children in Westchester or Putnam are considered ALICE or in poverty.
  • While seniors, ages 65+, account for 27% of the households they comprise 38% of those who struggle to make ends meet in Putnam.
  • While Blacks, African Americans, and Hispanics make up 36% of the household population in Westchester, they are 52% of those falling into the ALICE or poverty categories.

The report debuts a new measurement called the ALICE Essentials Index. This Index chronicles how the cost of housing, child care, food, transportation, health care and a smartphone plan rose at nearly twice the rate of inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index.

To read a copy of the report and find county-by-county and town-level data on the size and demographics of ALICE as well as the community conditions and costs faced by ALICE households in the Westchester and Putnam counties, visit www.uwwp.org/alice

Regional Launch of ALICE 2020

For those that aren’t familiar with the term, ALICE stands for “Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed.” At its core, it is a new way of defining and understanding the struggles of households that earn just above the Federal Poverty Level, but not enough for a survival budget.

ALICE families struggle to meet even their most basic needs such as housing, food, transportation, child care, health care, and necessary technology. When funds run short, these families are forced to make impossible choices between child care or paying the rent… filling a prescription or fixing a car

On Thursday, August 13, at 11 a.m., three Hudson Valley United Ways (United Way of Westchester and Putnam, United Way of Rockland and United Way of the Dutchess-Orange Region) presented a virtual workshop on ALICE® 2020 in Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, and Westchester counties.

Learn more about the 2020 ALICE Report from the recording below of the webinar, UWWP hosted yesterday in partnership with United Way of the Dutchess-Orange Region, and the United Way of Rockland County.

Even before COVID-19 hit, 38% of Hudson Valley households were already one emergency away from financial ruin, setting the stage for an unprecedented economic crisis in the Hudson Valley for the next several years, according to the latest state ALICE® Report released by United Way of New York State.

The 2020 ALICE® report shows the Hudson Valley’s low-income families systematically lost buying power and financial stability as the cost of essentials outpaced wages. Meanwhile, the number of jobs that provide a living wage did not keep pace with the state’s population. The result was that 273,609 of the Hudson Valley’s 723,177 households in Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, and Westchester counties were ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) or in poverty, a large number even before the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic.  READ THE REPORT

“The rapid spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, is showing critical areas of need for our economy, health care system, and education capacity during a national crisis. No one is immune to its direct or indirect effects, but ALICE families are particularly vulnerable to hardship from both illness and economic disruption,” said Brenda Episcopo, President and CEO of United Way of New York State, who commissioned the report. Episcopo will be a featured guest during the Virtual Workshop on ALICE® in the Hudson Valley.

The report calls for stakeholders across all sectors to use its findings to remove obstacles to financial stability, identify gaps in community resources and build data-driven solutions to help ALICE families achieve economic stability, bolstering the state’s economy overall.

The most recent ALICE report shows that over the last few years, New York and the Hudson Valley’s economy rebounded and the state made investments to assist those living in poverty. However, there is still a large number of Hudson Valley residents who lack sufficient income and resources to pay for housing, food, child care, transportation, and health care. The report continues to show that ALICE lives in every part of our region, from our largest cities to our most rural areas.

Using data from the census and a number of economic studies produced in 2018, The 2020 New York ALICE report shows that:

  •       To meet the ALICE threshold for survival, a Hudson Valley 4-person household (two adults, two children in care) needs an average annual income of $99,242.40 or $49.62 per hour.
  •       An individual living in the Hudson Valley needs an average annual income of $35,510.40 or $17.76 per hour, to meet the household survival budget.
  •       Economic data show that the number of low-wage jobs increased by 33% from 2007 to 2018 and accounted for the largest number of jobs in New York in 2018.
  •       All but one of New York’s 62 counties have 30 percent or more households earning less than what is needed to afford a basic household budget.

The report debuts a new measurement called the ALICE Essentials Index. This Index chronicles how the cost of housing, child care, food, transportation, health care, and a smartphone plan rose at nearly twice the rate of inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index.

Here are links to the presentation deck, the 2020 NYS ALICE Report, and the NY page on the United for ALICE website.

United Way Distributes $1 Million Worth of Socks to 100 Nonprofit Agencies Across the NY Metro Area

Nanuet, NY (July 21, 2020) – A million dollars’ worth of socks was gifted to thousands of individuals and families in need thanks to a corporate and nonprofit partnership in the New York Metropolitan area.

On Monday, July 20, the United Way of Westchester and Putnam (UWWP) in partnership with The Building Blocks Foundation, a nonprofit that helps homeless children in New York City, and Bombas, comfort-focused apparel brand with a mission to help those in need, distributed 100,000 pairs of socks to 100 not-for-profit agencies across the metro area.

“This partnership was a match made in heaven,’’ said Tom Gabriel, President and CEO of the United Way of Westchester and Putnam. “Thanks to the generosity of Bombas and the resourcefulness of The Building Blocks Foundation and our team at United Way, thousands of people across the region will have the luxury of having something so basic, but so essential, to make their lives a little more comfortable.”

For The Building Blocks Foundation founder and CEO, Jay Mota, partnering with UWWP provided a silver lining to the public health emergency. “We usually work with the New York City schools to distribute the Bombas socks to children in need, but with the COVID-19 pandemic we had to change the way we reached the students,” he explained. “By working with the United Way of Westchester and Putnam we were able to connect with organizations that help families in need in both New York City and Westchester County. It has been an incredible partnership.”

Bombas was pleased with the opportunity to work with UWWP also.

“We remain inspired by the tireless work of United Way of Westchester and Putnam,” said Bombas VP of Giving Kelly Cobb. “Their ability to respond to their community in times of uncertainty is noteworthy. We’re so grateful for all that they do and are proud to call them a Bombas Giving Partner.”

As part of its mission, Bombas donates a specially-designed item for every item sold. To date, they have donated more than 35 million items to those in need with the help of more than 3,000 Giving Partners comprised of homeless shelters and community organizations.

A truck carrying more than 400 boxes of Bombas donation socks arrived at the U-Haul Storage in Nanuet on Monday morning, and before 2 p.m. most of the socks had found a home among grateful organizations.

More than 100 organizations in the metro area benefitted from the distributions including those in The Bronx, Harlem, Yonkers, Mount Vernon, New Rochelle, White Plains and Peekskill serving the homeless, low-income families with children and others. Among the organizations were:

NYC

The Children’s Village
Midnight Run
NYC Police Athletic League

Rockland

Martin Luther King Jr. Multipurpose Center
Rockland Community Action Program

Westchester

Hope Community Services
The Guidance Center of Westchester
Westhab
WestCOP
YWCA Yonkers

“At Hope Community Services we are serving more than 5,000 families a month since the start of COVID-19 and through the generous help of United Way of Westchester and Putnam we have been able to provide not just food but essential goods such as these socks,” said Benito Ceja, program manager at Hope Community Services in New Rochelle.

United Way of Westchester and Putnam has increased its donations during the pandemic, announcing two rounds of grants totaling more than $1 million to not-for-profits. It recently gave away more than $50,000 in toys, school supplies and other goods to Westchester Parks Foundation’s Camp Morty for underprivileged children, and more than 150 mattresses to Westhab’s transitional housing program in Yonkers.