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United Way of Greater Cincinnati raises $50 million to help shelters, food banks and more

Posted at 6:16 PM, Dec 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-17 21:21:25-05

The United Way’s yearly fundraiser for Cincinnati’s community advocacy organizations felt more important and fragile than ever in 2020, CEO Moira Weir said Thursday.

She worried, when the campaign started, that the same forces making it so urgent — the COVID-19 pandemic, the accompanying economic recession and widespread unemployment — would limit the amount donors were able to give.

“This campaign, by far, was probably the most important and critical to our community because we knew our community and our region was hurting, and families had lost everything overnight," she said.

But this month the nonprofit met its goal: $50 million.

“This is a generous community that stepped up,” said Procter & Gamble CEO David Taylor, who solicited business leaders and donors personally for their support. “It’s not just big companies. It’s smaller organizations, it's faith-based organizations, it's both hospitals, educators, all different walks of life.”

And it was bittersweet. Armed with a fundraising total that still falls below what it raised in many previous years, the United Way of Greater Cincinnati will pass the money on to over 140 local organizations facing greater-than-ever barriers in their missions to house the homeless, feed the hungry, care for seniors, prepare children for school and more.

Food banks in the nine counties served by the United Way of Greater Cincinnati have reported 300-500% increases in demand. Shelters for people experiencing homelessness have spent their own money to put guests in hotels rather than crowd a main shelter building.

Deanna Powell, development director at the family homeless shelter and Bethany House, said she’s serving 30% more families than usual due to the financial effects of COVID-19.

“The challenge for us is just to make sure that the families stay together, that they stay healthy and they have a warm place,” she said.

Incoming United Way dollars will help her take care of them.

Weir, the CEO, said she’s optimistic about the good the donations will do, despite the year’s unprecedented challenges.

“Families in this region will be able to meet the needs of their families as they deem appropriate,” Weir said. “They'll have access to quality services, they'll have access to quality education, healthcare — I mean, we really are presented with an amazing opportunity to really impact our community in a very positive way.”