Meriden-Wallingford United Way prioritizes critical services, while scaling back other giving

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The United Way of Meriden and Wallingford has signifcantly scaled back the amount of funding allocated to 15 local agencies as traditional fundraisers and workplace campaigns are hurt by efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The United Way cut its funding allocations by 50 percent to 15 local agencies, but has matched last year’s funding to five agencies with the greatest human service needs right now. Administrators hope to fully fund the agencies when an annual fundraising campaign ends in December. 

“Prior to COVID-19, we had developed a new 3-year strategic plan, were in the middle of a successful annual campaign, and were ready to plan exciting changes for our agency. We still have seen exciting changes, but unfortunately they’ve been driven by the crisis of the virus and lockdown of our economy,” Executive Director Maria Campos Harlow said in a statement. “The United Way, having been serving for over 90 years in all sorts of areas of our communities, was built to respond to the times we are in. The challenges have been, well, exciting, to say the least.”

The United Way of Meriden and Wallingford typically dispenses about $482,000 annually to the 20 non-profits. 

Full allocations were given to Master’s Manna of Wallingford and Columbus House also of Wallingford. In Meriden, the Salvation Army and the senior transportation bus service program, received full funding. Big Brothers and Sisters also received their $3,000 annual commitment. 

Community impact

The new strategic plan devised before the pandemic adopted a community impact model, which means choosing one or two community issues, narrowing the focus and thus increasing the impact of the United Way’s work., Campos Harlow said. 

Allocators, agencies and community leaders would provide input on which areas to focus on, but COVID-19 has driven that process since March, leading to the Meriden-Wallingford Community Foundation Coronavirus Response Fund.

“The United Way has adopted the words ‘Respond, Recover and Rebuild’ to describe our effort,” Campos Harlow said. “The Respond phase is our Meriden-Wallingford Community Foundation Coronavirus Response Fund, which is still ongoing. Soon we will embark on the Recover phase of dealing with COVID-19. Right now, the pandemic itself has chosen the issue we will focus on.”

The Meriden-Wallingford Community Foundation Coronavirus Response Fund, has given $137,280 to 20 nonprofit agencies in the Meriden-Wallingford area. The fund is providing childcare for first responders and health care workers, personal protective equipment for summer programs, hot meals for seniors without transportation and homebound parents, software for training trainers to help volunteer teachers to give lessons in basic reading and writing, payments of rent and utilities on behalf of people furloughed by employers forced to close, food for those who cannot access any federal or state programs for such aid and more.

Workplace campaigns

The fund, although administered by the United Way, is separate from the annual campaign, which was cut short due to the shutdown of some businesses and other businesses whose workers are no longer in the workplace. 

“The social distancing and other requirements have severely impacted the significant ‘workplace campaign’ segment of our fundraising,” Campos Harlow said. “We are asking for those who manage these campaigns in each company to be creative and help us develop something special this year. The challenges are many, but we have fabulous volunteers and staff to help us. We’re determined to succeed …. No, we will succeed.”

The five agencies that received full funding provide food, housing and other essential services. 

“They provide basic services such as food, rent assistance and the like,” she said. “People the most affected by the coronavirus need these services the most. We still hope to restore the full allocation in December, but that will depend on many factors we can’t predict now.”

As one of the five agencies receiving full funding, the Salvation Army on St. Casimir Drive in Meriden has been able to provide critical services.

”It’s been tremendous,” said Salvation Army Corps Officer Lt. Kate Borrero, adding that the agency was able to resume offering rental assistance to clients in addition to a range of food services.

The center also runs a Pathway to Hope program which is specifically funded and provides case management to help families gain financial self-sufficiency.  

Meanwhile, Beat the Street Community Center Director Larry Pelletier said partial funding means his agency will have to reevaluate programs to see what’s sustainable.

“We’re hoping to reopen with regular members this week,” Pelletier said. “Basically all our programming is going to be bassd on what we can do safely and guidance from the state. It’s trying times for everybody. We just have to take a realistic approach and make sure we can step forward.” 

mgodin@record-journal.com203-317-2255Twitter: @Cconnbiz


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