Tulsa Area United Way to celebrate 100 years of helping community nonprofits

Alison Anthony Portrait for her column Alison Anthony's CEO Corner

Note: This article was originally published in the Tulsa World.

Alison Anthony

 

Visiting history museums brings me perspective. Understanding how people came together with courage to emerge on the other side with freedom intact inspires me during tough or divided times.

 

Reflecting upon the fact that the Tulsa Area United Way raised money for those in need, even during World War II, reminds me of this organization’s legacy to rise to the challenges of our current day.

 

For more than 99 years, the Tulsa Area United Way has been uniting people and resources to improve lives and strengthen communities. True to our founding spirit in partnership with the business community, whenever there is a need, the United Way is there. We collaborate to bring a comprehensive approach, actively listening and responding to local needs.

 

No one understands the needs and challenges of our community better than the 70 nonprofit partner organizations we support. These organizations show up every day with compassion and solutions to educate our children, support our elders and ease the suffering of the most vulnerable among us.

 

Our 2023 fundraising drive’s success, raising $25,800,721, owed much to Co-Chairs Karl Neumaier and Kathy Taylor, alongside nearly 800 organizations and thousands of volunteers. When we add in the value of volunteerism and other national and restricted grants, the total community impact in 2023 was over $28 million.

 

We also expanded our impact in 2023 by taking on the operations of 211 Eastern Oklahoma. No matter the situation, 211 specialists listen, identify underlying problems and connect people with services across 37 counties.

 

Since June, our 211 team has made over 72,000 referrals, finding help when someone doesn’t know where to turn. Those calls, combined with reports from our partners, tell us that often, people are working hard and still not able to make ends meet. 211 and our network of nonprofit partners can connect a family to utility assistance, food pantries, housing and more.

 

No wonder we are so passionate about raising the funds it takes to do this life-saving work.

I recently met with our partners at Impact Tulsa to learn how they are using data to drive systemic change toward the vision that all children deserve every opportunity to succeed. The team wanted to understand whether data could help families on the brink of eviction.

 

No one is surprised that their research showed that when families are evicted, kids are absent from school and not progressing. But they didn’t stop at research.

 

Impact Tulsa created a process with Tulsa Public Schools to inform the school when a student’s address was on the eviction docket so wrap-around services could happen for that child and their family before they became homeless.

 

Additionally, over the last two years, the nonprofit partners working together with Housing Solutions have housed 1,613 families with a 94% retention rate. With a 98% housing occupancy rate in Tulsa, we can’t rest on that number, as more than 2,000 families are still on waiting lists for housing.

 

We will continue working with the city, county, schools, nonprofits and business community to ensure that our region’s children can learn because they have enough to eat and a safe place to come home to after school.

The Tulsa Area United Way turns 100 on April 1. Our centennial theme is “100 Starts with 1” — one company, one donor, one “what if?”

 

One person willing to ask for help. One person — like me — inspired that the United Way has stepped up during times of upheaval, bringing people together for solutions.

 

As we embark on this journey 100 years in the making, we are not just looking back; we are building the future together, one meal, one home, one life at a time.

 

Alison Anthony is the president and CEO of the Tulsa Area United Way and a past member of the Tulsa World Community Advisory Board.

 

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