A Time to Give is Now

A time to give is now

United Way thanks first responders, donors during COVID-19 crisis

By Brandon Schreur | on May 05, 2020 | The Daily News

For nearly everyone — not just in Montcalm and Ionia counties, but across the entire state, country and world — the past two months have been anything but normal in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

United Way Montcalm-Ionia Counties thanks all of its volunteers and donors for helping them during food distributions, providing personal protection equipment to frontline workers and more during the coronavirus pandemic. Today, United Way Montcalm-Ionia Counties is teaming up with nonprofits across the country to recognize frontline workers and their efforts. — Submitted photo

To recognize some of the medical professionals, grocery store clerks and other essential workers who have stepped-up during this time, United Way Montcalm-Ionia Counties is teaming up with nonprofit organizations across the country to celebrate #GivingTuesdayNow today.

“Every year, people come together on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving for #GivingTuesday, a global generosity movement,” United Way Montcalm-Ionia Counties Executive Director Terri Legg said. “As an emergency response to the unprecedented need caused by COVID-19, we are joining nonprofits and individual people around the world in a special #GivingTuesdayNow event.

“On May 5, people around the world will take action to collective drive an influx of generosity, citizen engagement, business and philanthropy activation and support for communities and nonprofits around the world. We want to show the world that United Way Montcalm-Ionia Counties is united for frontline workers.”

The idea, Legg explained, is to pay respect to those who are diligently serving or working on the frontlines.

“Our intent is to thank all the essential workers out there,” Legg said. “By essential workers, that includes those inside hospitals and other first responders, but it also includes clerks at the grocery store, those who are teaching at home, delivery truck drivers and warehouse workers. It’s to honor everyone’s sacrifice during this time.”

Corrections officers, postal workers, cleaners and those who have stayed at home or worn masks in public, among others, are also included in those United Way aims to recognize during #GivingTuesdayNow.

Participating in #GivingTuesdayNow and saying thank you to essential workers can take many different forms including donating a meal, making a sign for your window or front yard, being kind, sharing a message on social media, leaving items outside for delivery workers, emailing congress about providing relief to frontline workers, joining a daily salute or simply staying home.

“Our vision is to show our appreciation for all of those that are on the frontline and have had to change their daily routine in some way,” Legg said. “These people now have to work long hours at the grocery store or are out delivering ever day as we order packages online. In our homes, there are caregivers that haven’t had to do that kind of work. There are teachers who are doing things completely new to them. Schools are adapting to the ever-changing climate. We appreciate everyone who is taking a stance by stepping up and staying home.”

Another way to contribute to #GivingTuesdayNow is through donations.

According to Legg, United Way Montcalm-Ionia Counties’ COVID-19 Crisis Fund has raised a total of $176,630, with $122,700 of that money having been granted back into the community for mobile food trucks, food pantries and shelters and personal protective equipment (PPEs).

“We’ve had many, many generous community members who have donated funds towards us,” Legg said.

Cargill Protein’s Lake Odessa plant recently gave United Way Montcalm-Ionia Counties $45,000 for PPEs and other needs.

“We are extremely thankful for the great work United Way is doing in our communities,” said Jay Patel, plant manager for Cargill Protein in Lake Odessa. “I want to extend our sincere appreciation to (Legg) and all of United Way. Cargill is always committed to our communities and happy to support our communities in any way possible — especially during these unprecedented times. We value our partnership with United Way across the country, and are glad to be able to make a difference locally.”

The Greenville Area Community Foundation (GACF) also donated $38,000 toward United Way Montcalm-Ionia Counties.

“We’ve had a good partnership with United Way for quite a few years now. We work with them often and are in touch regularly,” GACF President and CEO Alison Barberi said. “We know that they were providing support for the whole area and we got in on it right away knowing that food was going to be an issue.”

Additionally, Meijer donated $26,000, EightCAP donated $10,000 to support 211 operations in Montcalm and Ionia counties, the Greenville Youth Advisory Council contributed $6,000 to help serve food trucks in the Greenville area, Mizkan Americas Inc. in Belding donated $5,000 and the Ionia Commission of Aging donated $5,000.

“The dollars we’ve raised, a good chunk have been life-long United Way givers, but there are also many first-time donors, which is excited,” Legg said. “Our donations range from $5 up to these large amounts. The majority of what we’ve raised is coming in chunks of $5 to $150.”

The money raised is also being used to directly benefit Montcalm and Ionia county households which fall within the Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed (ALICE) threshold.

ALICE is a demographic of people whose income falls above the Federal Poverty Level but below the basic cost of living. Many families with children and college students, senior citizens and essential workers often fall within the ALICE threshold.

According to Legg, groups that are within the ALICE threshold are being impacted by the coronavirus pandemic more severely.

“Before the coronavirus and before we began sheltering-in-place, normal meant that nearly 50 percent of Montcalm and Ionia counties were ALICE thresholds that already struggled to make ends meet,” Legg said. “Normal meant that we had a lack of affordable housing. Normal meant that quality daycare is often not available to many of our families. Normal meant that we have an invisible homeless population that is going to bed in a tent or in their car. I hear people say things like, ‘When it goes back to normal …’ I challenge everyone to think about what the new normal could look like and what we can do to help create a better normal where 50 percent of our local community is not struggling to make ends meet.”

Legg estimates that as of April 30, United Way Montcalm-Ionia Counties has distributed 180,000 pounds of food to local residents and served approximately 12,400 individuals — a figure which includes 3,900 families, 2,300 seniors, 4,200 children and 410 veterans.

Through celebrating #GivingTuesdayNow and in recognizing those community members who might need assistance, Legg hopes more people will continue donating to United Way’s COVID-19 Crisis Fund.

“As we begin to think about what the future holds and we begin to learn, work and connect with friends and family, we need to learn to invest in and support each other differently than we did before,” she said.

Visit liveunitedm-i.org for more information or to donate.