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Chester County Press

The Power of United Giving to Support Nonprofits on the Front Lines

09/30/2020 05:25PM ● By Steven Hoffman

In these challenging and uncertain times, with so many pressing needs in our community, those who want to help often face impossible choices. 

Is food insecurity or homelessness more important? Health and COVID testing or domestic violence? Programs that provide for at-risk children or those that serve the elderly? It’s impossible to know how to allocate our giving so that our charitable donations best serve all of those who are most in need right now. That’s where the United Way of Southern Chester County (UWSCC) comes in, according to Carrie Freeman, the organization’s CEO.

For 75 years, UWSCC has been skillfully and strategically supporting, connecting, and resourcing nonprofits working on the front lines in every sector of our community. Part of what makes UWSCC so effective in this role is an ability to see all of the various needs—those that make the headlines as well as those that don’t—from a bird’s-eye view. This perspective, in addition to decades of experience and a deeply rooted network of relationships built on trust, uniquely equips UWSCC to direct funds where they’re needed most—and to respond quickly enough to achieve maximum impact.

Because many of the programs UWSCC is able to support are preventative in nature, their impact can sometimes be difficult to quantify. 

One powerful example is UWSCC’s lightning-speed response to an urgent request from La Comunidad Hispana (LCH) last spring. LCH needed $75,000 to fund a mobile unit to bring coronavirus testing to local mushroom farms where many employees work, and also often live, in crowded quarters.

Freeman received the call on May 18. “Let me see what I can do,” she said. As she hung up the phone, she knew she was in a race against the rapid, invisible, and deadly spread of the virus among these families and the wider community. But she also knew that this is exactly the kind of crisis UWSCC has always been in the community to meet. 

UWSCC was in a position to contribute $25,000 from the emergency COVID-response funds they’d raised in April. That left $50,000. Freeman, who sits on the COVID grants board for the United Way of Chester County (UWCC), knew she could reach out to their CEO, Christopher Saello. UWCC was also able to contribute $25,000. “And then I talked with Rachel Roberts, president of the American Mushroom Institute. Rachel was a past board member for UWSCC and I couldn’t think of a better partner for this initiative,” Freeman explained. 

Within 24 hours, she was able to call LCH with the news. “I have $75,000 for you,” she told them. She was relieved, but she was also struck once again by the power of united giving combined with trusting relationships built over the many years UWSCC has served the southern Chester County community.

To date, this program has tested over 400 individuals, with a 15 percent positivity rate. The LCH testing unit also provided all who were tested with bilingual educational materials, including instructions for home monitoring and quarantining a family member who tests positive, and supplies like thermometers and face masks. “It’s the perfect intersection of education and prevention,” Freeman said. 

According to one recent model of coronavirus transmission developed at the University of Notre Dame, every infected person who doesn’t realize they have the virus will, on average, pass it on to three other people—and so on. As Freeman explained, “Think how many virus transmissions we stopped by stepping in when we did.”

Freeman takes her role as connector and supporter of those on the front lines very seriously. “I’m so proud of our local nonprofits,” she said. “These people are working so hard, around the clock, to meet emerging needs. They’re doing a phenomenal job. My job is to make sure nonprofits have whatever they need—whether that’s funding, mentoring or training, help finding volunteers or board members, or emotional support for exhausted CEOs. I’m very proud to support them.”

Some of the greatest needs here in the wealthiest county in Pennsylvania are hidden. Many are surprised to learn, for example, that over 1,700 school-aged children are living in poverty and that more than 350 of them have experienced homelessness. And, of course, the compounding consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and shutdown have only made such numbers higher. 

When UWSCC was founded 75 years ago, the world was also in turmoil, in the last days and aftermath of World War II. But now, as then, UWSCC remains resilient and focused on their mission to mobilize “the caring power and resources of our community” to “effectively move people from crisis to independence.” 

Although their 75th anniversary celebration will look a little different than Freeman, her staff, and board had originally envisioned, they’re encouraging community generosity through two giving incentives this fall. New donors who give $25 or more to UWSCC’s Community Impact Fund, and returning donors who match or increase their gift from last year, receive a chance to win a free year of groceries. 

In addition, past and present UWSCC board members are generously offering a $75,000 challenge match. For every new leadership donor giving $1,000 or more, USWCC will receive $1,000 in matching funds. Full details about UWSCC’s 75th anniversary campaign and giving incentives can be found at

“A gift to your local United Way goes directly to help your neighbors in need. We’re uber-local,” Freeman said. 

UWSCC’s 75th anniversary fundraising goal of over a million dollars is ambitious, but Freeman believes it’s matched by the caring power and generosity of our community. 

“Our strength is the community supporting us so we can support the community,” she said, “and we’re blessed to live in a place where individual and corporate donors, as well as service providers, really pull together to help others.”