Lake Area United Way gathers resources for local aid groups
By Chesley Oxendine firstname.lastname@example.org Apr 12, 2020
Lake Area United Way has set up a COVID-19 fund intended to help local nonprofit organizations provide for those in need, said Director Jenny Jamison.
"We started a fund, and to be quite honest, we began it because several of the United Ways were doing it and we wanted our donors and our community, if they wanted to give, there would be a local place for it to go," Jamison said. "We have such kind hearts in the Muskogee and Tahlequah area, and we wanted them to be able to donate where their funds would stay local."
All donations gathered via the LAUW COVID-19 fund would stay totally local, Jamison said, though money would reach individuals through local nonprofits rather than LAUW directly.
"We don’t have that direct connection with individuals, so we look to see who does and where we can put those resources. We made a donation to Salvation Army this week so they could help with rent and utilities, for example," Jamison said. "The important thing that I want people to know is that that money is 100 percent going back to their community, as fast as we can get it in and get it out."
That $5,000 donation helped the Salvation Army of Muskogee stock up for those in need of food, rental assistance, or utility assistance, said Lt. Rev. Charles Smith.
"It’s pretty impressive because it’s helping us to be able to meet more needs in the community and to help people right here in Muskogee County," Smith said. "We are able to help people. Two thousand dollars for food, $2,000 for rental assistance, $1,000 for utility assistance."
Jamison said those particular needs became a focus for LAUW in the wake of massive job losses across the area because of COVID-19.
"A lot of what we’re hearing throughout our state and community is that people are finding themselves without a paycheck for the first time," Jamison said. "They’re seeing such an increase in the amount of people who need help with rent and utilities. Even with suspension of cutoffs, they’re still going to have to be paid."
Ensuring the right needs are met may mean branching out beyond their typical slate of partner organizations, Jamison said.
"We have a list of our partner agencies, but we’re going beyond what our partners offer. We’ll give the money to our partners if they’re providing rent and utility assistance. Salvation Army is not one of our partners, but they are helping people, and so that’s exactly what it’s for," Jamison said. "One hundred percent of it is going right back to helping people — we’re not taking any administrative costs or anything."
Jamison said it felt "strange" to ask for donations in a time when so many are suffering, but that the response to the fund has been positive.
"It’s hard to be in a crisis and ask people to give. This is more of a disaster than what we’re used to dealing with. This is a unique crisis in that it’s affecting so many people. Maybe it’s me personally, but it’s hard to ask people to give when we’re all having to adjust," Jamison said. "I think we just want to be able to meet the need. We are proud to offer a place where people can give to a name they know and an organization we hope they trust and support. We just wanted to give them a place where they could."
Raising and then directing resources to the right places remains the core mission of LAUW, Jamison said.
"Our business is raising funds for good people who do good things," she said. "This is the way that we know how to contribute. This is how we give back to our community. You work off of your strength, and this is our strength and I hope it’s a strength we can give to others."
You can help. To donate to Lake Area United Way's COVID-19 fund, visit http://www.lakeareaunitedway.org, or find the Lake Area United Way organization on Facebook for more information.