Area United Way agencies partner in Regional COVID-19 Response Fund

Sue Guinn Legg • Mar 25, 2020 at 11:34 PM

Seven United Way agencies in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia have partnered to establish a Regional COVID-19 Response Fund to help meet immediate and long-term needs in the region stemming the coronavirus outbreak.

Announced in a joint press conference conducted online by the local United Way agency directors on Wednesday, the fund was launched with a goal of raising $1.9 million to provide resources to nonprofit service agencies across the region with “boots already on the ground” to vet and meet the needs of children, adults and seniors impacted by the virus.

Kristan Spear, president and CEO of the United Way of Washington County, which last week launched its own Covid-19 relief fund to serve as a fundraising and volunteer hub for those who wish to help, said the effort was well received, quickly generating approximately $21,000 in donations and requests from several of the area’s larger corporations to expand the effort across the region.

In addition to the United Way of Washington County, partners in the new regional response fund include the United Way agencies of Bristol TN/VA; Elizabethton/Carter County; Greater Kingsport, Greene County, Hawkins County and Southwest Virginia.

Spear said the guiding premise is “we are stronger together.” 

Donations to the fund, which may be designated for Covid-19 relief in any of the participating counties or the entire region, can be made by online at NETNSWVARelief.org, by texting NETNSWVARelief to 41444, or by mail to any of the participating United Way agencies or to United Way Regional COVID-19 Response Fund, P.O. Box 644, Abingdon, VA 24212 with a memo designating checks for “regional response.”

Spear emphasized the United Way agencies will cover all administrative costs of the fund, so 100 percent of all donations will go directly to local residents who have been impacted by the virus.

The partner United Way agencies are organizing an advisory committee to review both immediate and long-term needs related to the virus and ongoing containment efforts and expect to begin allocating funds to local nonprofit services within the next two weeks.

Spear noted that several of the United Ways’ nonprofit partner agencies are already responding to the need for food deliveries, transportation, resource referrals and other immediate needs and are also equipped to meet needs that are expected to arise and the COVID-19 crisis evolves. “People have lost jobs and we foresee the need for (assistance with) rent and utilities as things evolve,” she said.

In addition to the nonprofit service agencies that work in partnership with the United Way, other nonprofit services that are meeting local needs related to the virus will be considered for allocations from the regional response fund.

The participating United Way agencies kicked off the fundraising with a combined contribution of $87,000 that Spear said came from donations made to the relief fund set up last week in Washington County as well as contingent emergency funds donated by several of the larger United Way agencies.

To further kickstart the fundraising, the regional response fund will attempt to raise 19 percent of its $1.9 million goal in 19 days, or $361,000 by April 13. Spear said several large corporate donations are anticipated to help meet that goal.

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