United Way’s mission to improve lives and strengthen communities is fueled by the passion and hard work of 2.9 million volunteers. People are giving their time and talents to create lasting solutions that improve life for everyone.
Meaningful community solutions require more than money or programs or policies. The kind of real and lasting change that benefits everyone is only possible when people from all walks of life are willing to roll up their sleeves and go where their time and talent is most needed.
Here are just a few of the ways that United Way volunteers are changing lives:
A new initiative called Rowan Reading Rebels is already bearing fruit in City Heights: 91 percent of participating students have accelerated their reading levels and writing proficiency, and 33 percent improved their school attendance.
The results are amazing, and yet the strategy behind it is common sense. Just ask Carmen Richardson, who volunteers every Tuesday and Thursday to work one-on-one with the students from Rowan Elementary School. The work differs depending on the needs of the particular child: sometimes it’s letters on whiteboards and beginning level reading; sometimes it’s sentence work.
The goal of Rowan Reading Rebels is to ensure that the children are reading at grade level by 3rd grade, a crucial milestone on the path to academic success.
Did You Know…?
Kids who are not reading at grade level by 3rd grade are four times more likely to drop out before earning their high school diploma. That’s why United Way has recruited more than 350,000 readers, tutors and mentors to help young people discover a love of learning—and translate that passion into success in school, work and life.
In 2013, on United Way’s first annual Day of Caring, more than 2,600 volunteers in Trinidad joined with 59 companies to participate in a wide range of community-building projects around the country. Volunteers refurbished a home for children with HIV, provided opportunities for exercise and physical activity for youth, read to children, prepared and delivered food, and much more.
Byron, a father of five, learned he might qualify for an Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). While preparing taxes at a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site, he discovered he was eligible for $5,600 in EITC. With that money, he was able to tackle his home’s mold problem, which was giving one of his children headaches and asthma flare-ups. Byron is one of thousands of local residents who have benefited from his initiative.
At VITA sites across the United States, our volunteers help millions of Americans save more of their hard-earned money. Through VITA and MyFreeTaxes.com, our online free tax preparation and filing service, Americans have claimed more than $10 billion—savings that people can use for essential needs like their next rent check, books that their kids need for school or a much-needed doctor appointment.
Did You Know…?
Research has shown that the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) encourages work, reduces poverty and leads to long-term gains in child health and academic success. The EITC doesn’t just put more money into people’s pockets; it’s a investment in the long-term success of multiple generations and entire communities.
The NFL & United Way Hometown Huddle is an annual leaguewide day of service designed to bring awareness and impact to the issue of youth health and wellness. Every year, NFL players give back to their communities by hosting youth football clinics, rebuilding neighborhood playgrounds and engaging in other volunteer projects.
The Cleveland Browns players and staff members and United Way of Greater Cleveland, plus an all-star lineup of community leaders and volunteers, built a new playground complete with an ADA-friendly transfer station with steps and handholds, slides, monkey bars and climbers.
Did You Know...?
The NFL has joined with United Way to reverse the trend of childhood obesity in the United States. Together, we've accepted a new mission with the Play60 campaign: motivating millions of kids to get up and get moving for at least 60 minutes a day.
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Each year on and around June 21, communities around the world come together to harness the volunteer spirit and improve the conditions in which they live. In 2014, thousands of people in more than 300 communities—from Macon, Georgia to Mumbai, India—committed their time and their passion to creating long-lasting solutions that benefit everyone.
Day of Action is an opportunity for communities to come together and address the issues that matter most to them. For some, it’s stuffing backpacks full of books to encourage reading and improve early literacy. For others, it’s planting community gardens to foster civic pride and promote affordable, healthy eating. In that sense, Day of Action mirrors the work that United Way does year-round: empowering people to affect positive change in their own backyards, and across the world.
In 2014, 700 young people dedicated their spring break to improving communities across the U.S and Jamaica. Since United Way's Alternative Spring Break began in 2006, more than 4,000 students have traded in their beach towels for tool belts. From building houses to tutoring children and helping with disaster recovery, students have volunteered 130,000 hours of their time to make a lasting impact on the lives of others.
More than 350,000 people have pledged to read, tutor or mentor a child through their local United Way—and our numbers are growing every day. From NFL players to senior citizens to faith communities, these volunteers are passionate about making a difference in a child's life. United Way volunteers are changing the face of education and improving kids’ odds for success.
See how United Way of Tennessee launched a statewide effort, Raise Your Hand Tennessee, that gave people a chance to volunteer to help kids succeed in school, work and life.