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United Way responds to ongoing social needs amplified by pandemic


Last week, United Way East Ontario invested in 39 programs across Ottawa, Prescott-Russell, Lanark County and Renfrew County to respond to the ongoing needs in our communities exacerbated and amplified by the pandemic.  

As optimism grows with vaccinations and economic reopening plans, United Way recognizes that the social challenges of COVID-19 have not gone away, and many people are still struggling.

The $2 million investment will:  

  • provide basic needs like food and PPE; 
  • support isolated seniors and their caregivers;  
  • strengthen mental health supports; 
  • address learning loss among vulnerable children and youth; 
  • empower community services to continue their frontline work; and 
  • build a more equitable recovery from the pandemic.  

COVID-19 did not create inequities, but it has exacerbated the chronic social challenges people were already facing, like poverty, social isolation, and mental health. The pandemic has also disproportionately impacted people who were already marginalized by systems that did not recognize or include them: Indigenous peoples, Black and racialized communities, women, low-wage workers, people with disabilities, seniors, and others. This investment will address these ongoing issues, with an equity lens that will uplift the people who have been systemically sidelined, so no one is left behind. 

“It will take courage, commitment, and innovation to continue tackling systemic challenges while many people return to a pre-pandemic feeling of normalcy. We will continue tackling the most complex challenges our communities face, and we will take the lessons of the pandemic with us to build a more equitable future—that is the power of United Way.”

“We know that African, Caribbean, & Black communities are being disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, systemic racism, and the intersecting challenges that impact mental health and wellbeing,” said Michelle James, Coordinator of the Ottawa Black Mental Health Coalition. “Investing in support for the community, by the community, is just one of the ways the United Way is showing local love.” 

“The Phoenix Centre, as host of the Champlain Region Virtual Care Project, is delighted to continue offering virtual care technology and connectivity so vulnerable populations can access much-needed mental health, addiction and wellness services in our region,” said Greg Lubimiv, Executive Director of the Phoenix Centre for Children and Families. “Our journey through COVID-19 has made the inequities that many children, youth, adults and families face every day even more clear. More than 600 people have already reached out for help through this service, and United Way’s investment empowers us to continue reaching those who need us, without barriers.”

Throughout the pandemic, United Way East Ontario has chaired the COVID-19 Community Response Table—a group of more than 100 partner organizations and subject matter experts who deployed more than 60 rapid response solutions to respond to the challenges of the pandemic in its first year.  

With support from the Community Response Table, United Way has helped more than 130,000 people stay alive healthy, and safe with data-driven investments and collaborative advocacy since March 2020. 




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