CHARLOTTE, N.C. — United Way of Greater Charlotte is investing millions into communities that are creating a more equitable future for all families.
United Way's 2024 investment totals $16 million, which includes $9 million in grants awarded to organizations working to improve economic mobility and lift families out of poverty.
"The $16 million investment also includes more than $2.4 million from the City of Charlotte as part of collaborative efforts to provide housing and services for people experiencing homelessness and $2.5 million from the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County to advance A Home For All initiatives. A Home For All is a community-wide effort to address homelessness and affordable housing. The remaining $2 million includes additional United Way community investments and donor-directed funding for nonprofits," according to a United Way press release.
In a statement, United Way President and CEO Laura Yates Clark says investing in neighborhoods and grassroots organizations shows United Way's commitment to improving issues, like economic mobility and racial equity.
“Our funding provides critical unrestricted dollars to support each nonprofit’s mission and we couldn‘t do this without the extraordinary generosity of corporate, individual and public-sector donors," Clark said.
One of the organizations receiving funding is ourBRIDGE for KIDS, a Charlotte-based 501(c)(3) organization providing wraparound support to newly arrived refugee and immigrant families.
Founder and Executive Director Sil Ganzo says ourBRIDGE is receiving nearly $100,000.
"[The funding] supports all the programming that we do with families in 15 different languages," Ganzo said. "It supports our amazing staff."
Ganzo started ourBRIDGE a few years after relocating to Charlotte from Argentina.
She says the organization is responding to a gap in culturally-responsive, educational and socio-emotional resources for newly arrived families.
Ganzo says funding from United Way of Greater Charlotte has helped ourBRIDGE to meet those growing needs and allowed her to increase staff numbers to better support families.
Without United Way's help, Ganzo says it would be extremely challenging to support families who need it most.
"Last year we worked with 322 families that represented 31 countries," Ganzo said. "Without funding it would be very hard to do the work we need to do to advocate for the safety of our families. There are families arriving and we want them to be safe and stable."
Mandalay Na, 22, is one of many who received help from ourBRIDGE.
Na's family came to the United States when she was 7 years old.
"I came as a refugee family," Na said.
Na says she understands what newly arrived families are experiencing trying to flourish and thrive in the community, such as learning a new language.
"Many times our parents are always working, so we would have to work on homework by ourselves, learn English with our friends," Na said. "A lot of times when that happens, we're not speaking or weren't writing English grammatically well."
But Na says she got the helped she needed from ourBRIDGE.
"I was able to get support in my homework and learning English and developing career skills," Na said. "I'm also able to now work in the field with Sil."
Na is now an AmeriCorps Member, serving as a community engagement coordinator.
United Way partnered with AmeriCorps to sponsor members for the AmeriCorps program.
Those members are living within the targeted local communities, helping to increase resident's knowledge about services in their neighborhoods.
Na serves on the site located at ourBRIDGE, working alongside Sil and her team to help families flourish in their community.
"We're able to get more access to resources [for families]. I love that I can continue being in a diverse community, I love being around people and learning about my community," Na said.
ourBRIDGE also credits COVID-19 relief funding from both United Way of Greater Charlotte and Foundation for the Carolinas for helping them support families during the pandemic.