Our view: Virus outbreak means local United Way needs your help now more than ever

September 13, 2020 | Lubbock Avalanche-Journal

By AJ Media Editorial Board

The Lubbock Area United Way’s 2020 campaign is underway, and the need is greater than ever before.

That’s not just a catchy marketing refrain. It is the unfortunate reality that has emerged during a half year of pandemic-induced devastation and pain.

The organization’s recent kickoff, typically a sure sign that fall is in the air, had a different feel with a live-streamed event and a virtual conversation, necessary concessions in this season of social distancing and capacity restrictions.

Along those lines, the local United Way has been practical in its approach to this year’s $5.7 million goal. Agency officials understand the pandemic has wreaked a lot of havoc locally. After all, it was this agency and the Community Foundation of West Texas that quickly stepped up in the early days of the virus outbreak and oversaw fundraising efforts specifically meant to help those adversely impacted.

All of that said, the role Lubbock Area United Way plays in changing the community’s trajectory one life at a time cannot be overstated. It takes dollars to make the three-month annual campaign each fall a success for the 23 partner agencies and the thousands of people who depend on their services.

This year’s campaign chairman, AJ Martinez with Robinson Burdette Martin and Seright, hit it on the head when he said, “Needs are in every neighborhood, in every demographic. And there are people in every neighborhood and every demographic capable and willing to meet those challenges. This is what we mean when we talk about community.”

And COVID-19 has revealed even greater needs. According to a news release from the local United Way, some 3 million Texas households were only one emergency away from financial ruin when the pandemic hit. The number represented a 10-year record high, showing that more people than ever before were on the threshold of disaster.

The outbreak brought with it immediate unemployment, new childcare challenges, health care stress and untold pressure on families in terms of abuse, neglect and simple, basic needs. The state’s ALICE report, released earlier this week by United Ways of Texas, revealed numerous households across the state are above the Federal Poverty Level but still do not earn enough to make ends meet.

ALICE stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. In other words, people who are working yet still cannot provide basic necessities for their household. In Lubbock County, according to the report’s data, 30% were ALICE in 2018, an increase over two years ago. Another 18% were in poverty in the county.

Do the math. It means almost half the county’s households are struggling. ”...We are concerned that the pandemic has pushed even more families into the ALICE demographic,” Devon McCain, the local United Way’s community impact director, said in the news release. “These are everyday people who do not make enough to pay for basic necessities.”

Odds are you know people who have suddenly found themselves thrust into this category. Please consider that as you consider being a part of this year’s annual campaign.

The organization that began as Community Chest in 1946 will observe its 75th anniversary in 2021. It has a track record of success, achievement and accountability and has enjoyed incredible support from generations of West Texans who have stepped up and demonstrated heartfelt generosity.

Money raised during the annual campaign is invested in the Lubbock area through the organization’s community partners. These agencies provide an array of social services that offer a hand up to people who have found themselves caught in a crisis not of their own making.

This year’s campaign is off to a strong start as it announced more than $700,000 had been raised in the JumpStart Division, which comprised six local businesses running their campaigns early to set a good fundraising pace. We express our gratitude to Robinson Burdette Martin & Seright, Citibus, the Lubbock Association of Realtors, PlainsCaptial Bank, City Bank and United Supermarkets for their generosity, advocacy and community leadership.

We also thank those serving as volunteers in this year’s campaign as well as the staff and volunteers at all of the community partners.

Most importantly, we thank those who support Lubbock Area United Way with their financial gifts and ask everyone to help this organization deliver on its mission statement of “Giving People Hope” at a time when having hope is more important than ever.