United Way of Pierce County Celebrates 100 Years

Over $350 million dollars has been reinvested in Pierce County since 1921 when the United Way of Pierce County (UWPC) was formed.  Originally known as the Federation of Social Service Agencies, the organization was born out of the necessity to better coordinate the work of several Tacoma social agencies to avoid duplication and serve more people.

How does an organization like the United Way of Pierce County that gives so much celebrate something as momentous as a 100-year anniversary?  Well, that’s easy.  They give some more.  

On May 14, to honor the first day in 1921 the Federation of Social Service Agencies held an official meeting complete with officers, the UWPC will be collecting non-perishable food to feed families in need from locations throughout Pierce County from 11am to 2pm.  For more information, go to united-way-pierce-county-turns-100-years-old.

This first event will be followed by two other celebratory events including a Public Kickoff in September, followed by a Gala Dinner in 2022.

Looking back through the years to 1921 is interesting, but UWPC is highly focused on looking forward with their “15,000 by 2028” pledge.

“At United Way of Pierce County, we have a long, rich history of mobilizing the caring power of our community and we’re committed to lifting 15,000 families out of poverty and into financial stability by 2028, one family at a time,” said Dona Ponepinto, President and CEO of United Way of Pierce County.

As of this writing, UWPC is well on its way to exceeding that goal with more than 4,300 families moving towards self-sufficiency since the pledge was made in 2018.   In partnership with the community, Ponepinto and her team are meeting this goal in three ways.

Through partnerships with seven trusted community organizations, the United Way of Pierce County’s Center for Strong Families helps struggling, local families improve their financial bottom line with one-on-one mentoring and coaching.  The program helps clients get jobs, increase their income, decrease their expenses, build their credit and acquire assets.

By investing in basic needs through a wide range of community organizations, UWPC helps cover critical needs like food, health care, childcare and shelter.  When a family’s basic needs are met, they can move out of crisis and prevent future crisis through greater stability.

And then, there’s United Way’s South Sound 211 — a free helpline to connect people in need with critical community resources and provide navigation services for behavioral health, housing, transportation, and employment. 

After nearly 30 years in existence, the mission of 211 expanded as it began tackling COVID-19 issues in addition to housing and other needs it typically handles.  South Sound 211 was instrumental in meeting the challenges faced during the pandemic.  As part of the WA211 Network, 211 was activated to respond to calls for the Washington State Department of Health (WSDOH) COVID-19 Hotline, resulting in expanded hours of operation, and the hiring and training of additional staff and volunteers.  Supporting Pierce, Thurston and Lewis Counties, 211 connected more than 79,000 people (60,000 via the hotline number) in 2020.

According to Pete Grignon, Chief Financial Officer of United Way of Pierce County with over 33 years of tenure, “It really is about finding the best way to help the most people.”  

United Way of Pierce County

Asia Pacific Cultural Center Steps Up to Help Community

A quick visit to Asia Pacific Cultural Center’s Facebook page and you see it instantly. This organization does so much for the South Sound community, but especially during the current pandemic.

From hosting free COVID-19 testing in their parking lot every other Wednesday for months, to providing free food giveaways from the Tacoma Farmers Market weekly in the summer, APCC dug deep and helped often. Whether it was giving away thousands of masks and sanitation tools or school supplies to kids as virtual school started up, APCC helped everyone in the community.

According to APCC Executive Director, Lua Pritchard, “Helping our community is part of our core values. It is what Asian Pacific Islanders do every day, but it was especially important during the recent crisis.”

Throughout the months of the crisis, Pritchard and her team worked with several organizations to touch as many people as possible. A great example was the COVID-19 Assistance for Families program which partnered APCC with the Pierce County Connected Fund to give away $75 grocery store gift cards in late December when struggling families needed the help the most. Just days before, APCC hosted a toy giveaway with local Kiwanis chapters and free lunch from Northwest SHARE.

APCC also worked with the Pierce County Management Team and Tacoma Pierce County Health Department for free flu shots as well as the COVID-19 Testing. They worked with Tacoma Project Access to ensure people had health care coverage options. APCC promoted the Census, how to apply for government-funded small business loans in various languages, and educated the community about the Family and Medical Leave laws to ensure everyone knew their rights. And most importantly, APCC’s Promised Leaders of Tomorrow team continued their work with the youth of the Tacoma and Bethel School Districts through virtual learning programs providing support wherever it was needed.

Asia Pacific Cultural Center