• Meghan Harvey

United Way, United Community: Local nonprofit provides relief amid COVID-19 pandemic

The United Way of Blair County can always be counted on in times of need, so when the nonprofit stepped up to help with COVID-19 efforts, it was no surprise.

The United Way has formed a unique partnership with a large number of local grocers to ensure the people of our community are being taken care of and still able to feed their families. The partnership also helps the grocery stores by providing them with business and funding. “It’s a win-win for everybody,” says Melanie Shildt, Executive Director of the United Way of Blair County.

Community members are able to apply for funding that will be received in the form of a voucher. The grocery store vouchers can be redeemed for things like groceries, toiletries, baby formula, and other basic needs.

Every Thursday, the grocery stores will get a list of people who will be receiving vouchers for the week. The vouchers will then be emailed to those who have qualified for funding. Community members can take those vouchers to the store that they have chosen, where they will then be issued a gift card. The grocery stores will then bill the United Way directly for the number of vouchers redeemed.

As of now, people are able to apply on a weekly basis. “Once the unemployment checks start to come in, we may restructure due to limited funding. We want to make sure we can help as many people as we can,” says Melanie.

Stores include a large number of local grocers, both large and small, like Weis, Giant Eagle, Mac's Meat Market, The Village Pantry, and others. “We made sure there was a store in every part of the county,” says Melanie. “We don’t want our community members to have to travel far for basic-need items.”

“We’ve had some very generous donations to get this fund started. We’ve had some great support. We’re very grateful that the community has rallied together to help us get this started and take care of community members,” says Melanie.

The United Way of Blair County is governed on a local level, meaning they have the ability to adapt as local needs change.

“When this crisis happened, we saw a need and developed a fund. Aside from the food banks, there’s not really anybody providing people in our community with the ability to go to the grocery store and get what they need,” Melanie says. “That’s why we structured our program the way we did. They’re able to get items they maybe wouldn’t get at a food bank.”

The community is grateful to have the support of organizations like the United Way, whose goal is to create opportunities for a better life for everyone in the community.

“We are solely focused on Blair County. Everything stays local,” says Melanie. “We’re helping our friends and neighbors and family members. We can physically see the work that we’re doing and the impact that we’re having. It’s not going outside of our community.”

The United Way is accepting donations to keep the COVID-19 fund going. You can donate online through their website, Facebook page, or by mailing a check.

Join the United Way of Blair County in supporting the community!

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