March 20 COVID19 Response

MEDIA RELEASE
3.20.2020
UNITED WAY CONTACT: Donna Swaffar, Communications Director
Phone: 785.383.7451 (voice/text) E-mail: donna.swaffar@unitedwaytopeka.org

United Way COVID-19 Action
Community Collaboration, Relief Fund, Event Cancellations

March 20, 2020, TOPEKA, KS—United Way of Greater Topeka announced the creation of a COVID-19 local relief fund to help local agencies react to increasing service demands. United Way also has closed its office at 1527 SW Fairlawn Road to the public and most staff are working remotely until further notice. Work is continuing with the exception of in-person events and meetings, some of which will move online.

“The health of our staff and volunteers has always been a paramount concern for us. In order to comply with the CDC’s guidance on social distancing, and in the best interest of our staff and volunteers, we have decided to temporarily close our office to the public, effective immediately”, said Jessica Lehnherr, UWGT CEO. “Most staff will be working from home, and you can reach them via email. An email contact list is available at UnitedWayTopeka.org/About.”

For the latest information on COVID-19, and/or to find resources in our community, simply dial 211 to be connected to United Way’s 24-hour referral hotline. UWGT will also continue to share information across its social media channels, including a pinned resource list on Facebook.

Lines of communication are open among area service agencies, Lehnherr said.

“On Wednesday we virtually gathered many nonprofit organizations who provide basic needs to our most vulnerable citizens. While this first meeting focused on our invested partners, we also had a few others who are providing vital services join us, and we hope to expand attendance at future virtual meetings. Included on the initial call were partners who provide food assistance, rent/utility assistance, financial stability resources, healthcare and prescription assistance, and safety from domestic violence. Just in this first quick update, it became clear how interdependent our efforts are and how communicating our changes quickly with the entire group may maximize our collective effectiveness and minimize unintended consequences.”

“We also asked our partners what they felt their biggest needs would be in the coming days, weeks and months,” Lehnherr said. “As you can imagine, the almost hourly changes are making it tough to predict future needs.”

In addition to hosting weekly virtual meetings, UWGT is also creating a local COVID-19 Relief Fund. UWGT’s Women United group already has pledged $5,000 of its emergency grant budget to the effort, and the UWGT Executive Board has approved the use of UWGT’s disaster recovery funds. The Relief Fund will quickly and directly help local nonprofit organizations that serve those most in need due to the coronavirus outbreak. This Relief Fund will complement the work of public health officials and expand local capacity to efficiently respond to evolving needs. Lehnherr said that 100% of the money raised in the effort would be distributed locally.

Social distancing recommendations and local closures have forced the cancellation or indefinite postponement of the following United Way meetings and events

  • Imagination Library movie premiere at Hollywood 14 Theater: Originally scheduled for April 2, this event will be rescheduled, possibly at a different venue.
  • Topeka Volunteers at Fairlawn Plaza: Originally scheduled for April 14, this event will be rescheduled.
  • Basic Needs Investment Panels: Originally scheduled for March, these panels or an alternative review format will be rescheduled.
  • UWGT Board of Directors March meeting: The March 26 meeting has been canceled and will not be rescheduled. Future meetings will be moved online if conditions warrant.
  • UWGT Committees and Councils: Staff are working to establish virtual meeting opportunities for multiple volunteer committees and councils as needed.
  • Spring 2020 Junior Leader Reader sessions will not be scheduled due to the school building closure.

###

ABOUT UNITED WAY OF GREATER TOPEKA

United Way brings together people, companies and nonprofits in Shawnee, Jefferson and Jackson Counties to create positive sustainable change in education, financial stability and health. United Way remains dedicated to supporting Basic Needs, including food, rent and utilities, health and prescription access and safety from domestic violence.