Thanksgiving is a celebration of gratitude, an acknowledgment of the blessings and bounties bestowed on us throughout the year.

Though 2020 has presented unimagined challenges, we at United Way are thankful for the community of southern West Virginia, a community that cares.

At United Way, we are so grateful for the generous donors who continue to support local nonprofits and the communities they represent. We appreciate beyond measure the business and community partners committed to the mission of the United Way of Southern West Virginia. We are blessed to partner with incredible agencies that address the challenges to the health, education, and financial stability of the residents of southern West Virginia. We are grateful for volunteers who offer their precious time serving as board members and for community members who dedicate their time working fundraising events. I am so thankful for the resilience of West Virginians and the commitment to care for our neighbors, and I am exceedingly grateful for the staff at United Way whose dedication and diligence is only exceeded by the love of their community.

Many of our friends and neighbors who struggle to make ends meet throughout the year have been impacted by the global pandemic. No one has been immune from the effects of an unprecedented pandemic, and many in our community are facing additional struggles from the trials of such a significant event. These struggles will endure throughout the holiday season and beyond.

Families with tight budgets or seniors on fixed incomes are unable to stock up on supplies, and social distancing has restricted visits to senior centers or food banks for many. Prior to the pandemic, 15 percent of West Virginia households experienced food insecurity and one in five children struggled with hunger. Though many school systems in our service area offered food choices during the summer, for many families transportation to pick up available food is an issue. According to the WV Center on Budget and Policy, during the first week of June 2020, over 20 percent of West Virginia households often did not have enough to eat.

An increase in substance abuse and overdose deaths has become evident during the pandemic, and their far-reaching effects will touch the loved ones of those involved. Children at risk for abuse and neglect will be seen less by mandated reporters like teachers, counselors, and principals, and reporting will decrease while abuse and neglect is likely to increase.

As we all take part in the new landscape of holiday celebrations, please consider that while some of us may only face the challenges of fewer family members or smaller gatherings, many are facing unimaginable financial hardships and stressors. Our agency partners have seen an increased demand, and most expect further increases as the pandemic continues. Every dollar donated to United Way counts in supporting our partner food banks, child advocates, senior services, recovery programs, and utility assistance, as well as our 211 Information and Referral Hotline and Equal Footing Shoe Fund.

Please consider living, giving, and leading UNITED!

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Contributions to United Way can be made by mailing a check directly to United Way of Southern West Virginia, PO Box 5456, Beckley, WV 25801, giving securely at unitedwayswv.org or calling directly to 304-253-2111.

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