When an institution has been around over a hundred years, people tend to take it for granted and forget the real impact it has. Such is the case with Metro United Way, which was founded in 1817 in Louisville.

“We’ve been a pillar in the community what feels like forever but a lot of people still see us only as this big fundraising organization,” said John Blair, Chief Brand Officer of Metro United Way. “We want people to understand the bigger role we play, the impact we have and what a difference we’re making.”

Most people assume Metro United Way is a charitable organization that is focused on helping severely impoverished and/or homeless people. But, Blair says, Metro United Way is currently helping to improve the lives of much more than that, one in five people in the area (in fact, about 250,000.) Their services cover four counties in Kentucky (Jefferson, Oldham, Bullitt and Shelby) and three in Indiana (Clark, Floyd and Harrison).

“The services we support can help people from the time they’re born and really throughout their lives,” Blair says. “Our organization is set up to answer an incredibly wide range of needs at any point in their lives.”

This mission is demonstrated by the four pillars Metro United Way fights for:

Early childhood success

“Nearly half of the children in our community are not prepared to enter kindergarten ready to learn. We know that children who start out behind tend to stay behind and we want to fix that,” Blair says. Because of this, Metro United Way has collaborated with strategic partners to make sure children get the best start.

For example, With the Lift a Life Foundation and Community Coordinated Child Care, Metro United Way has developed Excellence Academy early learning centers. They also lead the community’s Ready for K Alliance partnership with aligned strategies that boost improved early educational attainment.

Their program On My Way Pre K offers help for kids who haven’t attended preschool but want to get a jumpstart on kindergarten.

Youth success

Metro United Way has also established a system that helps steer local students toward high-quality out-of-school programs. These programs strive to decrease school dropout rates by providing a stronger educational foundation.

Metro United Way founded, along with JCPS and the Louisville Metro Government, a community partnership called BLOCS. BLOCS connects youth to programs, connects programs to one another, identifies gaps in service, and works to build system-wide quality through community training.

With their partners, Metro United Way has created a premier out-of-school time (OST) system that advances children’s learning outside of the classroom.

Healthy living

Blair says that Metro United Way’s programs for helping cover basic human needs like food, shelter and health are not, as you might assume, just for the homeless population. Among the people affected by food insecurity are senior citizens, rural residents, veterans and kids. In Jefferson County alone, 15.8 percent of people are food insecure.

A program that Metro United Way helped create with farmers and landowners in Shelby County called Farmers Feeding Families works to reduce hunger and its associated health issues.

They also continue the fight for healthy lives by offering FamilyWize, a program through which the uninsured and underinsured can save as much as an average of 45 percent on medications. The cards are simple to get and easy to use. You can text Health to 700700 to learn more.

Having a place to get a good night’s sleep is also an important part of health. Metro United Way has partnered with Southern Indiana schools in the Build a Bed project to provide bed frames, mattresses, sheets, blankets, pillows, and laundry bags to children that need them.

Financial independence

Imagine a community where people from all walks of life have the work skills to cover their financial needs. Metro United Way, in partnership with the Siemer Institute, has created a program that provides people with financial literacy and marketable skills. The goal is to prevent homelessness and help families gain financial security.

More programs

These programs are really just the tip of the iceberg of the impact Metro United Way has. Blair likens its role to that of an orchestra conductor:

“In an orchestra there are all these different musicians that are all excellent in their own rights. You have the best clarinetist, the best violinist, etc. But until everyone is reading from the same sheet of music and has a conductor to tell them when to play at the right time, you don’t get the full power of the music. Metro United Way is the ‘conductor.’ We know the needs and how to direct all of these nonprofit organizations to provide the best tools for the community.”

Need help?

If you need help, you can call 2-1-1. You can learn about all of the assistance resources they have to offer. You can also click here to learn about available programs.

Want to help?

If you want to help Metro United Way continue the impact it has on your community, you can donate, volunteer, advocate for your community, or unite for the greater good by joining networks of people who have the same desire to make things better as you do. Click here for more information.