Last year was a struggle for so many businesses and nonprofits. It was the year of challenge, change, and unknown.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic we have worked hard to connect both nonprofits, and citizens in our community with the resources they need,” said Ashley Abraham, Director of United Way of Highway 55. “The needs for the citizens in our community grew during the pandemic. Whether that was food, utility/rental assistance, shelter, or help finding other resources.”
With many collaboration projects and amazing donors that stepped up, UWHWY55 was able to raise $112,779 in 2020. Compared to $63,362 in 2019. Two of our Gold Donors-National Aerospace Solutions and Bechtel Group Foundation donated together close to $50,000.
“NAS has an employee payroll program set up, so we want to thank those individuals that continue to give,” Abraham noted. “And thank you to Bechtel for donating $25,000 as well.” UWHWY55 was able to allocate their promised $40,000 to the 16 partner nonprofits so they could continue their much-needed missions, as well as make a big impact in our community during the pandemic. Thank you to so many that contributed. It takes a village and we have such an amazing one.”
Abraham noted the work UWHWY55 did in education during the difficult year.
“United Way of Highway 55 works to improve the lives of our neighbors by increasing access to financial stability, education, health, and basic essentials. Education means investing in children so that they can achieve their full potential in school and in life. We invest in programs to achieve this!
In May 2020, we received 200+ children’s wood crafting kits (Lowes – Tullahoma, Home Depot – Manchester) and distributed bags that included information on the 2-1-1 hotline, the craft kits, books, crayons, worksheets, pencils, and glue sticks. UWH55 provided these bags to the Coffee County School Nutrition Program, which dispersed them to children in Coffee County as a part of their meal distribution program while the children were distance learning.”
In July 2020, Tullahoma Chick-fil-A Owner/Operator Joseph Seabolt and Executive Marketing Director Kelleye Watts came to Ashley Abraham and Pam Bussell-First Christian Church, The Salvation Army, and Second Harvest Food Bank Representative. Chick-fil-A graciously donated $5,000, and the United Way of Highway 55 assisted by donating an additional $2,000 to provide $1,000 in supplies for each of the 7 Tullahoma Schools. They took the idea for their $7,000 contribution to Shannon Duncan, Director of Student Services at Tullahoma City Schools and who then reached out to all 7 schools to collect their most needed supply items. Between the Tullahoma Wal-Mart, Ollies, and Sellers Surplus they were able to fill all supply requests.
In September 2020, United Way of Highway 55 partnered with Shannon Brindley Duncan, Director of Student Services at Tullahoma City Schools, to support the telementoring/teletutoring program that was offered during the hybrid schedule for students at designated locations. This supported working parents and helped students while on the hybrid schedule. UWHWY55 covered the cost of volunteer background checks for this program.
Food pantries/rental-utility assistance during the Pandemic
In April 2020, National Aerospace Solutions donated $4,000 to four local food pantries and UWHWY55 helped distribute those funds: First Christian Church Food Pantry, The Henry Center, Good Samaritan in Manchester, and The Storehouse Food Pantry. First Christian Church-2nd Harvest Food Bank (Pam Bussell) immediately turned around and allocated their $1,000 to order food through the 2nd Harvest Food Bank. They delivered 120 meals to students that were once receiving 5 Loaves 4 Kids food bags for weekends during the pandemic. The collaboration of Pam Bussell and Ashley Abraham, Director of UWHWY55, coordinated with Tullahoma City Schools Nutrition Dept., Tullahoma City Public Schools (Shannon Duncan), Coffee Co Anti-Drug Coalition (Mike Young-donated bags), and We Are Tullahoma (UWHWY55 Past Board Member: Leigh Fogle) made this possible.
In May 2020, Publix in Tullahoma also donated food that went to Good Samaritan in Tullahoma, The Storehouse Food Pantry, and Coffee Co Humane Society. Publix is also a part of the UWHWY55 Employee Payroll Program, and we appreciate their continued support.
“In June 2020, The Tullahoma Downtown Lions Club generously donated $5,000 to the United Way of Highway 55 COVID Relief Fund that helped pay rental, food, and utility assistance,” Abraham stated. “We appreciated their donation in efforts to help even more in our community.”
“Along with creating a community infographic for free local food and nutrition resources, we have worked closely with UWHWY55 Past Board Member Leigh Fogle on the “WeAreTullahoma.org” project which helps meet local needs that arise daily. It has been a great resource for individuals to share/find information,” Abraham revealed. “We have also worked with local media partners to promote the 2-1-1 Hotline which connects individuals in our community to help and resources they may need. This hotline is free and confidential through United Way. Just dial 2-1-1. Easy and very helpful.”
FOOD & WELLNESS RESOURCES
UWHWY55 has assisted in promoting resources and needs – as well as collecting resources to support the ever-growing need at our local pantries. This includes partnerships with local grocery stores as well as facilitating thousands of dollars in donations from local businesses, individuals, and manufacturers.
In April 2020, American Craft Distillery in Lynchburg donated hand & surface sanitizer which we distributed non-profit organizations in need.
During December 2020, UWHWY55 helped Pam Bussell with The Salvation Army/First Christian Church to gather/organize Angel Tree gifts for less fortunate children in our community.
“Thank you to Fbctullahoma, Traders National Bank, Good Samaritan of Tullahoma Ministry, First Christian Church-Tullahoma, Chick-fil-A Tullahoma, Micro Craft Inc., Saint Paul the Apostle Catholic Church, Seller’s Surplus, and Tyson Shelbyville for collecting gifts and handing out angels,” Abraham said. “Also, many volunteered to make this happen. Over 300 low-income families/children in our community received Christmas gifts.”
As for the coming year, Abraham said UWHWY55 has numerous goals set which will including events such as The Nonprofit Assistance Clinic (NAC) through UWHWY55 which offers FREE training programs, workshops, and consulting to nonprofit professionals. For our workshops, we bring in experts on different topics to help our nonprofits learn how to run as effectively and efficiently as possible.
“Our first Workshop was on January 21 with Mrs. Rupa Blackwell on the topic of ‘Fundraising’,” Abraham said. “With the pandemic fundraising has been a struggle for all nonprofits, so this will be a great topic to discuss and learn. About 25 individuals/nonprofits joined that zoom meeting. Stay tuned for more workshops through their Facebook page and website-highway55unitedway.org. We are planning on more around Grant Writing, Marketing, Chamber/Community involvement, and more.”
There will also be a call for nonprofit allocation applications. United Way of Highway 55 partners with local nonprofits yearly through there allocations process. They allocate funds to nonprofits selected by the Allocations Committee. The call for applications will be announced April 1st-May 1st. You email Director@highway55unitedway.org for an application. It will also be on their website at highway55unitedway.org soon.
Abraham is also excited about the events, donations and employee payroll programs that are coming up.
“We are excited to be collaborating on an event soon,” Abraham said. “Stay tuned on our social media and website for this info. Also, giving is the most effective way to get involved. Funds raised here, stay here growing and strengthening our community. I love sharing what our local United Way does and the impact it makes. Setting up an employee payroll program at your business can really help many. You are not just helping 1 mission in our community, but many.”
United Way of Highway 55 is a proud and active member of The Tullahoma Area Chamber of Commerce, Manchester Area Chamber of Commerce, and McMinnville-Warren County Chamber of Commerce.
Abraham thanked her board of directors who helped during the challenging year including:
•Hayden Hamilton, Chair – Regional Sales Operations Manager at RR Donnelley
•Pam Bussell, Treasurer – First Christian Church, the Salvation Army, and Second Harvest Food Bank Representative
•Michele Simmons, Secretary – Business Development Manager at ResourceMFG
•Tana Branch – Executive Director at Morning Pointe of Tullahoma
•Ashley Wright-Owner at Local Flair Public Relations (McMinnville)
•Coty Hall-Stan McNabb Collision Center Manager
•Manny Buchanan-Teacher/Coach Moore Co Schools
•Hannah Dunlap-TN Link Coordinator (Health Connect America-Shelbyville)
•Ryan Andrews-Tullahoma Lowes Store Manager