Local United Way fundraising campaign kicks off amid rising community needs

How to help

Call United Way of Dubuque Area Tri-States at 563-588-1415 or visit dbqunitedway.org for information on how to donate or volunteer.

A fundraising effort to support the area’s most vulnerable individuals and families faced unprecedented needs and unforeseen challenges during the coronavirus-hit 2020.

United Way of Dubuque Area Tri-States kicked off its 2021-2022 fundraising campaign on Tuesday morning with an event at Diamond Jo Casino that referenced successes and hurdles during the past year, a 12-month period of increasing community needs and frequent employment uncertainty due to the pandemic.

“We had people who had made pledges and then, unfortunately, they lost their employment,” said Danielle Peterson, president and CEO of the local United Way.

Despite the challenges, the local campaign exceeded its set goal of $1.2 million. As a result, 31 programs offered by 24 nonprofit organizations could meet increasing community needs.

“We were actually able to serve 31% more people than the year before,” Peterson said. “I think that has a lot to say about the flexibility and the partnerships of the nonprofit community. We served more than 55,000 people. Much of our focus during COVID-19 and beyond is on brain health and food scarcity and homelessness.”

This year’s campaign goal again will be $1.2 million. Money raised during the campaign supports organizations selected for funding through a competitive, two-year grant process that was initiated in 2020. Eligible nonprofit organizations provide services in three areas: health, education and income assistance.

One such funded program through Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Dubuque provides telehealth counseling for people experiencing mental illness.

“Telehealth allows counselors to stay connected with our most vulnerable individuals,” said Catholic Charities’ Lisa Turner. “I don’t know if we could do what we’re doing without the United Way.”

Amanda Hohman Dupont, of Community Solutions of Eastern Iowa, said her program — operated by East Central Intergovernmental Association — offers local services addressing homelessness. The organization also works with Dubuque Area Labor Harvest to coordinate food deliveries.

“We have taken over 2,500 calls (for food deliveries) since the beginning of the pandemic,” Dupont said. “There is a huge need.”

United Way will open the next grant application period in January, and funding raised by the newly launched campaign will fund programs for a two-year period beginning in June.

“United Way is an ‘easy button’ for charitable giving,” said April Finnin Rink, of Finnin Ford Kia.

Rink is co-chairing this year’s United Way fundraising campaign alongside Bob Woodward, publisher of TH Media.

“For me, it’s very difficult and time-consuming to figure out where will my donation dollars make the most impact,” Finnin Rink said. “United Way takes the guesswork out of that equation.”

Woodward said 98% of local donations remain in the tri-state area.

“The money we are raising is local, and we want the impact to be local as well,” he said.