Great opportunity for every person in every community

The goal of improving lives, and creating lasting community change, always needs the collective effort.

By Jessica Muroff, CEO of United Way Suncoast

It’s the joyous smile of a single mom who gained a new job, with our assistance.

It’s the grateful dad who delivers relief to his family, thanks to a collaborative food distribution.

It’s the precocious child beaming over a new book that he actually gets to take home.

These are the images we create every day, at United Way Suncoast, with the help of more than 70 strategic community partners.

These are the snapshots of our ALICE families — households defined as Asset Limited, Income Constrained Employed — that informs our work. And yes, they are our families because we embrace the opportunity to assist them with some of society’s most pressing issues. We work hard for hard-working families because they deserve no less.

Moments of success inspire our mission, but the data we cull from working with these families drive our most important decisions at United Way Suncoast and this data can fuel the philanthropy of every business.

UWS’ work centers on standing, and delivering, for this community’s citizens but it’s rooted in crafting an intelligent strategy based on empirical information about ALICE families. The research leads us to focus on three critical, interconnected pillars: early learning, youth success and financial stability.

These working households, which comprise 44 percent of the region, live paycheck to paycheck, but do not earn enough to afford the most basic expenses. Childcare costs, transportation needs, medical expenses and other cost of living challenges all prove difficult to manage. One, unexpected, expense can create devastating consequences.

When we share the statistical story of these residents, it spurs other companies to join us in leading the community to a better future. Florida Power and Light Co. recently chose to adopt United Way’s ALICE criteria as a new standard for its FPL Care To Share Program, which aids FPL customers seeking assistance to keep the lights on.

In 2020, we rallied for the community in the days after the pandemic. As the number of those struggling for the first time began to balloon, we pulled together leaders from across the region and raised $1.9 million for COVID relief in six, short, weeks.

Every dollar from that fund went back out to the community through our strategic community partners and other nonprofits.

Now we’re moving forward, in 2021, with a new strategic vision that will help us lead the region in delivering a transformational impact, and creating a meaningful difference, just as we’ve done since 1924.

Our progress will include an attention to detail, an eye for ingenuity in this emerging digital world — including strengthening our data capacity with an impact center for nonprofit partners — and an unwavering focus on our core values: integrity, stewardship, innovation, collaboration and, especially, diversity, equity and inclusion.

We’ve woven the commitment to social justice we’ve maintained for 97 years into our new plan. United Way Suncoast has always been involved in the fight for equity. We look to create greater opportunity for every person in every community. Our work is focused on some of the most underserved communities across our region. This is our mission and we will not waiver from it.

The goal of improving lives, and creating lasting community change, always needs the collective effort that originally led to the creation of the United Way. We see our donors and volunteers as partners in caring and it’s a partnership that not only helps the community, but it also helps businesses.

The latest generation of workers wants a company that embraces the new culture of giving and United Way has never been better positioned to provide that through transformative, and transparent, workplace campaigns and impactful volunteer efforts. The companies who joined us during our recent Week of Caring can attest to the esprit de corps that resonated in their employees as they painted homes, refurbished playgrounds and enhanced the work of our nonprofit partners.

Collaboration is infused in our name and recognizes our longstanding devotion to a greater good, but the headwinds we face now demand that we pull together to be more strategic, to address disparities, to create more images of success.

For me, this isn’t just a job, it’s a way of life — a united way. United we rise. United we win.



  • Steve Sapato
    Posted at 10:35h, 24 June Reply

    One terrific article. Thank you for your words.

  • Carolyn Eastman
    Posted at 15:29h, 04 July Reply

    Beautifully expressed Jessica! A key characteristic thriving communities share is the ability to effectively leverage and maximize their resources. Fostering collaboration between business and community, United Way multiplies resources so they can be applied to achieve greatest impact. We are fortunate to have a strong United Way and businesses community that recognizes the importance of strategic grantmaking.

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