Expanding education, fighting hunger, stabilizing families and growing the HELP Center are the mission-critical activities of United Way of Bucks County staffers, volunteers and supporters. In fact, the group's local objectives can be summarized as investing in the county's overall income and health.
One prime example of broad support is United Way’s HELP (Healthy Eating and Living Partnership) Center, which assists tens of thousands of people and 120-plus partners throughout the county, including schools, faith-based groups and nonprofits. Marissa Christie, UWBC president and chief executive officer, says the center looks and feels like a retail store, full of brand-new essential items, such as home goods, toiletries, cleaning supplies, personal hygiene items, furniture and food. However, the store provides those products on a complimentary basis to those in need.
Located in Bristol, the HELP Center is an 8,000-square foot warehouse, distribution center and shop for the group's gifts in-kind program. "The center fills the gap for local families in need through a dignified personal shopping experience," says Sheri Ratner, impact director, HELP Center.
The HELP Center was opened during the COVID-19 pandemic as a collaboration between UWBC and two other nonprofit agencies: Bucks County Opportunity Council and St. Mary Medical Center. Penn Community Bank provides generous support for the project. The center's been so well received that it has outgrown the space. UWBC staff and board members currently are working on securing state funding with the goal of buying a new space into which to relocate the center.
Operating as a free, mobile farmers market to the same three locations in Bucks County each week, UWBC's Fresh Connect program takes healthy options, such as fresh produce, meat and dairy, to food-insecure neighbors to provide reliable hunger relief for families and seniors. During the COVID-19 pandemic, staffers transformed Fresh Connect into an emergency food distribution program to meet the community’s most urgent needs. Fresh Connect is a collaboration of UWBC, Bucks County Opportunity Council, St. Mary Medical Center, Rolling Harvest Food Rescue and Philabundance. United Way of Bucks County funds Fresh Connect, and donations to support the market should be made through UW Bucks.
Additionally, a Senior Food Box Program works to improve the health of low-income seniors by supplementing their diets with nutritious food.
UWBC supporters just assisted with a successful Stuff The Bus drive to provide school supplies, backpacks, sanitizer and cleaning supplies for classrooms.
Pre-Kindergarten advocacy also is an important initiative of this group, because Pre-K for PA statistics indicate that out of the 4,620 eligible children in Bucks County between ages 3 to 4 years, 2,907 (63%) do not have access to high-quality Pre-K.
"UW Bucks works with community partners to offer the Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts program to families in need in Bucks County. Through Pre-K Counts, we provide quality Pre-K education to children at no cost to eligible families, giving our youngest neighbors a strong start in school and in life," says Kristi Moreno, impact director, Pre-K Education.
During September, United Way of Bucks County was proud to be a part of 'L.O.V.E. is the Answer Day,' which focused on open community discussions about local law enforcement.
In time for year-end generosity: The United Way Holiday Gift Card Drive is the group's annual holiday collection that helps teens and tweens in Bucks County. Recipients are residents of Bucks County, between the ages of 11 and 17 years. Organizers indicate to check after Nov. 15 for program registration details.
Since 1952, United Way Bucks County has united donors, advocates and volunteers around common good. UWBC 2023 Annual Report is available online: UWBucks.org/annual-reports or via hard copy by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Donations made online or by mailing check to: United Way of Bucks County, 413 Hood Blvd., Fairless Hills, PA 19030.