A look back at the many ways our community came together to help those in need

2020 is a year that will go down in history as one of the most challenging we’ve faced as a community, a nation, and an organization. But it will also be remembered for the incredible outpouring of support it inspired from our partners, community members, staff, friends, and family.

As we prepare to welcome 2021, we at United Way of Salt Lake want to look back on 2020 and highlight some of the bright spots in a noteworthy year. Big changes are often the result of many little changes; working together we can change the world.


211 get help during coronavirus

Utah 211

Utah 211 continues to serve a critical role in Utah’s health and human services delivery system. Utah 211 made 106,000 referrals to local organizations in 2020—by connecting people to housing, food, transportation, and other essential resources required to live healthy lives, it empowers users to change their lives for the better. Expanded coverage allowed Utah 211 to address education needs and create a “close the loop” protocol to follow-up with callers and ensure they got the help they needed.


Collective Impact

The Collective Impact teams—who traditionally work in-person with partners in communities throughout Salt Lake—pivoted to make virtual community action projects a reality. From our Grassroots Leadership Fellows who conducted research online to our Volunteer Coordinators who paired virtual tutors with students needing help in math and reading, everyone stepped up to ensure that support was there for those who needed it.


Community Response Fund & Grant Money Distribution

Donations to the United Ways of Utah COVID-19 Community Response Fund, created to address emergent concerns arising from the coronavirus, made it possible to distribute $847K to organizations offering immediate COVID-19 relief to underserved families and those excluded from receiving other forms of assistance.


Organizational Commitment to Working for Racial Justice

As an organization, United Way of Salt Lake is committed to solving complex social problems at scale. We believe that collaborating with partners in our community is the way we can succeed in transforming the many systems that create inequitable outcomes, and that this requires us to center racial equity, diversity, and inclusion in everything we do. The following are the commitments we make every day while doing work that is anti-racist and anti-oppression.

  • Use a racial equity lens for all organizational decisions.
  • Actively work to recruit board members and staff of color.
  • Continuously invite our partners to join us in a commitment to equity in all communications and actions.
  • Create processes that allow us to listen to and implement input from those with lived experience.


United Way of Salt Lake’s core work is the elimination of racial and economic disparity gaps. We enter 2021 with a renewed commitment to challenging racism in our community. As an organization, we’re promoting racial justice and healing, taking a stand on diversity, equity, and inclusion, and following an equity roadmap.  Learn more and join us in dismantling racism.


Stay Safe, Stay Connected

The shift to remote learning highlighted some existing inequities in the education system, and United Way of Salt Lake, together with the Promise Partnership and the Utah State Board of Education, launched the Stay Safe, Stay Connected initiative. The initiative allowed UWSL to distribute 1,450 laptops and chromebooks to families across the Promise Partnership, ensuring they could maintain a connection to the classroom and to family members and friends they couldn’t safely see in person.

  • UWSL distributed 870 devices directly to families that called 211 for Stay Safe, Stay Connected assistance.
  • UWSL distributed 580 devices to schools and multi-cultural community-based organizations to help best target the devices for distribution to families who might have language, transportation, or other barriers to signing up via 211.


Education Innovation Awards

Six community schools committed to prioritizing equity in their classes and received a $50,000 grant from the Promise Partnership to bring the plans to life. Schools were selected for submitting plans that address specific disparities, focus on students most burdened by existing systems, and seek to change school practices rather than kids or families.

The six projects funded by Promise Partnership grants include

  • Creating family engagement/communication plans
  • Expanding access to honors/AP classes
  • Eliminating “tracks” for students
  • Overhauling disciplinary practices
  • Providing auto-enrollment in pre-AP English 1 and AP Geography
  • Embedding teachers and students in out of school programming


Learn more about the schools that won and how they are creating an inclusive back-to-school experience here.


Social Determinants of HealthSocial Determinants of Health

An equitable response to the pandemic is required to ensure we have an inclusive recovery for everyone in our community, and that includes addressing social determinants of health. Social determinants of health are the factors outside traditional healthcare that contribute to a person’s overall health and well-being. They are conditions in the places where people live, learn, work, and play that affect a wide range of health risks and outcomes.

To improve these important health factors, Utah’s largest hospital and healthcare system, centers, and IT leaders have joined forces with United Way of Salt Lake and Utah 211 and their community-based partnerships provide referrals to services and resources that address whole-person care, placing human relationships and needs of individuals and families at the forefront.


Thank You

United Way of Salt Lake is fortunate to have dedicated, generous, and passionate partners supporting our work, and you can be part of the change—visit uw.org/get-involved. Here’s to a great 2021.



By Jessica Gezon, Senior Content Manager with United Way of Salt Lake