How UWSD is Helping the COVID-19 Recovery

By |2021-05-28T16:01:05-07:00December 7th, 2020|Categories: Centennial|

How UWSD is Helping the COVID-19 Recovery

Our work is never finished

women putting on mask

Tomorrow is on the horizon, full of questions and unknowns. It is up to us how we answer. Starting today, we can respond with hope, with possibility, with action. We can speak up, raise our hands, give back. Starting today, we can rebuild our communities so they are better, more equitable, more resilient. And we can reimagine a tomorrow that is better than yesterday. But a new tomorrow can’t be reached alone. To get there, starting today, we must work together.

  • People in our community still need help – now more than ever because of the global pandemic, as well as every day struggles
  • United Way of San Diego County improves the education and family stability of every person – regardless of income or zip code
  • Individuals can have a big impact in their community, but they must start today

Here’s why it makes sense to continue to support United Way.

The tough work that will be needed to help communities recover is the very work United Way does every day:

  • By leveraging federal funds and donations, Unions United, in partnership with United Way, provides emergency assistance for rent or mortgage, utilities, and food;
  • We partner with schools and community-based organizations to prepare children for success in school, work, and life; 
  • We connect those in financial distress with resources to pay rent, mortgage, and utilities bills.

It is critical that we prepare for, respond to, and ultimately help our communities emerge stronger from this crisis.

Beyond response and recovery:

We already know the need will be greater, and more sustained, than ever before. This crisis hasn’t happened in a vacuum. We understand that many are still facing everyday disasters―like food insecurity, lack of access to educational resources, and financial strife―and these needs have only gotten worse. UWSD takes the long view, and is in it for the long haul, bringing people and organizations together to help communities recover, rebuild, and thrive.

Every person deserves to thrive. To make that dream a reality, UWSD supports the education and family stability of our neighbors.

But this is not something we can take on without partnership. Change doesn’t happen alone and we need the support of our local businesses, other nonprofit organizations, and people like you. Because the challenges we face are complex. They don’t have easy answers and can last months, years, and even generations.

When you support UWSD, you join forces to support:

The chance to succeed for more kids. From cradle to career, we ensure every child gets a strong start in life, teenagers have the tools to learn and grow, and young adults thrive in the job market. Last year, we engaged 11,701 students and families with attendance awareness efforts.

A path toward family stability for everyone. We support access to free tax preparation services that help make family stability easier. Last year, 25,250 households were served through the Earned Income Tax Credit Coalition, and over $42M in federal and state refunds were brought back to San Diego County families.

We will continue to support those in our community who need it most. We hope you will join us.

100 Days of Giving text

Starting today, give for tomorrow

By |2021-05-28T16:16:50-07:00December 1st, 2020|Categories: Centennial|

Starting today, give for tomorrow

Tomorrow is full of questions. But the answers are up to us.

Grid of community members ready to start United today

Our new normal is a world of uncertainty and change. That will take some getting used to. But we need to do more than adapt to a post-pandemic world. We need to build a better one. Thousands of people in our community devastated by the events of 2020 need your support to rebuild their lives.

At the beginning of the year, none of us were prepared for what we would confront. And no one knew how many in our community would need our help. Faced with a once-in-a-generation challenge, San Diego County stepped up. United Way staff, donors, volunteers, and our entire community came together in an unprecedented way. We helped our neighbors who were most impacted by the global pandemic and economic downturn get the relief and support they needed.

Here are some of the ways UWSD has been supporting the community:

  • Raised $1,941,205 for COVID-19 relief with the Worker Assistance Initiative (WAI), for mortgage/rent and utilities payments to support low-wage workers who lost their jobs or income
  • Helped 25,250 households with free tax preparation assistance through our EITC Coalition
  • Collaborated with our Advancing San Diego partners to place 40 students into internships at 20 different small businesses across the region
  • Engaged 11,701 students and families in attendance awareness efforts

But there is so much more to do. Thousands in our community still struggle with unemployment, food insecurity, and housing challenges. Many don’t know where their next meal is coming from, or how they will pay the rent or the bills. Even more are teetering on the edge without back-up savings. Kids are struggling with an unconventional school year.

Many of the Americans who were already struggling before the pandemic—like low-wage workers, people of color, LGBTQA+ individuals, and those with disabilities—were hit harder than the rest.

Consider this:

  • 11.1 million Americans are unemployed
  • More than 1 in 10 Americans don’t know where their next meal is coming from
  • At least 30 million people are estimated to be at risk of eviction
  • In 2019, 80% of White and Asian third grade students in San Diego Unified School District were reading at 3rd grade proficiency; while only 51% of Black and 56% of Hispanic students were at basic reading proficiency.

These are our neighbors. And they cannot wait any longer for relief, for support, for equality, for the opportunity to live a thriving life.

This year has taught that we don’t live in the equal society we’ve always cherished. But we can make it so.

At UWSD, we are working toward a new tomorrow for our community, one that offers:

  • Strong starts for children
  • Safe homes and warm meals
  • Greater equity
  • New career paths
  • Fresh starts
  • Thriving families

We must build a better future for our community, one where every person has an equal opportunity to thrive.

Let’s not put off until tomorrow the work that we can start today. Respond to the new year with hope, with possibility, with action.

Together, we can build a tomorrow that is better than yesterday. For every single one of us.

All we need to do is Start Today United.

Give for a new tomorrow

Starting today, help us build a future where everyone has an equal opportunity to thrive.

100 Days of Giving text

New “United We Can” Video Celebrates Your Impact

By |2021-01-04T22:28:39-08:00November 20th, 2020|Categories: Centennial|

New “United We Can” Video Celebrates Your Impact

girl rests her head on school desk

For 100 years, United Way of San Diego County has brought people together to transform the lives of local families. Our new video, “United We Can,” celebrates the changes that are possible when we unite for the good of our community. From achieving racial equity to boosting childhood literacy to supporting those hit hardest by COVID-19, together we can face and overcome San Diego’s challenges.

Education and family stability

In partnership with local organizations, United Way of San Diego County provides resources to help children, young adults, and families thrive. We focus in particular on supporting education and family stability. Nearly half of all local families struggle to make ends meet. The high cost of living and lack of affordable housing in San Diego County puts low-income families at risk of homelessness. This instability causes kids to fall academically and socially behind. In order to succeed in school, children need stable housing and a safe family environment. To that end, we support families through free tax services and assistance with mortgage, rent, utilities, and food when times are tough. By uplifting low-income households, United Way of San Diego County and its partners help build stronger children and families.

We also work to increase literacy among all students and address educational gaps between White and Asian, and Black and Brown children. Third-grade reading scores are widely accepted as the best indicator of whether a student will finish high school, but 49 percent of third graders are not reading at grade level. Our work ensures that all San Diego children enter school ready to succeed, read proficiently by the end of third grade, and graduate high school ready for college or a career. United Way of San Diego County equips children of all races and backgrounds to thrive in school, knowing that when students succeed, the entire community benefits.

Responding to COVID-19

The coronavirus pandemic compounds challenges faced by families this year. Many have lost income and employment. Children have had to adapt to remote learning and risk falling behind in school. Families face financial uncertainty, health risks, and social isolation.

During our hundred-year history, United Way of San Diego County has been here for those who need support—and the current crisis of COVID-19 is no different. In March of 2020, our team launched the Worker Assistance Initiative to support low-wage workers who experienced job loss or wage reduction with rent, mortgage, and utilities payment assistance. As the pandemic progressed and the challenges facing the community changed, we reevaluated who was most in need. We then partnered with trusted organizations to ensure that assistance was provided to our most vulnerable community members. Thanks to these partnerships and the generosity of donors, we were able to provide flexible resources to qualified individuals and families who were the most severely impacted by layoffs and reduced working hours.

In “United We Can” you’ll meet the Cornejos. This family of four faced a financial crisis after losing their barber business due to government closures. As their income dried up and savings dwindled, they teetered on the brink of homelessness. But with financial assistance from United Way and community partners, fueled by the generosity of individual and corporate philanthropists, the Cornejos were able to pay their internet and electric bills. Their two children—one of whom has a chronic autoimmune disease—could rejoin their classrooms online. Most importantly, they were free to learn without worrying about their family’s future.

“My 14-year-old son told us that he felt a little bit better about what the future holds, and with stress being a major factor in his disease, this brought me relief,” Lacey Kennedy Cornejo said.

Celebrating your partnership

As United Way of San Diego County celebrates one hundred years of service in the community, we are also working to redefine and reimagine the future. We know that the most effective way to strengthen our community is by aligning with community and philanthropic partners to leverage resources. Change starts small, but our goals are big.

We are United Way, but it is partners and supporters like you who make us a success. That’s why we celebrate you in our new video. Watch “United We Can” to learn how we can face and overcome San Diego’s challenges—together.

Honoring Prominent Community Leaders in San Diego

By |2021-05-27T09:52:37-07:00November 19th, 2020|Categories: Centennial|

Honoring Prominent Community Leaders in San Diego

Written by: Claudia Chow, Digital Marketing Manager, UWSD

United Way of San Diego County (UWSD) ‘s Virtual Centennial Celebration brought together business and community leaders to celebrate the 100-year legacy United Way has across the San Diego region. For 100 years, UWSD has aligned with partners and leveraged resources to transform lives. The focus continues to ensure that every child and young adult, regardless of zip code or income, is prepared to succeed in school and life, from cradle to career, and those families have the support needed to ensure that success.

More than just a celebration, the virtual event included honoring our past, celebrating the present, and redefining and reimagining the future. Sentiments for the organization’s monumental milestone were highlighted, local artists charmed the audience with delightful entertainment, and four local community leaders in the education, business, and philanthropy sectors were acknowleged and praised for their commitment to our community.

Award recipients were honored in the following categories:

The Lifetime Achievement Award
The Lifetime Achievement Award was awarded to Solar Turbines, a 93 year old company that has been giving back to San Diego every step of the way. For decades, Solar Turbines has been UWSD’s leading corporate partner, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars each year. Many thanks to the employees who make this happen and donations are matched dollar for dollar by the Caterpillar Foundation.  From the shop floor to the executive team, there is a passion for giving back that is in their DNA. Solar Turbines became the first partner to raise over $1M for United Way and other local charities.  Only one company has raised more…and it was Solar…the following year!

Recipient: Director of Global Supply Chain for Solar Turbines and current Board Member of United Way Leslie Oliver on behalf of Solar Turbines

The James F. Mulvaney Community Leadership Award
The James F. Mulvaney Community Leadership Award was awarded the Hunter Family.  Named after James (Jim) Mulvaney who was active on numerous nonprofit boards and organizations for 50 years, the award commends those who demonstrate long-lasting, exceptional service to the San Diego community. The Hunter family has been partnering with United Way for nearly 35 years and, every step of the way, has been a leader in all that they do for this community. Whether it be donating their time, talent, or treasure, the Hunter Family has a rich history of giving back that you could say is in their DNA.

Recipient: Ann Hunter Welborn on behalf of the Hunter Family

The Philanthropic Partner of the Year Award
The Philanthropic Partner of the Year Award was awarded to San Diego Gas and Electic (SDG&E). For decades, SDG&E’s contributions to the community have been unparalleled.  Their generous support of local nonprofits, from education and the environment to healthcare and STEM, provides a safety net for our most vulnerable residents. Most recently, it has been an honor to partner with SDG&E and others on the COVID-19 Community Response Fund. SDG&E has been United Way’s strongest ally. The company has contributed more than $4.47M over the past 15 years to help San Diegans pay their utility bills, including more than $400K most recently through the Worker Assistance Initiative.

Recipient: Vice President of State Governmental Affairs and External Affairs for SDG&E, Eugene “Mitch” Mitchell, on behalf of SDG&E

The Community Partner Award
The Community Partner Award was awarded to Sylvia McGrade who, before her retirement, was the beloved principal at Adams Elementary School in City Heights. Sylvia was a key partner in the  Every Student, Every Day initiative, a collaborative effort effort that aims to ensure kids stay engaged with new forms of learning and supports their families with basic needs. In partnership with UWSD, parents, and students, Sylvia came up with creative ways to get kids to school on time. She even gave extra recess to children who had perfect attendance for an entire month, and you can imagine how popular that was! Sylvia served as an invaluable partner to help us and our attendance team tackle drilling down on the vital factors that would positively impact families.

Recipient: Sylvia McGrade, Principal, Adams Elementary School (ret.)


From local leaders – business and government, education and nonprofit – to philanthropists and community partners, we want to thank you for the vital role you play in making San Diego’s future brighter– because #UnitedWeCan!


Thank you to our co-chairs and the Mulvaney Family for recognizing these four prominent community leaders in the education, business, and philanthropy sectors in San Diego.

And thank you to our sponsors who helped make this all possible.

United Way of San Diego County Raises Over 110,000 at Virtual Centennial Celebration

By |2021-05-28T16:09:41-07:00October 23rd, 2020|Categories: Centennial, Press Release|

United Way of San Diego County Raises Over 110,000 at Virtual Centennial Celebration

Media Contacts:

Suzy Garcia / Ann Marie Price

Scatena Daniels


EDITOR: To download images, click here.

Photos courtesy United Way of San Diego County


United Way of San Diego County Raises Over 110,000 at Virtual Centennial Celebration

Event proceeds to support and continue the nonprofit’s mission to bring together community partners, transform lives, and eliminate disparities


San Diego, Calif. – Oct. 20, 2020 – On Thursday, Oct. 8, United Way of San Diego County hosted its Virtual Centennial Celebration and fundraiser commemorating its Diamond Anniversary. The nonprofit raised its glass to honor its past and celebrate the present, as well as redefine and reimagine the future of our local community. More than 225 attendees gathered virtually to celebrate the organization’s outstanding work and raise more than $110,000 to support the nonprofit’s mission.

The event co-chairs included the following:

  • Constance M. Carroll, D., chancellor, San Diego Community College District
  • Jerry Sanders, president and CEO, San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce
  • Mark Stuart, CFRE, president and CEO, The San Diego Foundation

Event co-chairs and the Mulvaney Family recognized four prominent community leaders in the education, business, and philanthropy sectors in San Diego. Honorees included:

  • Solar Turbines, Lifetime Achievement Award
  • SDG&E, Philanthropic Partner of the Year Award
  • Hunter Family, James F. Mulvaney Award
  • Sylvia McGrade, Principal, Adams Elementary School (ret.) Community Partner Award


Celebrating 100 years of community service

The organization’s Virtual Centennial Celebration also focused on its current and future work—including its leadership in the Earned Income Tax Credit Coalition and the Count Me 2020 Coalition, which aims to ensure every San Diegan is counted in the 2020 U.S. Census; the San Diego Worker Assistance Initiative to help provide flexible resources to individuals and families impacted by layoffs and reduced working hours due to the pandemic; and its partnership with the Advancing San Diego initiative to build a pipeline of local talent through internships for community college students with local businesses.

United Way of San Diego County also addressed the racial justice movement throughout the event, reminding attendees that only by being united can the community achieve equality and racial justice, especially when it comes to the urgency of addressing educational gaps between White and Asian, and Black and Brown students in our schools.

Attendees had the opportunity to participate in a silent auction and delight in entertainment from Fernando DaRosa, Mariachi Torres, NuEra, and Whitney Shay. A presentation of United Way of San Diego County’s past, present, and future community leaders was also showcased and prominent San Diegans came together from the comfort of their homes to wish the organization a ‘Happy Centennial Celebration.’

Event sponsors included San Diego Gas and Electric as the Diamond Sponsor, Solar Turbines as the Platinum Sponsor, the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority and US Bank as the Gold Sponsors, and Dudley & Finch and The San Diego Foundation as Silver Sponsors for the event.

Leading the San Diego community into the future

“It has been a whirlwind of a year for our community and the world, and to be able to still celebrate our sponsors, donors, volunteers, and staff was an unforgettable way to give thanks to all who support our mission year round,” says United Way of San Diego County President and CEO Nancy L. Sasaki. “Whether you’re a longtime supporter or someone who just started your involvement with our organization, your support has transformed the lives of many children, young adults, and families throughout our region. We look forward to continuing our work for many years to come with the help and support of our community guiding us through.”

The celebration isn’t over! United Way of San Diego County has kicked off its 100 Days of Giving to raise $100,000. The campaign will end on December 31, 2020. For those interested in supporting the nonprofit’s next 100 years, visit for more information on how to donate, volunteer, and get involved.


For 100 years, United Way of San Diego County has aligned with partners to address inequities in the region and help underserved communities. United Way’s specialty lies in identifying sustainable, long-term goals and achieving them through leveraging data and partners’ expertise to better understand root causes and putting impactful solutions into action.

United Way’s work, in partnership with others, uses shared goals, innovation and proven practices to transform the lives of children, young adults and families in the San Diego region. United Way focuses on educational milestones, such as kindergarten readiness, third-grade literacy, high school preparation, and college and career pathways. Learn more and get involved by visiting, Facebook, Twitter, or by calling (858) 492-2000.

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