Guide to Giving Back This Holiday Season

By |2021-05-27T09:53:14-07:00November 20th, 2020|Categories: Giving, Marketplace, Volunteer, Workplace Giving|

Guide to Giving Back This Holiday Season

Written by: Claudia Chow, Digital Marketing Manager, UWSD

Each year, we receive dozens of inquiries from community volunteers and companies who are looking to give their time, talent, and treasure during the holiday season. The holidays are always a challenging time for many in our community, but this year will be especially difficult for families who are still dealing with the effects of the COVID crisis. While there are an infinite number of ways to help, we want to spotlight a few ways in which you can get involved and help make this a cheerful season for everyone!
If you are looking to volunteer, in-person or virtually, we have many resources to share…

The San Diego Homelessness Volunteer Network, a partnership of UWSD, the Regional Task Force on the Homeless, and Councilmember Chris Ward, has many opportunities to help unsheltered individuals through several nonprofit organizations in the San Diego region: sdhomelessnessvolunteernetwork.org

UWSD also partners with HandsOn San Diego to offer The COVID-19 Volunteer Hub, with many virtual and remote opportunities focused on supporting nonprofits in the midst of the coronavirus crisis: www.sandiegovolunteerhub.org.

Lastly, you can find holiday-related volunteer activities on HandsOn San Diego’s dedicated Holiday Page.

United Way and the Nonprofit Institute at the University of San Diego have joined forces to offer the Board Service Certification Program, designed to help professionals use their skills and experience to move nonprofit boards forward in an ever-changing world. Our program gives participants the knowledge and leadership training needed to serve as effective and passionate board members. In addition to a certificate received upon completion of the course, participants are given the opportunity to connect with nonprofits who are searching for new board members.

A big congratulations goes out to our Fall 2020 cohort participants who recently completed this course! We are so excited to see the big changes these leaders will make in our community.

Are you interested in joining our next cohort, set to take place virtually in early 2021?
Please contact Carlee Chatman, Corporate Social Responsibility Manager, at .

As you may know, we recently celebrated our Centennial Anniversary here at UWSD. 100 years of United Way in San Diego! We celebrated with a virtual gala to thank all of the wonderful partners who have helped us grow our impact and further our work of eliminating inequities in our community over the last century. Continuing with the celebration, UWSD has set a goal to raise $100,000 in 100 days before the end of 2020. Please consider donating to our efforts as we look forward to the next year of recovery, rebuilding, and reimagining our community in the wake of COVID-19.

Lastly, each year UWSD participates in the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council’s Holiday Food & Toy Distribution. This year, we are setting out to help 950 local families have a brighter holiday season with a delicious turkey dinner and toys for their children. Please consider participating in our toy drive!

Is your company or organization interested in hosting a collection drive?
Please email Carlee Chatman at .


100 Days of Giving text

Centennial Celebrating the 1970s

By |2021-05-27T09:36:11-07:00June 29th, 2020|Categories: Centennial, Family Stability, Giving, Volunteer|

Centennial Celebrating the 1970s

Written by: Claudia Chow, Digital Marketing Manager, UWSD

United Way of San Diego County (UWSD) continues to observe our Centennial Celebration by highlighting each decade with this month’s salute to the 1970s, a time full of innovation and incubation.

In 1973, we adopted the name United Way of San Diego County in keeping with national trends. During the 70s, UWSD flourished thanks to growing relationships with local companies and their workplace campaigns. We joined forces with 11 local affiliates to create the Combined Health Agencies Drive (CHAD). Then in 1975, UWSD helped create The San Diego Foundation. The following year, we helped launch the San Diego Community Leadership Development Program, a predecessor of LEAD San Diego. United Way also created a volunteer bureau to help people get involved in community service. Last but not least, during this era, Guideline was created, a countywide information and referral service that later became 2-1-1.

This year, in conjunction with the Centennial anniversary, UWSD expanded our Day of Action work to a month-long campaign to bring awareness of food insecurity as well as support vulnerable senior citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic. Each June, United Ways across the globe participate in Day of Action, a day to address and tackle a variety of challenges that communities face. It is a day that United Ways ask their community members to help put the mission into action by volunteering to improve the building blocks for a good quality of life – education and family stability.

In addition to bringing attention to National Hunger Awareness Month, UWSD team members and partners from the San Diego & Imperial Counties Labor Council honored the staff of Unions United with a surprise no-contact parade that doubled as a food drive. To help support the mission of the food pantry, we hosted a month-long virtual food drive to help restock the pantry! The staff members in the emergency on-site food pantry have provided over two decades of commitment and support to those vulnerable in our community. They have been working hard everyday face to face with clients throughout this pandemic.

Not only did we celebrate the Unions United team, but that weekend UWSD staff and volunteers joined the San Diego & Imperial Counties Labor Council for a food distribution at SDCCU Stadium, providing over 640 individuals and families with produce and canned goods during these unprecedented times.

Now, more than ever, seniors need to remain safely in their homes. Many seniors are at a higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 and cannot venture out to find basic hygiene and personal care items. This year with the expanded Day of Action, UWSD collaborated with ElderHelp, a local nonprofit whose mission is to help seniors remain independent and live with dignity in their own homes, to assemble personal care kits. Volunteers were given supplies to take home, assemble, and instructed to return the completed kits to ElderHelp’s building. All coordination efforts, including picking up and dropping off the kits, were a no-contact transaction. Our eight volunteers put in 25 hours of service to supply ElderHelp with 300 kits for their seniors!

During these challenging times, United Way, with the help of individuals like you, can continue our impactful work as we have for the past 100 years for those in need in our community.

To learn about the Centennial Celebration, visit uwsd.org/centennial.

Centennial Read Across America

By |2021-05-27T09:44:58-07:00March 16th, 2020|Categories: Centennial, Early Childhood Success, Volunteer|

Centennial Read Across America

“I really enjoyed volunteering with United Way for Read Across America. I think it’s an amazing program to participate in because it highlights the importance of community and youth engagement, as well as the valuable habit of reading. Overall, it was a great time, and I can’t wait to volunteer again,” exclaimed Jamie Kuehner, volunteer.

Written by: Claudia Chow, Digital Marketing Manager, UWSD

As we approached the third month of our Centennial Celebration, we could not think of a better way to celebrate than by expanding our Read Across America outreach. March 2nd marks the birth of Theodor Seuss Geisel, commonly known as Dr. Seuss, the author of many children’s books, and is nationally recognized as Read Across America Day. Each year, companies and individuals from across San Diego County volunteer with United Way of San Diego County (UWSD) to read with local students to promote and celebrate literacy in honor of Dr. Seuss’s Birthday. This year, in conjunction with our Centennial Celebration, UWSD extended the Read Across America celebration to a full week and also led a region-wide book drive to spark the love of reading among children in our community.

UWSD knows the key to early childhood success is literacy. Students who can’t read well by third grade are four times less likely to finish high school on time. In San Diego Unified School District alone, 24% of low-income 4th graders are reading proficient, 34 points lower than their counterparts (58% of non-low income students are proficient). That number jumps to six times less likely to graduate for students who come from low-income neighborhoods.

That’s why this year, in partnership with Warwick’s bookstore, GEICO, Holman Enterprises, San Diego Council on Literacy, and San Diego County Credit Union (SDCCU), we expanded our reach to increase our impact across the region.

Individuals were encouraged to donate new children’s books for the cause. Donations sites included Warwick’s in La Jolla, all SDCCU branch locations, UWSD, and several corporate partners’ offices. The accessibility to mulitple donation sites helped us collect over 1,000 new books for our summer initiative Readers in the Heights.

Did you know? During the 30s, Theodor Seuss Geisel published these famous Dr. Seuess books: Horton Hatches the Egg (1940), McElligot’s Pool (1947), Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose (1948), and Bartholomew and the Oobleck (1949). In addition, to Dr. Seuss’s success, here is a look back into UWSD’s history in the 30s. Patriotic San Diegans responded with unprecedented generosity, pushing the War Chest over the $1 million mark in 1943.

Stay tuned as we continue to celebrate our 100th year leading up to our Gala on 10/10/2020.

To learn about the Centennial Celebration, visit uwsd.org/centennial.

Every Student, Every Day Intern Stories: Sadia

By |2021-05-27T09:45:21-07:00April 23rd, 2019|Categories: Early Childhood Success, Volunteer|

Every Student Every Day Intern Stories: Sadia

ESED intern

One Recipe for Student Success: A Little Help from Everybody

A former refugee from Somalia, Sadia Said, who grew up in Libya then moved to Egypt and eventually emigrated to America, knows it takes a little help from a lot of people to succeed in this country. She understands the power of people helping people. So when she started at San Diego State University, she knew she didn’t want to teach children, she wanted to help them.

“I thought social work was only about resettlement. Later I realized you could work at a school, in a hospital… Everybody needs help.” When she learned about United Way’s Every Student, Every Day absence-intervention initiative—where interns work to understand issues facing students and their families, with support from the school site, clinical supervision, and weekly coaching—it seemed like a perfect fit. “I’m a childcare provider with a daycare center in my home, so I already work with kids. I liked that the program involves parents and their children and their teachers and the school staff … a little bit of everything.”

That “little bit of everything” would play a key role as her new internship at Central Elementary in City Heights unfolded.

“I had a first-grader on my caseload, Delia, who was, hesitant to tell me what was going on at the beginning. She kept asking me if I was a social worker-I found out she’d had a negative experience with one. As we continued to see each other — it took five meetings before I found out what was really going on in her house — she started opening up, telling me things.” As it turns out, Delia was witnessing troubling incidents that made her afraid to go home. “I wasn’t sure what to report or what to say,” Sadia says.

Later, she consulted with her supervisor, United Way’s Impact Manager Nina Ghatan, MSW. Together, they decided to report it.

When the front desk told Sadia that Delia’s mother was there to pick up her child, she was conflicted. “We weren’t sure if we should send Delia home with her.” Luckily, Central Elementary Principal Liz Duvall intervened to talk with the parent—who only spoke Spanish—acting as a liaison to explain “mandated reporting,” a policy that dictates certain professions (teachers and principals) are legally required to report any suspicion of child abuse or neglect to authorities.

“Her brother and father were fighting in front of her.”

“I thought [the mother] wouldn’t be very helpful, but she was supportive of the idea,” Sadia says. “She wanted what was best for her daughter.” Delia was watching her Dad and a brother fighting. Mom was aware but didn’t know how to fix it or where to go. “She didn’t realize how much it had impacted her daughter, the youngest in the family. When we met with the mother, she told us she was looking for a therapist for the entire family. Principal Duvall made a referral to for crisis intervention and individual, family, and group therapy so the family could get help.”

“Everyone at school was so helpful,” Sadia continues. “But it was scary.”

With logistic support from the school site, plus clinical supervision and weekly coaching, Sadia found her way with Delia, while United Way’s Ghatan found understanding with Delia’s mother.

“Originally we had a view based on what Delia was telling Sadia, including that the mother had been in prison. But that wasn’t the whole story. She was there because of immigration. We became even more empathetic.”

As more layers were uncovered, more preventions were put in place to protect Delia. Now, the school social worker knows Delia’s situation and helps out when Sadia isn’t available.

“Sadia’s growth was remarkable to witness,” her supervisor adds. “She grew from a nervous young woman an insightful investigator.”

UWSD’s absence intervention initiative, Every Student, Every Day, offers a set of interventions to increase school attendance using data and our partners’ expertise to put impactful solutions into action. The initiative has consistently produced positive results for children and families, including increased attendance for participating students. This is another example of how United Way aligns partners, collaborating closely with schools, teachers, parents and staff, to leverage the resources and best practices that can help transform the lives of children, young adults and families. 

Ron Wicks: Tax Prep Superman

By |2021-05-28T16:13:58-07:00April 15th, 2019|Categories: Family Stability, Volunteer|

Ron Wicks: Tax Prep Superman

Ron Wicks stands in front of the camera and smiles

At the end of 2018, as Ron Wicks headed (reluctantly) into retirement from the IRS, he sat down to talk about his legacy: playing a key role in helping to bring millions of dollars back to our County through a partnership with United Way, the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA), County of San Diego Health & Human Service Agency (HHSA), and multiple other key non-profit partners.

As an IRS Senior Stakeholder Relationship Tax Consultant for San Diego County since 2001, Ron has been a guiding, gracious force of the hugely successful San Diego Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) Coalition, led by the United Way, which has offered free tax preparation services to low-income taxpayers with a cadre of volunteers who help taxpayers determine if they’re eligible to claim federal tax credits, such as the EITC and the Child Tax Credit.

How did a program go from bringing $500,000 back in federal refunds in 2003 to Tax Year 2017’s $40 million? Let’s listen to Ron as he tells the tale…

About EITC

“State and Federal Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC) are cash-back tax credits for working individuals and families. With the combined state and federal credits, qualifying families can receive hundreds, or even thousands back just by filing their taxes.”

About the beginning

“I made a presentation in 2002-2003 to the county supervisors, who gave us $50,000. Along with another partner, we received additional funding from the Anne E. Casey Foundation. We started with a site in Escondido with the support of the North County Collaborative and in the south, The Bronze Triangle Community Development Corporation. That first year we brought back $500,000 in federal refunds – probably 3,000 returns.”

Success in 2018

“In 2018 [tax year 2017] the San Diego EITC Coalition served over 31,000 individual households by providing free tax preparation. That resulted in more than $40 million in Federal and State refunds [8,244 of those households received over $14 million in Federal EITC refunds].”

Why the program was successful

“The Community Action Partnership [CAP], under the umbrella of the Health & Human Service Agency [HHSA], which administers programs that help low-income families, saw the potential numbers we could bring in if we could just get people involved to file their taxes. ‘Let’s see if we can do it,’ they said. On the flight back from a statewide CAP conference, the CAP Director asked me, ‘What do you think about putting a requirement to do the EITC with our family self-sufficiency contracts [for those seeking rental assistance]?’ That’s really how it blew up.”

About United Way’s critical role

“United Way’s partnership and participation helped us go county wide. They helped get the partners involved and up to speed and showed them how important EITC was, not just for the refunds but to comply with tax law. And, as we progressed and increased our impact, United Way helped with outreach and translation into other languages.”

About expanding countywide & horse-trading

“At the time we were looking to expand, AARP TaxAide sites were only doing taxes for people 55 and older. That was their focus; they didn’t want to be involved with the VITA Program. AARP TaxAide was always asking me for additional IRS-loaned equipment to serve more taxpayers. The CAP director wanted to expand the VITA Program countywide, so I set up a meeting with AARP’s state coordinator and the CAP director, who asked the AARP State Coordinator, ‘What do you need?’ They said, ‘Computers and printers.’”

“The CAP Director had a discretionary fund, so the director said, ‘I’m willing to give AARP TaxAide $75,000 towards purchasing computers and printers if you’ll open your doors to low-income taxpayers below 55.” The AARP State Coordinator said yes. Now we had countywide access to the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites plus the AARP TaxAide sites.”

About Comic-Con comparison

“In 2010, a senior policy analyst at National University System Institute for Policy Research examined the impact of EITC in San Diego County. Among his key findings that year:

  • 1 out of 4 EITC-eligible taxpayers fail to claim the credit, forfeiting tens of millions of dollars each year
  • The annual direct spending of EITC refunds in San Diego County is more than three times greater than the direct economic impact of Comic‐Con.

“People think of Comic-Con and all this revenue coming into San Diego, but equating it with EITC puts it on a whole different level. If all this was the case nine years ago, it’s probably even truer today.”

About his retirement…

“I want to ensure that the next person who plays this part has all the tools they need to make this even more successful. I hope our partnership with United Way continues— it’s a big part of our program and why it works. I mean, 30,000+ tax returns, $40 million in refunds. That’s a huge benefit to our community.”

About trust & leaving legacies

“I always volunteered at the free tax sites. People would come in apprehensive, worried about money, worried about the IRS. And they’d walk out knowing they had a $3,000 to $5,000 refund coming! When I started in 2002, I tried to take the IRS out of the equation — just the name. I tried to get people to trust me as Ron. You have to build up trust … a trust that people who come into these sites will feel safe. Then they’ll go home and tell their friends to file their taxes. That’s our biggest marketing tool, word of mouth. But first, you must have trust.”

“I’m so proud that, being a native San Diegan, I was able to help create this program and have it be successful and so impactful to so many people. Honestly, I’m very sad to leave it.”

Ron, we’re wishing you the best in whatever you do next: teaching students, writing books, and continuing to volunteer. We thank you for all your years of dedication, perseverance, and service to the San Diego Community and for the hundreds of thousands of San Diego County taxpayers whose lives you changed.

Go to Top