A happy crowd of United Against Poverty donors and board members were thanked for their support at a Donor Appreciation Reception at the St. Andrews Island home of Bill and Libby King.
There was much to celebrate and lots of catching up to do since the last donor reception in 2019. The most notable accomplishment was the opening of their 46,000-square-foot UP Center. The multi-function campus opened just six weeks before the onset of the pandemic and remained open all through those tumultuous times.
The campus, which caters to Indian River County families living at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, houses a Cost Share Grocery, STEP (Success Training for Employment Program), crisis stabilization, educational programs and agency partners, such as a Treasure Coast Community Health medical clinic.
“We can’t think of a better reason to get everyone together than to support the United Against Poverty organization and all the great work they do,” said Bill King, thanking everyone for their support in helping people lift themselves out of poverty.
It was the first time for Matt Tanner, who took on the role of executive director amid the pandemic, to meet some of the donors face-to-face.
“It’s officially been two years since the pandemic hit. You can imagine the toll that that’s had on our county, on adults and families that we serve,” said Tanner.
Despite the challenges, the nonprofit continued to meet opportunities for growth and innovation.
“A lot of social service agencies that were designed to support families closed their doors [during the pandemic], and so we were seeing a lot of that influx. A lot of new foot traffic. A lot of folks that were learning about our services,” said Tanner, adding that the pandemic caused many families to need services for the first time.
To address the need, Tanner said they grew the number of nonprofit community partners from 20 to 110, and they are developing more employer partnerships.
“This year’s focus is on getting our community and our adults back to work. We’ve already graduated 26 adults from STEP, and 22 of those graduates are employed,” said Tanner.
He spoke about two newly launched workforce programs – Build UP, a partnership with the trades and manufacturing industries, and the UP Skill Academy, to teach clients the skills needed for higher paying jobs.
“The common theme of these last two years is all about innovation. It’s about pushing our programs for growth. We do that without fear and restriction that we can’t afford to do it, because we know we have an incredible community of supporters. Thank you very much for your support of United Against Poverty,” said Tanner.
“I don’t have the skillset to lift people out of poverty, but what I can do is be the official cheerleader and share my networking opportunities to bring people into the fold,” said Barbara Lowry, UP board president.
“It has been a great honor to support an organization that has helped so many people. Our programs are supported by the donors, and that is you. Without you, the staff could not do all the things they do to lift lives out of poverty,” added Lowry.
On June 25, beginning at 1 p.m., UP will again host Burgers & Brews in Downtown Vero Beach.
For more information, visit upirc.org.