President’s Desk

United Way of Southwest Alabama / President’s Desk (Page 3)

As with everything else in 2020, the UWSWA’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program was stalled until we decided that so many people in our community needed assistance with their taxes. Under UWSWA’s Brad Martin’s leadership, the VITA volunteers completed 822 returns which generated $898,677.00 in returns – this does not include money saved from the returns being done for free. These numbers reflect through August of 2020.


The United Way of Southwest Alabama’s 45 partner agencies provide services in four counties – Choctaw, Clarke, Mobile and Washington.  These partner agencies serve as our communities’ safety nets because of the services they provide to our neighbors, friends and family members not only in their times of need but daily.  The partner agencies provide a holistic approach to providing services through partnering and collaborating with each other, local and national businesses, local governments, school systems, plus state and federal agencies. They understand the importance of working on the collective goal of strengthening our communities, so that the people in need can have better lives and so that business and industry can have a sustainable workforce.

When the UWSWA management team met early in January to discuss Blog topics for each month this year, we decided to aim our February focus on Black History month.

According to the History Chanel website, Black History Month grew out of “Negro History Week,” the brainchild of noted historian Carter G. Woodson and other prominent African Americans. Since 1976, every U.S. president has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month.

On the first work week day of 2021, I feel a sense of renewal and hope.  Friends in recovery remind me that every day is a new day, and so today is not only a new day but the beginning of a new year.

Wendy Wasserstein reminds us, “Go out there and do something remarkable.”

John Maxwell noted that “Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.”  This quote sums up 2020 to me.  Faced with a global pandemic, thirty named tropical storms, raging wild fires, economic uncertainty, civil unrest, and political chaos, “We have two options: to step forward into growth or step back into safety.” Abraham Maslow

The United Way of Southwest Alabama chose to step into growth to fulfill our mission to improve the quality of life in Southwest Alabama.

In the month of November, we celebrate Nonprofit Awareness. As the United Way of Southwest Alabama, we partner with forty-six agencies in Choctaw, Clarke, Mobile and Washington Counties to improve the quality of life.

Why celebrate nonprofits?

According to the National Council of Nonprofits in its 2019 report “Nonprofit Impact Matters: How America’s Charitable Nonprofits Strengthen Communities and Improve Lives,” nonprofits are vital to making America what America is.

One of the things that I cannot wrap my head around involves food insecurity in America.  How can the greatest nation on the planet have so many hungry people?  The food insecurity rate for Alabama equals 17%.  Mobile County’s food insecurity rate equals 16.8%; Washington County’s rate equals 19.3%; Choctaw County’s rate equals 20.7 %; and last but certainly not least, Clarke County’s rate equals 21.1%.  That’s right, around 20% of us who live in Southwest Alabama go to bed hungry and wake up hungry.

“In times like the present, men should utter nothing for which they would not willingly be responsible through time and in eternity.” Abraham Lincoln

The first five months of 2020 represent some of the greatest challenges I have faced in a lifetime.  The pandemic brought to surface the inadequacies of our Republic – the disparity in health care; the inequality in education; and the inequity in housing. Then the death of George Floyd sparked an already restless, vulnerable population into action.

It’s May, and for those of us along the coast, we know that this means the beginning of the “H” SEASON. I can’t even say it or write it, because I cannot imagine a storm on top of the pandemic. However, it is my job to think about these things.  So, I must journey down this path and encourage others to join me.