2020 was a historic year for us! We got a new name, a new grantmaking structure, new employees, and “TRACEs 2.0!”

2020 was a historic year, as it shone a spotlight on financial and racial inequalities in our region, in Oregon, and across the nation. Nearly 40% of Central Oregonians were already living on the edge before COVID-19. The pandemic and economic fallout deepened existing disparities.

Having been a nonprofit grantmaking organization in our region for the last 69 years, we at United Way of Central Oregon revised our grantmaking structure in 2020 to be immediately responsive to new community needs caused by the pandemic, executing 6 grantmaking cycles over the year rather than our customary annual cycle.

Through our COVID-19 Emergency Response, Recovery, and Resilience efforts, we raised and granted $295,000 to 44 local and regional agencies in 6 grantmaking cycles, touching 65,000 Central Oregonians.

26% of Central Oregonians are served by at least one of these programs or services. This funding met immediate critical needs of our community’s most vulnerable and helped the agencies that serve them to adapt to new challenges in delivering services.

In 2020, United Way also distributed $260,600+ of federal and county emergency food and shelter grants to organizations that are providing meals, clothing, housing, rent, and mortgage assistance in Deschutes County, impacting over 26,000 people. And, the nonprofit was empowered last year by the City of Bend to allocate $500,000 of CARES Act funding to nonprofits providing essential services to vulnerable populations, benefiting nearly 3,500 community members.

2020 was historic for other reasons here at United Way of Central Oregon. In addition to a name change to reflect a service area that we’ve been serving for years, we also hired two new employees in service of the TRACEs movement: Kerani Mitchell and Kristen Kaul.

Joining the team in mid-August, Kerani Mitchell brings a background of nonprofit, equity consulting, and philanthropic experiences to “TRACEs 2.0.”  A graduate of Sisters High School and Seattle University, she is excited to collaborate with community members to foster a region where we all have what we need to thrive. Kerani serves as the TRACEs Movement Director.

Kristen Kaul has been part of the TRACEs initiative since 2018. With experience in statewide community wellness projects, Kristen has seen the importance of trust and relationship building with community members as we work together to tackle the root causes of trauma. She is excited to continue listening and learning with our Central Oregon communities. Kristen serves as the TRACEs Operations and Training Manager.

TRACEs (Trauma, Resilience, and Adverse Childhood Experiences) is a region-wide collective action partnership of over 150 public, private, and nonprofit sector partners in Central Oregon tackling the root causes of major social concerns such as suicide, depression, chronic diseases, incarceration, lost productivity, low performance in schools, and more. Since inception, TRACEs has touched over 8,200 lives in an effort to tackle the root cause of challenges faced by many in our community by raising awareness of the effects of trauma, reducing its incidence and impact, and building resilience in individuals, families, and our community.

With 2020 has come “TRACEs 2.0” – a reimagining of the work with a continued commitment to addressing root causes of trauma and oppression with transparency about those causes, such as white supremacy, patriarchy, and capitalism, as illustrated by last year’s events. By collaborating with communities who are currently, and have historically, been most impacted by those systems and structures, “TRACEs 2.0” aims to foster a true collective movement for, and by, the people.

As we enter 2021, we continue the valuable work we’ve always done, and we simultaneously are broadening our scope to deepen opportunities for collaboration in service of all Central Oregonians.

At United Way of Central Oregon, we fight for the health, education, financial stability, and resilience of every person in our region. We’re concurrently driving the change that is building a resilient Central Oregon and working to reduce disparities and increase equity through grantmaking and through the TRACEs movement.

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United Way of Central Oregon, along with other local United Ways, urges more transparency into UWW investigation and allegations

We are aware that United Way Worldwide has released a summary of the third-party inquiry carried out by a law firm investigating the allegations by multiple women describing harassment, improper conduct, sexual harassment, hostile work environment, and other serious charges at United Way Worldwide.

These allegations were deeply troubling to us at United Way of Central Oregon, and they do not reflect the ideals, policies, and practices of our local United Way. We believe all allegations of sexual harassment and any other type of harassment must be taken seriously and stand by all who bravely speak out in these situations. We do not condone any type of harassment, intimidation, or retaliation.

In the released summary, UWW indicated the investigation found no evidence of “actionable” harassment, discrimination, or retaliation, but did find areas where culture can be improved. As such, the UWW and United Way of America Boards will form a Culture Task Force to look at their own workplace environment.

While appointing a task force is a worthwhile endeavor, it alone does not allay our concerns about these allegations. Because we do not view UWW’s actions as having offered sufficient resolution, we continue to work with other local United Ways in the Pacific Northwest to pursue further answers and actions. We continue to have concerns about the scope of the investigation and its limited transparency. We are strongly urging UWW to make the full report public.

United Way of Central Oregon is a local, independent nonprofit with our own mission, vision, volunteer Board of Directors, Executive Director, and budget. At United Way of Central Oregon, we fight for the health, education, financial stability, and resilience of every person in our community.

There are 1800 independent local United Ways throughout the world, United Way Worldwide operates as a hub for the network. Local United Ways pay dues to access resources, such as training, support for multinational workplace giving campaigns, national advocacy, and use of the brand trademarks.

At United Way of Central Oregon, we are committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. We do not wish these troubling allegations to impact the work we continue to do to support our local community.