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We’re setting bold goals for Anchorage. You can help.

Bold goals that call for our best and aim to change the landscape inspire people to progress.

United Way of Anchorage has set bold goals for our community since 1956.

That’s why when United Way President Clark Halvorson asked, we jumped at the opportunity to serve as the Campaign Cabinet for the 2021 United Way of Anchorage Community Campaign.

As business leaders and your neighbors, we’re committed to the health and prosperity of Anchorage.

We know wise investments are vital to success in our businesses. And we share United Way’s view that investments in business and philanthropy are not separate endeavors, but a shared connection to the kind of community we want to call home – a community where we can all earn a good living and have the opportunity to live our best lives.

United Way’s strength is decades of building relationships as a leader, convenor, facilitator, fundraiser, catalyst, service provider and service supporter. United Way works across public and private sectors and is tightly woven into the fabric of the community of Anchorage, from its most prosperous and secure to its most vulnerable and insecure.

Like any good business, United Way has recognized and refined both long-range vision and the ability to respond to emergencies.

One example is high school graduation. United Way convened a broad cross-section of the community to help raise Anchorage’s four-year graduation rate from 59% to 81.7% in less than 15 years -- with success continuing despite the pandemic and remote learning.

At the same time, relationships United Way built over the past 65 years served us well in responding to an ambush crisis like COVID-19. When the pandemic left Anchorage with a thunderstruck, shuttered economy, United Way of Anchorage was a first responder, rallying with partners like Lutheran Social Services to launch Anchorage Cares and get a quarter-million dollars of relief and a dose of sorely needed hope to laid off Anchorage workers in a matter of weeks. And later, as a partner in AK Can Do, provided help to more than 7,000 families across the state.

Alaska 2-1-1, United Way’s statewide helpline, stood up to become the official COVID-19 information and referral line for both the Municipality of Anchorage and the State of Alaska. In days, Alaska 2-1-1 tapped public health reinforcements and expanded staff and hours to give Alaskans reliable information on the virus and where to go for help in the economic fallout. Alaska 2-1-1 logged more than 70,000 calls in 2020, a 300% increase over 2019.

In November 2020, United Way, in partnership with Alaska Hospitality Retailers, launched Restaurant and Hunger Relief, a triple-win response to the pandemic that helped more than 50 restaurants stay in business, helped them retain or rehire more than 600 workers and deliver more than 110,000 meals to feed hungry Alaskans at 32 nonprofit sites in Anchorage.

No other organization in Anchorage could have responded so swiftly or broadly. United Way of Anchorage produces.

That’s the power of 65 years of sweat equity in the field of home-grown philanthropy.

That makes United Way of Anchorage the best philanthropic investment we can make in our community.

We aim to expand that community this year. Our goal is to add 4,000 donors and raise $6 million. The ask is big because the need is urgent. Many of our neighbors still suffer with the disruptions of the pandemic as they try to pay bills and stay housed. A year of remote learning has knocked an estimated 28% of our high school students off track for graduation in four years, threatening to undo more than a decade of steady progress. Home for Good, the United Way-led initiative to house and help our most persistently homeless neighbors, struggles with a lack of housing and case managers.

Those who have lost the most ground in this pandemic have the fewest resources to weather the storm. As business leaders, we know that the strongest economic recovery is the one that reaches throughout the community. That’s United Way’s mission.

We’re encouraged by what we’ve seen already in our workplace campaigns. Employees in United Way workplace campaigns have given generously. And for more than a year-and-a-half, Anchorage at large has rallied to support their neighbors.

Bold goal. Sound investment. The theme of the 2021 Community Campaign is “Unite to Thrive.” That’s right, thrive. Let’s invest together in United Way of Anchorage, so that when we’ve left the pandemic to history, we’ll have more than a sense of relief. We’ll have a more just, tighter-knit community poised for a new prosperity.

John Sims is chair of the 2021 United Way Community Campaign and president of ENSTAR Natural Gas. Co-signing this piece are members of the Campaign Cabinet: Walt Bass, vice president, finance, ConocoPhillips Alaska; Chris Wilson, vice president, Subway of Alaska, Inc.; Michael Huston, executive vice president/chief lending officer, Northrim Bank; Ed Ulman, president and CEO, Alaska Public Media; Joseph C. Everhart, executive vice president, Wells Fargo Commercial Banking; Lori McCaffrey, president, Alaska Market, KeyBank; Andy Pennington, publisher, Anchorage Daily News; Bill Bishop, president & CEO, Alaska Communications.

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