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United Way Launches Yearlong Volunteer Initiative

Hundreds of volunteers pack 60,000 meals for individuals dealing with food insecurity

PHILADELPHIA, Sept. 13, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — On Friday, September 9, 2011, United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania launched its yearlong volunteer initiative, 365 Days of Caring. In partnership with the University of Pennsylvania and Greater Philadelphia Cares, 500 corporate and community volunteers assembled 60,000 meals for 20,000 individuals in need throughout southeastern Pennsylvania.

For the past 18 years, United Way has given the public an opportunity to engage in volunteer efforts through its annual Days of Caring initiative, which emphasizes the importance of advancing the common good through volunteerism. This year, United Way is addressing the issue of hunger through United2Feed, a partnership with agencies that work directly to ensure those in need have access to nutritious meals. United2Feed is crucial to United Way’s Community Impact Agenda that focuses on education for children, income for families and health for seniors because children cannot perform well in school if they are hungry; working families still need help putting nutritious food on their tables and seniors shouldn’t have to choose between a nutritious meal and their medication.

A recent Gallup-Healthways index found that more than 21 percent of households with children in Pennsylvania reported not having enough money to buy food they needed for themselves or their families in 2009-10. Locally, Philadelphia has an overall poverty rate of 25 percent, making it the nation’s poorest big city with a population of more than 1 million. Additionally, Pennsylvania’s First Congressional District, which includes parts of North and South Philadelphia as well as the City of Chester, is the second hungriest place for families in the United States.

Anne Ayella, assistant director of Community Relations for Nutritional Development Services of Philadelphia and chair of the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger, said the issue of food insecurity is very real in the region.

“There are a lot of food resources out there, but it’s a challenge to share that information with people who need it,” Ayella said. “25 percent of Philadelphia residents live in poverty, so they really struggle to put food on the table for themselves and their children. We get calls all the time from families with children and it’s especially difficult for a mom and dad not to be able to give their children what they need.”

Over the past 18 years, nearly 33,000 people have made a difference in our community by helping agencies with thousands of projects during United Way’s Days of Caring. Once an annual two-day event, Days of Caring is now a year-round effort to advance the common good through volunteerism.

Organizations and agencies are urged to play a role in addressing the issue of hunger throughout the year by coordinating volunteer projects that will allow their employees to assemble meal kits, serve meals to the hungry or donate food or money. Through a collaboration with Community Action Development Commission of Montgomery County (CADCOM), Family & Community Services of Delaware County, Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger, Nutritional Development Services, Philabundance and SHARE, United2Feed will allow United Way to bring together corporate and community volunteers to address the issue of hunger.

“This is really about partnership,” said Jill Michal, president and CEO of United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania. “These organizations all do tremendous work, but together we will be able to raise the visibility of this issue in our region even more, making sure it’s real to people, so they recognize individuals can get together and truly drive change.”

“We spend a lot of time in the nonprofit sector talking about the number of lives we touch,” Michal continued, “but when we invest our collective time, talent and treasures, we can truly talk about the number of lives we change.”

The 19th Annual Days of Caring Presenting Sponsors are Bimbo Bakeries, Independence Blue Cross and Vanguard. Additional sponsors are Deloitte, Enterprise Holdings, Inc., PA Lumbermens Mutual Insurance Company, FMC Corporation, The Land O Lakes Foundation, Prudential, Tierney and UPS Chesapeake District. 365 Days of Caring builds partnerships between United Way, nonprofit agencies, community volunteers and employees from area workplaces. By participating, volunteers gain a deeper understanding of our region’s social service community and the work that United Way and local nonprofit agencies do every day of the year. For more information on how to get involved visit: www.LIVEUNITEDsepa.org/daysofcaring.

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