United Way of Summit & Medina held its annual meeting today at the John S. Knight Center. Speaking to an audience of corporate leaders, public officials and other members of the community, members of the nonprofit organization’s leadership honored the many companies that had partnered with United Way in 2020 and announced their vision for its future.
This year’s annual meeting was the organization’s first since before the global pandemic. Last year, United Way of Summit County and United Way of Medina County merged to become United Way of Summit & Medina.
During his opening remarks, Jim Mullen, president and CEO of United Way of Summit & Medina, paid tribute to former United Way board member, Phil Maynard. Maynard was a longtime supporter of United Way and served as the organization’s Tocqueville Society chair until his passing earlier this year.
Speaking to those assembled, United Way board chair Michele Cerminaro touted the organization’s response during the COVID-19 crisis. In 2020, while requests for help to United Way’s 211 helpline surged, the organization worked to ensure fewer callers went without assistance. By working with national delivery app DoorDash, United Way delivered 170 tons of food to needy residents. And by working with the County of Summit, United Way has distributed nearly $20 million in rent, mortgage and utility assistance through the Summit County Cares program.
In 2017, United Way announced its four Bold Goals by 2025 – to boost third grade reading scores, high school graduation rates and college/career readiness among Akron Public Schools students, financially empower thousands of local working families and fight addiction. Today’s meeting highlighted the significant progress United Way has made toward achieving its Bold Goals.
Since 2016, the percentage of Akron Public School third graders reading at grade level has risen from 38 percent to 50 percent. Four-year graduation rates among APS high schoolers rose from 75 percent in 2016 to 80 percent in 2019 and college and career readiness rates rose from 21 percent to 24 percent over the same time period. United Way’s Financial Empowerment Center has set 2,486 Summit County residents on the path of financial empowerment, helping them reduce debt by more than $2 million total. And ER visits due to drug overdoses have plummeted from more than 2,400 in 2016 to 1,059 in 2020.
Looking ahead, Cerminaro said that United Way would build on these big results as the organization expands its work to achieve its Bold Goals. In addition, United Way is working with stakeholders from Medina County to identify Bold Goals specific to that community.
At the ceremony, United Way gave awards to companies that went above and beyond to ensure great results through the annual United Way campaign. This year, EY earned the 2020 “Spirit of Caring Award.” United Way’s highest corporate honor, the Spirit of Caring Award is presented annually to the company that best embodies United Way’s call to action – VOLUNTEER. ADVOCATE. GIVE. In 2020, EY grew its United Way campaign by more than 20 percent. The company also sponsored the opening of United Way’s third Family Resource Center at McEbright CLC.
In his closing remarks, Mullen emphasized the importance of United Way’s Bold Goals as a motivating factor in United Way’s work but noted the larger purpose behind the organization’s work in the community. In the future, he said, United Way would look ahead to “Bold Goals 2.0” as the organization expands beyond its current work, and into creating a integrated ecosystem of programs to help those in need.
“Thanks to the help of people throughout this community, we’re achieving big results on our Bold Goals for 2025,” said Mullen. “But our work won’t end in 2025. What’s important is that we continue to show up and do the work our community needs. When you show up and work hard to serve others – the way we have and that we continue to do – you inspire others to do the same.”