Nonprofits Build Connections During the Holidays and Year-Round

Overlooked communities are the heart and focus of our Independent Sector members, and they continue to be disproportionately affected by the ravages of COVID-19. The pandemic has made their challenges even greater during this holiday season, as well as for our nonprofit members who work each day to meet community needs.

Communities and nonprofits, though, take daily steps to make progress and transform places into healthier, stronger, and more equitable places to live. We touched base with several IS members about their biggest challenge in carrying out their missions during the 2021 holiday season, and their greatest hope as they look toward 2022:

United States Fund for UNICEF

At the new Safe Passage Park (SPark) in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood, residents have room to play, relax, and do art projects – all safe from traffic. The city of San Francisco, the Tenderloin Community Benefits District, and Our Children Our Families Council worked together to create the park. The Council is an initiative of the San Francisco mayor and partner of UNICEF’s Child Friendly Cities Initiatives (CFCI). Photo by Douglas Burnham for Tenderloin Community Benefits District

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) works in more than 190 countries and territories to put children first – including the United States. UNICEF has helped save more children’s lives than any other humanitarian organization, by providing health care and immunizations, safe water and sanitation, nutrition, education, emergency relief and more.

UNICEF USA supports UNICEF’s work through fundraising, advocacy, and education in the United States. UNICEF is working toward the day when no children die from preventable causes and every child has a safe and healthy childhood.

Danielle Goldberg, Managing Director, Child Friendly Cities Initiative, UNICEF USA:

“While we have made great strides in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, this holiday season, communities everywhere continue to face multiple crises, from climate change to widespread social and economic challenges and rising inequality. These challenges impact us all, but they hit the most vulnerable children the hardest.

“With every challenge comes opportunity. Through UNICEF’s Child Friendly Cities Initiative (CFCI) in the U.S., we are helping local governments to prioritize the needs of children and young people and elevate youth voices in local recovery efforts and all decision making.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, immediately to the right of the U.S. flag, and Minneapolis Youth Congress members celebrate the launch of the city’s Child Friendly Cities Initiatives (CFCI). Photo by Min Lee for Minneapolis Youth Coordinating Board

“From the creation of a Safe Passage Park in San Francisco to the launch of a child rights literacy program in Minneapolis, our first cohort of cities are making a difference in the lives of nearly 1 million children. Our greatest hope for 2022 is to catalyze more cities to commit to action for and with children for a better future for all.”

Share Our Strength

Share Our Strength’s mission is to end hunger and poverty in the United States and abroad. They do that through their campaigns, like No Kid Hungry, designed to end childhood hunger in the United States, and Cooking Matters, which helps low-income families learn to shop and cook healthier. They also believe that while it’s a big job, they’re not alone – and that everyone has a strength to share to help ensure every individual can live a healthy and productive life.

Pamela Taylor, SVP & Chief Communications & Marketing Officer, Share Our Strength:

“We work closely with schools, as more than 30 million kids rely on school meals as a source of daily nutrition. That’s why frontline meal providers who work in our nation’s schools rolled up their sleeves at the start of the pandemic when most school buildings closed. They kept meals stocked and ready at bus stops, grab-n-go lines and delivered to front doors.

At Share Our Strength, there is an overriding belief that all children should have access to food. In this image, a youth helps carry food at a cafeteria. Photo courtesy of Share Our Strength’s No Hungry Kid

“While in-person learning has resumed, schools are still facing significant hurdles. Supply chain disruptions are affecting their ability to feed students. They are being saddled with higher prices, delayed deliveries and canceled contracts.

“We’re supporting schools with more funding and resources, and championing policies that give them flexibility to ease the impact of supply disruptions and ensure that kids get healthy meals.

“The pandemic has exposed how many Americans are one paycheck away from a financial breaking point. That has motivated more people and partners to help solve the issue of hunger than ever before.

“We have the opportunity to create transformational change for children facing hunger and poverty in our nation. The Build Back Better Act, currently being considered in Congress, is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to invest in kids and provide a ladder out of poverty.

“One hungry child in our country is too many. We’re at an inflection point where the hunger crisis may deepen again without decisive action. We have to put our collective strength behind prioritizing our most vulnerable children. With so many people sharing their strengths, we are hopeful for the future.”

Dion Dawson, Founder and Executive Director of Dion’s Chicago Dream, says it’s important to embrace the moment and plan for the future. He says this image is about “being in the community, fueling hope.” Photo courtesy of Dion Dawson

Dion’s Chicago Dream

Established by Dion Dawson – who was born and raised on Chicago’s south side and has experienced and witnessed the gambit of human hardship – Dion’s Chicago Dream focuses on creating financial, physical, and emotional stability for Chicago’s Englewood residents by combating food insecurity while addressing the food desert status of the neighborhood. Dion’s “Dream” is to use nutritional philanthropy as a catalyst to build community and transform lives.

Dion Dawson, Founder and Executive Director, Dion’s Chicago Dream:

“My biggest challenge would be remaining innovative, transformative, and resident-focused. While it’s easy to have a good sense of where the sector is headed, to do it with limited resources in the middle of a pandemic continues to be a balancing act.

“The greatest hope in 2022 is to continue to create a sector that represents the residents it serves. Philanthropy is about hope and love and togetherness. All of these things are important to where we are headed.”

The top photo is courtesy of Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry. Dion Dawson also is a member of Independent Sector’s 2021 American Express NGen Fellows cohort. Learn about other Independent Sector members and becoming a member.

Types: Blog
Global Topics: ChangeWorks, Civil Society, Community, Dignity, Equity, IS Member, Nonprofit Health, Purpose, Race, Equity, and Inclusion
Focus Areas: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Policy Issues: Civil Society Infrastructure