Valley of the Sun United Way Announces Plans for ‘Mighty Change‘ and $25M Gift

Posted By on March 26, 2021
Valley of the Sun United Way President and CEO Carla Vargas Jasa and Jenny Holsman Tetreault, Chair of the Board of Directors

During an online event celebrating its 95th anniversary, Valley of the Sun United Way announced its Mighty Change plan,  a five-year strategy that shines a spotlight on key needs in Maricopa County with strategic focus on health, housing and homelessness, education and workforce development.

The plan, named MC2026, was created following an unprecedented effort over the past year by Valley of the Sun United Way to engage more than 1,000 community members through three communitywide surveys, 18 virtual town hall sessions and 24 deep-dive focus groups in order to identify today’s most pressing needs of Maricopa County and how United Way can best support needed community solutions.

“Maricopa County’s needs have changed over the years,” said Carla Vargas Jasa, President and CEO of Valley of the Sun United Way. “What has remained is our deep understanding of the critical issues and our unique role at the intersection between caring businesses and individual donors and our community’s vital nonprofits, schools and the people they serve.”

The research confirmed that issues that existed before the pandemic are even more intense now and systemic racial, social, economic and educational inequities exist in every issue so equity must be part of every solution.

Valley of the Sun United Way’s community-centered planning process led to four key areas of focus for its new MC2026 plan. Woven into each of the plan’s strategies is a focus on diversity, equity, access and inclusion. The plan presents bold aspirations and goals: 

Health:  Remove barriers to ensure everyone in our community is healthy, with a focus on access to food and health care.

MC2026 Goal: Decrease food insecurity by 50% and increase the number of individuals with access to affordable care by 100,000

Housing and Homelessness: Ensure all can have a safe home to call their own.

MC2026 Goal: Reduce the number of families and individuals experiencing homelessness by 50%

Education: Close opportunity gaps to ensure children read at grade level by 3rd grade and youth are prepared for educational success and employment.

MC2026 Goal: Increase the number of 3rd graders reading proficiently by 25% and increase the number of people between ages 16-24 who are working and/or in school by 38%

Workforce Development: Open pathways to better paying-jobs

MC2026 Goal: Increase preparation for a living wage job by 33% and achievement of higher paying employment by 20%

Among those leading the development of the plan was Jenny Holsman Tetreault, chair of the Board of Directors for Valley of the Sun United Way and Assistant General Counsel, Field Operations, West and Northwest at US Foods. She said the issues being addressed are intersectional.

“We know these are bold goals for big community challenges, but by using our ability to work with our community partners to take on multiple connected systemic inequities at the same time, we can make a far greater impact — a mighty change,” Holsman Tetreault said. 

In December 2020, as Valley of the Sun United Way was creating the ambitious MC2026 plan, the organization was unexpectedly notified that it was chosen to receive a $25 million donation from philanthropist, author and Amazon co-founder MacKenzie Scott. This is the largest single donation it has ever received. United Way had not applied for the donation; Scott and her team had discovered the organization’s work on their own during a national search for philanthropic opportunities.  

When she announced the gift to Valley of the Sun in December, Scott explained in a statement how Valley of the Sun United Way was among those organizations chosen.  “We took a data driven approach to identifying organizations with strong leadership teams and results, with special attention to those operating in communities facing high projected food insecurity, high measure of racial inequality, high local poverty rates, and low access to philanthropic capital.”

John Graham, incoming chair of the Board of Directors for Valley of the Sun United Way and Chairman and CEO of Sunbelt Holdings, said the transformational gift will be deployed directly into the community over the next five years. 

“The gift from MacKenzie Scott helps elevate and accelerate key parts of United Way’s five-year plan, however these are big issues with big goals and to achieve them we’re going to need local organizations working together and support of local funders and volunteers more than ever before to truly move the needle, “ Graham said.

Valley of the Sun United Way will use the Scott gift to provide multi-year support to help stabilize foundational community programs that have been even more stretched because of COVID-19 – such  as food bank, pantries, and emergency shelters, to close the digital divide, and to create deeper engagement opportunities around key issues to involve members of the community like never before.

In addition, United Way will work in partnership to develop initiatives with the three other Maricopa County organizations that also received gifts from MacKenzie Scott: Southwest Human Development, Chicanos Por La Causa and YWCA Metropolitan Phoenix.

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