Two representatives from United Way of Southeast Alaska shared the stage Thursday at the Juneau Chamber of Commerce’s weekly luncheon.
Warren Russell, chair of the Board of Directors for the local United Way and vice president at GCI, presented to the Chamber along with president and CEO Wayne Stevens.
Together they gave the crowd a rundown of how United Way partners with local social service organizations around Juneau.
United Way is an international organization whose locally affiliates operate mostly independently to address the needs of that community.
Here in Juneau one of the priorities the organization has focused on is food insecurity, or when an individual is uncertain if they or their family will have enough to eat.
To combat food insecurity locally, the United Way has partnered with Juneau Community Foundation, Alaska Native Sisterhood and Alaska Native Brotherhood to provide free or reduced breakfast and lunch for the Juneau School District.
Since the beginning of this school year until Oct. 15, the average participation rate district wide was 1,189 students receiving free breakfast every day, and 214 receiving reduced cost breakfast, Stevens said.
According to the Juneau School District website total enrollment for the district is approximately 4,648.
Stevens told the crowd he was deeply troubled by the amount of people living with food insecurity in the Juneau area.
“It bothers me,” he said. “But we’re going to figure it out.”
The United Way is not a direct service organization, Stevens said, but works mainly in bringing various organization with common cause together and helps with fundraising efforts.
One of the partner agencies United Way works with locally is the Southeast Alaska Food Bank. With United Way’s help, the food bank was able to collect nearly 500,000 pounds of donated food, most of which came from the local supermarkets like Safeway, Costco and IGA Group, Stevens said.
Chris Schapp, newly minted manager of the SEAFB, said that there are 32 member agencies which come throughout the week to collect food for their clients in need. On Saturdays when the food bank is open to the public, Schapp says that he sees about 60 to 70 people come and collect food.
The main message that Stevens and Russel wanted to convey to the audience was that United Way relies on volunteers and donations.
“We’re not a direct service provider. We do the connecting, bringing organizations together, the campaign part of the puzzle,” Stevens said. “Part of the challenge is convincing people that philanthropy is just the art of giving. You can be a philanthropist at a dollar a day, you don’t need to be Bill Gates or Warren Buffett.”
Check out the Empire’s live coverage of the event.
• Contact reporter Peter Segall at 523-2228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.