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It's National Mentoring Month!

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” This quote from Frederick Douglas is as relevant today as it was in the mid-1800s. There are many children (and adults!) in our community who face challenges and simply need some guidance to help them reach their potential.

Kids who have mentors are more likely to stay out of trouble, get better grades, keep away from drugs and graduate high school.

Diana Amatucci for webBeing a mentor or a tutor is easy. There are many organizations in our area that work with kids, and they are looking for volunteers. It is not hard work when you are simply sharing your passion for computers…or music…or gardening…or reading…or baseball with a child.

Perhaps working with adults is more your speed. First generation college students need someone to help them navigate the college experience. There are refugee families who can benefit from the simplest exchange of cultural knowledge to help them in their transition to a new country. And others who need help learning a new language.

Mentors say that they feel they get just as much out of the experience as the person they mentor!

It's that simple.

Lab shots  for webJanuary is National Mentoring Month, and our United Way Volunteer Center is sharing mentor stories all month long. We are joined in our mission of encouraging more people to volunteer as mentors and tutors by wonderful local partners: NBC29, The Daily Progress, and all the Monticello Media radio stations (HitKicker 99.7, NewsTalk WCHV 107.5, Hot 101.9, Generations 102.3 and Sports Radio 1400 AM), plus the community-minded Omni Hotel is hosting our Mentor and Tutor Volunteer Fair on Friday, January 30 from 11:00 – 2:00. Our friends at Raising Cane’s are providing their delicious chicken fingers for attendees.

To learn more about the local organizations attending the fair, who would love to help you become a mentor or tutor, visit CvilleVolunteer.org.

We hope to see you on January 30!

Mentor. Tutor. Pass it on!

Posted by: Kim Connolly

"I'm Grateful." Walter's Story.

Walter for webWalter, an Albemarle County native, has worked since he was 14 years old. He had a heart attack when he was 44, and last year, after suffering a mini-stroke at work, he learned that he has a heart condition that can only be managed through medications. The prescriptions that keep him alive cost nearly $1,400 each month. Walter receives care at the Charlottesville Free Clinic, where he was referred to our United Way’s RxRelief Prescription Assistance program.

Helen Frye, our United Way Medication Assistance Caseworker, spends part of every workday at the Free Clinic to help patients access medications for long-term, chronic illnesses like Walter’s heart disease. She arranged for Walter to receive his medications for only a $3 co-pay. “I don’t know what I’d do without this program. I feel like I’m letting myself down because I can’t work. By the time I pay my rent and buy groceries, I’m not sure what I could cut out to pay for my prescriptions. I’m grateful - this program is keeping me alive.”

Walter 2 for webWalter is one of those people you automatically like the first time you meet them. When I interviewed him for this story, he told me that we had helped him once before, in the early 1970’s, when we ran a grant-funded job placement program. I learned that we gave him a placement referral for a job that he kept for more than 20 years! It was nice to learn that we had changed Walter’s life not once, but twice.

Your gift to our United Way helps keep Walter alive, and helps so many others.

Please make a gift today by clicking here.There is still time to make your year-end tax-deductible contribution!

Posted by: Kim Connolly

Nick's Story

UW - Nick  Girls-5199 for webWe all want the best for our kids.

Nick is a local father who is raising his two young daughters, ages 10 months and 3 years, on his own. He has a stable, full time job. When we met with him, he spoke easily about struggling to get his daughter’s hair in a ponytail that morning. Nick knew that the first five years of a child’s life before they enter kindergarten are the most important time of learning.

Nick went online to research the best area child care providers. He found the Virginia Star Quality Initiative’s website, which rates child care providers, and found a local center. Infant care costs a lot more than for a toddler. The cost for Nick to send his two girls to this center was just over $23,000 a year. That is not a typo. Nick may have a good job, but there was no way he could afford child care for two children on his salary.

But he knew that his girls needed to be prepared to enter kindergarten ready to learn. So he asked around and was told that our United Way provides child care scholarships for low income working parents. Based on his salary and the cost of childcare for two children, Nick and his girls qualified for our program.

UW - Nick  Girls-5122 for webToday, Nick reports that his oldest daughter wants to come to the center every day. “They are learning and socializing with the other kids. Here they have structure to their days and a lot more resources than they would at home. My daughter talks about art and books and the playground.”

As a working parent, Nick is grateful that the girls have a steady place to come to that is reliable, and he doesn’t have to worry about taking a sick day if the babysitter calls out. Having a United Way Child Care Scholarship means that his work is stable and his girls have all sorts of learning opportunities.

They love it here.”

United Way-Thomas Jefferson Area has been providing child care scholarships to parents like Nick since 1975, helping thousands of children over the years. We also provide a grant to a local program that promotes child care quality and educates parents about the Virginia Star Quality Initiative. Because we know that our children are worth investing in.

UW Nick  Girls-5207 for webChildren who have been enrolled in high-quality childcare and preschool have higher reading and math scores, higher intelligence test scores, enhanced language skills, lower grade retention rates, lower special education rates and higher postsecondary education enrollment rates. That is a big return on your investment in a child’s life.

Our United Way has deep roots in our community. Our vision is a strong, healthy and vibrant community that helps people like Nick and his daughters rise above challenges to reach their full potential. Through your donation to our United Way, you are helping them learn, grow and live their best lives.

You can make a secure, online donation by simply clicking the GIVE button at the top of this page.

Thank you.


Posted by: Kim Connolly

Take a Test Drive for Our United Way

Perhaps this cold weather has you thinking about heated seats in your car. Or maybe you are a driving enthusiast who likes the Zoom Zoom fun of driving a Mazda. You might be a fan of the solid German engineering of a Volkswagon, or the smooth luxury driving of an Audi. Of course, the chance to drive a Porche is nothing to pass up, either!

Test drive for webYou can try them all out and benefit our United Way in this week's Flow Auto Drive for Community test drive event. For every test drive from Monday, November 10 through Saturday, November 15, Flow Auto will donate $15 to our United Way. And if driving fun and philanthropy aren't enough, with every test drive, your name will be entered to win a 12 month lease on a new vehicle. Have some fun and help us help local people to reach their potential.

audi group for webFour of our board members came out last Friday to Darden Towe Park for a photo shoot to help us promote this event. We had a blast, and you can see all of the photos on our UnitedWayTJA Facebook page.

So, take a test drive for a great cause this week. You may not be in the market for a new car today, but you can do your market research early for your next car. Let us know what you drove using #DriveforUW.


Posted by: Kim Connolly

It's Not Too Early to Volunteer for the Holidays

Santa girl with gifts copyrightThe clocks have been set back an hour, Halloween is over, and people are turning their thoughts to Thanksgiving, Christmas and the winter holidays. Pretty soon we’ll be getting phone calls from warm hearted folks who want to volunteer either as individuals or families over the holidays.

There are many needs and many opportunities to help this season, and local nonprofits are signing up volunteers right now for Thanksgiving baskets through Love INC, or to be Toy Lift volunteers on December 5. Most holiday assistance programs take place in early December, so we like it when families, businesses and individuals start planning early to volunteer. Believe it or not, if you wait until the week before Christmas, all the volunteer spots will be taken for things like serving holiday meals at the Salvation Army.

We like to make it easy for you to volunteer, so our United Way has prepared a (two-sided) flyer listing local holiday volunteer opportunities. Please download it and print it out or share this link with your friends, co-workers and family.

Holiday Volunteer Opportunities Flyer

Share the spirit of the season!

“There is no better exercise for your heart than reaching down and helping to lift someone up.” -- Bernard Meltzer

Posted by: Kim Connolly, Vice President of Community Engagement

Victoria's Story

None of us are perfect. We all stumble and have to overcome challenges. Many of us are lucky to have a strong support system of family and friends, and the money to access the help we need. But what happens to someone facing big obstacles without the resources and knowledge they need to change their path in life? Read on to learn how one local woman, Victoria, changed her life’s story through personal determination and support from our United Way.

Victoria-5164 for webWhen Victoria was 8, she asked Santa for a home of her own. At the time, her parents were going through a divorce and her mother and siblings were living in a shelter until the divorce was finalized.

Fast forward a few years and Victoria was a teen mom, determined to give her own child a good start in life, and knew that she needed a high school diploma to build a stable future. Thanks to a local United Way grant-funded program, Victoria received home visits that helped her learn about child development and schedule regular doctor visits for her and her daughter. “It meant a lot that I had someone to count on,” Victoria says. She received the support and guidance she needed to stay in school.

After graduation from high school, Victoria juggled parenthood with working two jobs, and then attended CATEC to become a CNA. By then she was 19 and had her own apartment. But Victoria had even bigger goals for herself and applied to Habitat for Humanity to become a homeowner. Wanting to increase her career possibilities, she enrolled in PVCC’s Pharmacy Technician program and completed it within 3 months. It took a year before she found a position in the field, at the Kroger pharmacy at Rio Hill. A conversation with a customer led to a new position at the UVA Medical Center and the steady hours and income she needed for her Habitat for Humanity homeownership dream to come true. She and her daughter moved into their new home on December 23, 2009 – in time to hang stockings for her old friend, Santa Claus.

UW Victoria- with kids for webWhen her second daughter arrived, Victoria was concerned how she was going to pay for child care. That is when she learned about our United Way’s Child Care Scholarship program for low-income working parents. Equally as important to Victoria was that her daughter be in a good quality program that would prepare her for success in school. When her daughter started public preschool this year, our United Way has continued to provide assistance for after-school care.

In five years, Victoria would like to be either starting or finishing nursing school, with an ultimate goal of being a labor and delivery nurse. She would not be on this journey with her daughters without the help of donors like you who have supported our United Way, enabling us to make grants to the home visiting program that helped her stay in school and care for her daughter as a teen mom. Our own Child Care Scholarship program helped her continue to be self-sufficient, while her daughter got off to a great start in a quality educational child care program.


“I want to say ‘Thank you’ for helping moms like me who want to strive to do better in life,” Victoria says. “And I want other moms in my situation to know that there is always help – don’t give up.”

Our United Way has deep roots in this community. We envision a strong, healthy and vibrant community that helps people rise above challenges to reach their full potential. We focus on School Readiness, Self-Sufficiency, and Community Health so that everyone can learn, grow, and live their best lives. We can do this because of the generous support of our donors.

You can help more people like Victoria and her daughters reach their full potential. Please make a gift today.


Published by: Kim Connolly, Vice President of Community Engagement

A Day for Celebrating Volunteers

UW staff for webThe sun was shining, and with temperatures in the low 70s, our 23rd annual United Way Laurence E. Richardson Day of Caring on September 17 was a tremendous success! Nearly 1,900 volunteers from more than 60 local businesses and organizations (including the University of Virginia) fanned out over five counties to work on almost 200 projects at local nonprofits and schools.

CHS garden for web2


Playgrounds were spiffed up, many rooms and buildings were painted, trails were cleared and storage areas organized. At our own office, volunteers from Charlottesville Newsplex sorted and packed 100 backpacks with educational learning activities for children receiving our United Way Child Care Scholarships. We loaned our playground stencils to an elementary school to create games on their blacktop.

Our vision is to help local people overcome challenges to realize their potential so that they can learn, grow and live happy and healthy lives. The many wonderful volunteers on our Day of Caring helped local nonprofits and schools so that they in turn could be more effective in helping people.

The energy and happiness of all these folks was evident at our wonderful kickoff breakfast rally, thanks to the terrific spread put on by the breakfast sponsor, The Fresh Market.

JABA party for webWestminster team for webbreakfast for web

Please visit our Facebook page to see many photos shared from the day.

We can’t wait for next year!

Posted by: Kim Connolly, Vice President of Community Engagement

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