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Deadline for Health Insurance Enrollment Approaches

In Virginia, the debate over Medicaid expansion has dominated the news lately.

In the Charlottesville area, the Greater Charlottesville Health Coalition has been working to help local residents understand the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and walk them through the application process. As the March 31 enrollment deadline approaches, we’d like to reflect on what we have been able to accomplish. Jessie Ray, who runs special projects for our United Way, coordinated the efforts of the Coalition and the group’s CvilleEnrolls.org website.

Jessie confirms that because of the well-known early issues with HealthCare.gov, local enrollment got off to a rough start, but by early December most of the site’s features were in working order and the Coalition members were able to help a number of people get enrolled. The Coalition members knew that many people needed basic information on how health insurance works, and they also needed to address many misperceptions about the Affordable Care Act. Jessie and volunteer Jack Hanrahan held several informational presentations at local library branches.

CvilleEnrolls quote pre-existingHealth Care Navigators from Legal Aid, plus trained enrollment counselors from JABA, ASG and United Way worked together to get as many people enrolled as possible before the Dec 23rd deadline for coverage that began on January 1, 2014. The Coalition estimates that between 125-150 people were enrolled through Coalition partners before the end of 2013.

The people seeking insurance have a variety of backgrounds. Many people we have helped are self-employed and have not had insurance for several years due to the cost. In addition, Jessie has helped several people who had pre-existing conditions and were able to sign up with the help of the subsidies. We also saw a number of older clients who don't yet qualify for Medicare but don't qualify for insurance through work either

Jessie helped one self-employed couple in their early 60s who now have health insurance for the first time in years, only paying $22/month for both of them. The wife later wrote that they were thrilled to have help navigating the process and that it was comforting to have the confidence that they were filling everything out correctly. And they were excited to finally have health insurance.

CvilleEnrolls quotes self-employedAnother person Jessie helped wrote: "My wife and I have had separate insurance policies because of her pre-existing condition. I found her a plan on the exchange with premiums that are about half the cost of her current plan and the coverage is much better. Based on my estimates of our current use of medical care, this new plan will save us close to $10,000 a year."

It is important to note that many people still have not benefitted from the Affordable Care Act, in part because Virginia has not expanded Medicaid. In addition, for those people with chronic illnesses requiring frequent doctor visits, they have found that office visit copays are unaffordable with the lowest premium plans. We will be sharing an article from the Charlottesville Free Clinic that addresses these concerns in our next post.

Posted by: Kim Connolly

The Simple Act of Being Kind

SmileyFaceLast week, our office celebrated International Random Acts of Kindness Week by committing to taking time to share kindness with others and by encouraging the Charlottesville community to join us in our efforts. Our staff really enjoyed participating in the week and we heard some great stories of kindness. I wanted to share a few of our favorite stories from the week.


From our Earned Income Tax Preparation Program:

With an impending snowstorm, Martha Trujillo, our Community Services Manager, took it upon herself to ask last Thursday’s volunteers if they would be willing to come earlier in the week. Martha and our Information and Referral Specialist, Megan Borishansky, called all taxpayers scheduled for Thursday and offered them the opportunity to come in two days earlier because of the predicated snow.  She solved a problem before it happened.  Because our appointments are so booked up at The Jefferson School (no appointments available until mid-March), these folks were still serviced despite the snow.

pull out for blog acts of kindnessSome other stories from staff and the community:

A staff member invited someone with fewer items to get in line in front of them at the grocery store.

A community member had her driveway cleared by an unknown good Samaritan.

Our staff put sticky notes with positive messages on the desks of three staff members who were sick last week.

Cars were given room to pull out on busy roads.

A care package was sent to a college student.

A staff member had a long phone conversation with and old friend with whom she had lost touch.

Someone became a mentor to a teenager with interests in her previous career field.

As you can see, random acts of kindness can be big or small. No matter how long it takes or how much thought is put into the act, the fact is that it makes our community a happier place. I encourage you to not stop thinking of ways to be kind to others now that the week is over. Take this as an opportunity to commit to volunteering or to just take a few moments each day or week to brighten the day of someone else.


Posted by: Jessica Snyder

United Way Staff Share Random Acts of Kindness Stories

All week, we’ll be sharing our own experiences of performing random acts of kindness. Today’s blog is from two of our staff members, who are reflecting on Random Acts of Kindness that they have benefitted from.


CARSOne staff member shared that she was recently a recipient of a Random Act of Kindness after her son had surgery. It was a Saturday night around 11:30, and her baby woke up screaming with a high fever. She and her husband were worried, because her son had undergone surgery just 36 hours earlier, so they called 911.The wonderful people at CARS (Charlottesville Albemarle Rescue Squad) responded quickly and were so kind. A friend’s husband is a volunteer at CARS and he happened to be there that night and heard the call come in. He mentioned the call to his wife and she dropped off a wonderful breakfast care package the next morning. The breakfast care package was so thoughtful!


2013-07-08-BuschGardensResizedAnother staff member shared an experience her son had over the summer. She said that her cash-strapped college age son and his friend had received free tickets to Busch Gardens last summer from a former teacher who could not use them. Halfway through their day at the park, a couple of strangers came up to them and said that they were leaving for the day, and gave them their Quick Queue passes. Their fun quotient for the day quadrupled as they were now able to bypass the long lines for each ride! They will always remember that random act of kindness.


These are great reminders that it isn’t difficult to make someone’s day and to get involved in Random Acts of Kindness Week! It’s as simple as offering a compliment, eating lunch with a new coworker, dropping off snacks at your local rescue squad/fire department/police station, or writing a recommendation for someone on LinkedIn. Please share your stories with us by This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , on our Facebook page, or through our Volunteer Center’s Twitter. Be sure to use the hashtag #RAKweek on Twitter.

Simple Notes of Kindness

All week, we’ll be sharing our own experiences of performing random acts of kindness. Today’s blog is from our Volunteer Center Director, who is taking inspiration from becoming a mom as she participates in Random Acts of Kindness Week.


Being a first time mom to a six month old, I spend the majority of my days covered in drool, making funny faces, and serving as a trampoline for a baby boy who loves to jump. It is the most amazing experience of my life. But, the days seem to fly by so fast and it’s hard to grab a moment to reflect and enjoy the little things that go along with raising a tiny person. In taking a moment to think about some random acts of kindness, I drew my inspiration from my life as a mom and the women who have inspired me on this journey.

HeathinthesnowThis week, I’ve decided to send some hand written letters to some moms with small children in my life. Just to say things like: You are beautiful. You are an amazing mom. You make being a new mom look easy. You are a natural. Your daughter is the happiest child.  I love the way you teach your daughters to use sign language during the hymns at church. Your children are so polite and kind to others. You’ve been an inspiration to me as a mom.

It’s such a simple act, but it can mean so much. Any parent can understand how hectic life can get with packing diaper bags, making sure nap times happen, keeping track of tiny baby socks. We all could use a moment during the day to know that someone noticed our efforts or that the love we’ve poured into raising children is making a difference. I hope that these moms get a moment to smile and feel good about the amazing jobs they are doing with their children this week!

Post by: Jessica Snyder


 Don’t miss out your chance to get involved in Random Acts of Kindness Week! It’s as simple as committing to become a volunteer, offering to grocery shop for an elderly neighbor, baking cookies for a sick friend, or leaving an encouraging bookmark in a library book. Please share your stories with us by This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , on our Facebook page, or through our Volunteer Center’s Twitter. Be sure to use the hashtag #RAKweek on Twitter.

A Coffee Shop Kindness

All week, we’ll be sharing our own experiences of performing random acts of kindness. Today’s blog is from our Volunteer Center Director’s husband, who is also enjoying the celebration of Random Acts of Kindness Week.

Just the other day, I sat in a coffee shop working on my laptop. As we all know, it's pretty easy to get caught up in our own work and not pay much attention to those around us. While taking a quick break from my emails, I noticed a college student clearly frustrated and struggling with an assignment.

I decided to step outside of my comfort zone and ask him if he was okay. He shared that he had just started a difficult math class and was stuck on a word problem. After reviewing the problem, I remembered sessions that I had with a tutor in high school and a trick she had taught me to easily remember how to solve this exact type of equation. I shared it with the student and together, we were able to work through the assignment. 

It may seem insignificant, but that moment meant a lot to both of us. The student was able to complete his assignment and will remember the trick that my tutor taught me many years ago. And I will now carry with me that feeling of joy in helping someone and the reminder that stepping away from the laptop in a busy coffee shop to share a smile or say hello can really make an impact on someone.

Don’t miss out your chance to get involved in Random Acts of Kindness Week! It’s as simple as offering a compliment to a friend, writing a thank you note to your child’s teacher, or finding ways to volunteer during your lunch break. Please share your stories with us by This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , on our Facebook page, or through our Volunteer Center’s Twitter. Be sure to use the hashtag #RAKweek on Twitter.


Posted by: Jessica Snyder


Random Acts of Kindness Week Feb. 10 - 16

6a00d83451fa5069e2016301dbe4c8970d-800wiNext week kicks off something that I hope will be a contagious and lasting effort in my own life as well as in our community. February 10-16 marks International Random Acts of Kindness Week and encourages us all to seek out ways to make a positive impact in the life of others. 

 Getting involved does not have to take a lot of time. You can write a thank you note to your child's teacher, compliment a friend, visit a nursing home during your lunch break, look into volunteer opportunities or even buy a coffee for a coworker. You can check out a list of hundreds of ideas of acts of kindness here. The whole idea is to start a movement of kindness by inspiring others around you to pay it forward. Let's take this opportunity to seek out ways to make a positive impact on the lives of everyone around us and to our entire community.

 IMG 5738You can learn more about Random Acts of Kindness here and find research on the benefits (yes, being kind has health benefits!) of engaging in acts of kindness. 

 I really hope that you will join me and our entire United Way staff in seeking out ways to share kindness with others next week (and all throughout the year!). Share your stories with us by This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , on our Facebook page, or tweet the Volunteer Center at @CvilleVolunteer using the hashtag #RAKweek. 

 traditionalthankyouWe'll be sharing our experiences on our blog next week and will be offering ideas of ways that you can participate all throughout the week on our Volunteer Center Twitter. Be sure to encourage your colleagues, family and friends to seek out ways that they can spread cheer throughout next week.


Posted by: Jessica Snyder, United Way Volunteer Center Director

Eat Your Fruits and Vegetables!

During the fall, our United Way was an enthusiastic supporter of the Move2Health campaign, getting people to move 30 minutes a day. Not only did we help spread the word in the community, but our staff embraced the concept, coming in second of all enrolled organizations in average minutes moved per employee.

The Move2Health campaign, with its simple message to have some physical activity every day, is a perfect fit for our Community Health impact area, which has combatting obesity as one of its priorities. The other piece of the anti-obesity puzzle is healthier eating habits. Our community partners have named this the Eat4Health campaign.

This effort has kicked off with a Leadership Charlottesville team project, called NOW - New Opportunities for Wellness - whose members are working on the outlines of a healthy eating campaign. We loved this poem that team member Dr. Pamela Ross came up with:

Fruits-and-VegetablesWhat is a fresh fruit or vegetable you say?

A very good question for the rules of each day.

They grow from the earth and though you might try,

They don't contain flour, lard, added sugar or dye.


Red, yellow, green, purple and blue,

The more colors you eat, the better for you.

5 or more servings, and you'll be on your way.

Eating fresh fruits and vegetables every single day.


We hope this poem catches on! Start by adding just one more serving of fruits or vegetables every day, and work your way up to 5 or more. Here is a useful guide.


Posted by: Kim Connolly

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