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This month, a three-decade-long partnership between Yale and a New Haven nonprofit is adapting to meet increasing levels of need in the Elm City.

In the latest installment of their annual fundraising campaign, Yale and United Way of Greater New Haven will work to raise $1.3 million by Oct. 30. The funds will be applied towards improving local health, education and financial security.

The initiative, which launched on Sept. 21, is being led by campaign co-chairs Meghan Dahlmeyer and Fred Borrelli. Dahlmeyer is the director of finance and administration for Yale’s West Campus, and Borrelli is the chief administrative officer for Yale Medicine. The pair are hopeful that transitioning to virtual campaign events will not hinder donor generosity.

“While COVID has changed how we work and live in many ways, it does not change the positive impact of giving,” Dahlmeyer and Borrelli wrote in an email to the News. “Yale relies on faculty and staff champions in each of our Departments to help coordinate giving and to host fun events … we are confident that we can do this with their help.”

So far, the 2020 campaign has raised $375,789. According to Dahlmeyer and Borrelli, the sum is already more than the amount raised at this time last year. However, the overall fundraising goal marks a decline from both last year’s target of $1.35 million and the 2018 target of $1.4 million.

According to the 2020 DataHaven Community Wellbeing Survey, 20 percent of adults in Connecticut report that at least one adult in their household has lost their job or been laid off since February 2020. Results also revealed that Black and Latino residents have been disproportionately impacted by job loss, food and housing insecurity during the pandemic.

One of the ways United Way has been attempting to meet the increased level of need is through “pop-up pantries,” where food-insecure residents can pick up grocery items for free. One of these pantry events was held this past Wednesday at four different locations around the city.

According to Dahlmeyer, United Way has provided groceries to 3,500 households in neighborhoods that are disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. United Way President and CEO Jennifer Heath said the increased dependence on food pantry programs has been noticeable.

“Almost half of the thousands who attended [the pop-up pantry program] had never used a food pantry before,” said Heath in a statement to the News. “Last year, United Way served over 200,000 people in our region; given that the pandemic continues, and there is still so much economic uncertainty, we anticipate that more people will continue to need our help.”

Last month, Yale and Yale New Haven Health also sponsored United Way’s “Day of Caring,” an annual single-day effort. On Sept. 12, teams of volunteers put together and delivered “Welcome Home” kits for families that have recently entered permanent housing. Participants also painted and cleaned a local shelter for members of Christian Community Action, a social services organization providing emergency housing and services.

Ariktha Srivathsan SPH ’21 has been involved in the Day of Caring since last year. This year, she helped paint the shelter alongside around 30 other masked-up and socially distanced volunteers. Srivathsan told the News that making a positive impact on the community during the pandemic is a question of balancing public health risk with the level of community need. 

“The fact that we’re in a position to be able to think about going and volunteering is a position of privilege,” said Srivathsan. “It’s important to recognize that privilege and do as much giving back as we can without putting ourselves or others in danger. Yes, be careful, but you can still do things while wearing whatever PPE makes you comfortable.”

United Way of Greater New Haven is a branch of United Way Worldwide, an international nonprofit.

Natalie Kainz | natalie.kainz@yale.edu