By Laura Schultz Pipis
Like many others this past week, I am reminded that it is still winter. What seemed to be a mild winter so far, turned quickly into a typical Michigan winter. No escaping the snow and cold for us.
My poor brother and niece in Kansas City had over a week of sub-zero weather, and even Texas was plunged into a statewide deep freeze. My niece in Kansas City even posted on Facebook: “I’m done with the 7-day free trial of living in Alaska….” They are not used it, and yet we should be, right?!
This resurgent weather brought to mind the Blizzard of 1978 and the record 20+ inches of snowfall in Southeast Michigan. My family and I huddled up in Ida Township in Monroe County. We had a gas stove and kerosene heaters to help the five of us, my grandparents next door, and some of the neighbors, including our pastor and his wife. My brothers and I loved the snow days off school.
Today, snow days are not quite the same since we are mostly working from home, anyway. This past year, we learned that we can do well enough working and schooling from home. Snow days are not so consequential these days, I guess. Unless you are one of the families devastated by COVID-19 (health or economic stress). For those families, the colder weather could means higher utility bills, limited work, difficulty getting to work or to help with resources, food insecurities and possibly homelessness. Perhaps these families do not even have the proper winter clothing for this kind of weather. Pre-COVID, the Federal Reserve reported that if faced with an unexpected $400 expense, 4 in 10 adults said they would not have the money to cover it (Washington Post, Feb. 21, 2019). What could that statistic be today?
So my mind wanders to how we can “help those who need it” as my Grandpa Scheuerman used to say. I am very fortunate to work for an organization who actually does something about the needs I just stated. Assessing the community needs and raising funds for the United Way is addressing these needs. At least, in part.
No organization can take the place of “neighbor helping neighbor” like we did during the Blizzard of 1978. However, we can try. The United Way is in a unique position to work as a community advocate to work directly with community partners to assess and address the needs. In turn, we share those needs with donor partners who can actually help fund those needs. COVID-19 has exacerbated the needs of those below poverty levels and those “working poor” who were barely making it before the pandemic hit. This recent winter blast reminds me there is still much to do. Whether a pandemic, winter storm or economic crises, we can work together to address these needs.
United Way funds 12 local Lenawee County agency programs and serves as a donor designation vehicle for 30+ additional agencies. We also sponsor countywide 211 services and coordinate Project Ramp, two annual Health Check events, the Emergency Food and Shelter Program (EFSP), and Day of Action programs and services. All funds raised in Lenawee County stay in Lenawee County.
For more information about giving and living united, please contact us. Call us at 517-264-6821, email firstname.lastname@example.org, visit us at 136 E. Maumee St., Suite 15, Adrian, MI 49221, or visit our website at www.unitedwaymlc.org.
Laura Schultz Pipis is the associate director of the United Way of Monroe/Lenawee Counties.