United Way

United Way of Southwestern Oregon's Executive Director Jen Shafer (right) stands beside Grant Crim, director of Every Child Coos, during the Farmer's Market on Wednesday, May 5. 

SOUTH COAST ─ United Way of Southwestern Oregon is celebrating its 60th anniversary.

It’s director, Jen Shafer, said the nonprofit established on the southern Oregon coast in 1961 with a focus on health, education and financial stability for Coos and Curry counties.

Though the official anniversary was in February, Shafer said United Way of Southwestern Oregon is celebrating all summer long.

“We are starting our kickoff celebration now and part of that is (recognizing) our nonprofits and community organizations (that have) gone above and beyond,” Shafer said.

To do this, a nomination process was held in April to honor some of these groups and the first Facebook livestream was held two weeks ago to celebrate some of the nominated organizations.

“We read the nominations and all the kind things people said about them,” Shafer said. “Then we gave them a couple minutes to talk about what they’re doing and any needs they might have for their organizations.”

During the livestream, four of the nominated groups were recognized, starting with Coastline Neighbors from Curry County.

“Coastline Neighbors … do delivery services, appointment transportation, wellness checks and other things for seniors and other folks who have been trapped inside during the pandemic,” Shafer said.

The other groups recognized were volunteers from the Medical Reserve Corps, Friends of Public Health, and the CERT team with its effort around the vaccine rollout.

“We had 18 nominations our first round,” Shafer said. “We have several more to do and are continuing to get nominations.”

United Way is best known for some of its generous programs, especially the Annual Grant-Making Program which benefits and supports local nonprofits.

“This is where we use our revenue to create a grant fund for our community…,” Shafer said, adding that last year, before the pandemic, United Way of Southwestern Oregon gave out $28,500 to 16 nonprofits in Coos and Curry counties. After the pandemic hit, United Way morphed its grant process to give our $250,000 by making it easy and quick to apply for emergency response grants related to COVID-19.

According to Shafer, the grant process is community driven. This means there is a grant review committee, comprised with all volunteers. Shafer said when United Way shifted gears to make emergency response grants available, it asked its grant review committee if they would be involved and “they were all there and ready to support it.”

Being able to provide COVID-related grants during the pandemic, Shafer said United Way worked closely with Wild Rivers Coast Alliance.

“Our grants were typically $1,500,” she said. “So (the grants) were small, emergency, fill-a-gap kind of grants. I think it was great we had so much foundation support and (were) able to get that much money and leveraged some of those relationships to generate additional funding for some of the organizations.

“It was challenging to sit in on the calls and read applications and understand how much of a need and impact this was having on the community,” she added. “It was harrowing.”

United Way of Southwestern Oregon has since stopped its emergency relief fund and will now be looking toward recovery and resilience. Shafer said the summer will see a kickoff in this direction as well.

For future live feeds recognizing nominated organizations, a schedule will be published on United Way of Southwestern Oregon’s Facebook page.

“We are using our anniversary to celebrate our community,” Shafer said. “Folks can fill out a nomination form for nonprofits on our Facebook and our website as well.”

She encouraged the public to watch for news of upcoming events and celebrations that will be held this summer. Donations for its annual grant fund are also being accepted. To donate, or for more information about the nonprofit, visit unitedwayswo.org.

“I want to thank everyone across the board who has played a role in supporting our community,” she said. “It’s been a challenging year, but we’ve seen a lot of collaboration and resilience that we didn’t know was there.”


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