With the support of the $10 million gift United Way of Berks County received from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, the organization is able to amplify its mission and tackle key community and systemic issues.
During the past two years, United Way has put the gift to work through three different grant opportunities to expand community impact work beyond the organization’s annual program investments. COVID Response-related grants supported immediate and increased essential needs brought on by the pandemic. Impact Grants were awarded to seven nonprofits to expand programming and capacity to serve Berks County’s most vulnerable residents, including: Berks County Mediation Prevention Project, program of MidPenn Legal Serivces; Berks Latino Workforce Development Corporation; Helping Harvest; Street Medicine Program, a program of the Reading Hospital; Strong Program, managed by Mary’s Shelter; PA 211 East; and Second Street Learning Center.
Earlier this year, United Way’s first Focused Grants were announced and centered on narrowing health inequities, with grants supporting programs delivered by Berks Counseling Center and the LGBT Center of Reading.
Most recently, a workforce development Focused Grant was awarded to BCPS. The organization received $299,788 for the first year of a three-year funding plan, totaling more than $1.2 million. The grant will support Reentry Works (RW), a case-managed approach to delivering employment support services to marginalized populations of underemployed and unemployed individuals reentering the community from incarceration, and not currently eligible for other agency services. The RW program draws on the strengths and successes of the agency’s county reentry program and creates employment plans for individuals. An evidence-informed curriculum will be utilized and the program includes varied elements, including:
skill/education/experience assessment, financial literacy, employment preparedness, computer labs and employer recruitment.
“This grant is critical for BCPS to expand reentry workforce services designed to help clients become reliable and successful employees. BCPS will also work to serve the needs of employers willing to provide second chance employment opportunities. Reentry Works provides a triple win – – individuals become financially independent, open jobs are filled in our county and recidivism is reduced, which is good for the community,” said Tammy White, President of United Way of Berks County.
To date, $4.2 million of the MacKenzie Scott gift has been invested in community grant opportunities. Additional grants supporting workforce development, early learning and community building programs and initiatives are under development and will be announced later this year.