The MacKenzie Scott Grant

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At the end of last year, United Way of Berks County received a major gift of $10 million from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott. This gift is above and beyond the generous contributions made annually which support investments to programming delivered to support 150,000 Berks Countians each year. The one-time grant from MacKenzie Scott provides the opportunity to extend and accelerate funding for programs/initiatives that will address systemic issues and create sustainable change.

Read the announcement of the grant award

Based on recommendations developed by a special advisory committee of volunteers, the Board of Directors of United Way of Berks County announced three strategies will ensure Ms. Scott’s gift benefits Berks County today and in the future.

  1. COVID Response Grants will continue to support increased demands for services to help those most impacted by the pandemic to meet their most basic needs.
  2. Impact Grants will support programs/collaborative efforts to expand programming and capacity to serve the community’s most vulnerable individuals and families.
  3. Focused Grants will be multi-year grants addressing systemic issues and creating sustainable change. The grant process will involve research, community conversations and the development of specific request for proposals which will be issued in September of this year.  Grant awards will be announced in early 2022.
Impact Grants

Helping Harvest received a grant to complete construction of two on-site storage units that will increase refrigeration and freezer capacity and expand fresh food distribution. This $450,000 grant, combined with matching funds from an anonymous donor, allowed Helping Harvest to reach their fundraising goal for this project, as hunger needs continue to climb in our community.

The Street Medicine Program received a grant to provide care to our community’s most vulnerable population – individuals/families experiencing homelessness. The program is supported by volunteer physicians. The $321,000 grant will expand staffing for the program to include: an advanced practice provider, a case manager, and a community liaison – focused on improving the coordination of services and preventive cared for chronic health issues. Street Medicine is a program delivered by Reading Hospital.

The STRONG Program received a grant of $93,900 to support renovations and operation costs for a transitional housing program for homeless youth (16 to 22 years old, Berks County youth who are runaways, homeless or at risk of becoming homeless). The 18-month program will meet the immediate needs of the youth, provide long-term, safe housing, and support the development of skills for living independently. STRONG is a program of Mary’s Shelter.

Berks Latino Workforce Development Corporation, Inc. received a grant of $100,000 to help purchase and renovate a location for Berks Tec Centro, a technical center located in South Reading to provide employment services, occupational training, adult education and literacy and other career services. The return on investment through Berks Tec Centro will be neighborhood stabilization, a trained and skilled workforce for local business and increased wages leading to financial stability for more families.

The Berks County Mediation Prevention Project received a grant of $332,420 to expand upon a successful landlord/tenant mediation pilot program. This program provides relief to the tenants facing eviction and pays landlords the rent they are due, but also provides relief to the courts to help them with that backlog of thousands of eviction cases resulting from the pandemic. The Berks County Mediation Prevention Project is a program of MidPenn Legal Services.

As one of the only Keystone STAR 4 childcare centers within the City of Reading, Second Street Learning Center (SSLC) strives to maintain the quality rating, based on standards of Pennsylvania Office of Child Development & Early Learning. The center is funded, in part, by United Way and provides a much-needed service for working families, who are only able to work because they receive help with childcare costs. The $146,161 grant supports SSLC’s capital improvements needed to maintain the STAR 4 level rating.

PA 211 East serves Berks County and surrounding areas with 211, a free, confidential information and referral service connecting people to the help they need around childcare, after-school programs, housing and utility assistance, food banks, elder care, health programs and more. The $120,000 Impact Grant supports additional resources for the ongoing demand at the PA 211 East Call Center and to decrease wait times for callers in need of help.


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