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United Way of St. Johns County announces expansion into Putnam County

Understanding that in today's world, borders are fluid and not always clearly geographically determined, United Way of St. Johns County announced today that the organization is responding to the call of businesses, nonprofits and community members, along with that of United Way Worldwide, to expand to cover the Putnam County region. 
Chairman of the Board of Directors, Reverend Bobby Crum said, "'Today is a very important day for the people of Putnam County. For 60 years, United Way of St. Johns County has been helping meet the needs of our community. We are here today answering the calls of local community leaders and nonprofits to help the people of
Putnam. Our vision is to make a real impact in peoples' lives who are hurting, and we want to partner with you to make Putnam a better place." He added, "By working together, the collaboration in our communities will ensure children succeed in school, that families are financially stable and that older adults thrive creating real, lasting change."
Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) is an example of a corporate partner with a presence in both counties. "At FPL, we are committed to working together with the
communities we serve to make Florida an even better place to work and raise a family," said Jim Bush, area external affairs manager for FPL. "One of the ways we do this is by partnering with organizations like United Way, that does so much to support our community. The team from United Way-SJC is one we know and work with well. We look forward to expanding that partnership into Putnam County to further enhance the quality of life in North Florida."
United Way Worldwide, recognizing the need for the work of United Way in Putnam County, worked to make this expansion possible. Mary Sellers, U.S. President, United
Way Worldwide, said this aligns with the network's philosophy. "As United Way continues to evolve, it is imperative that we continuously ask ourselves how we can be more effective, put greater resources against mission-related efforts and ultimately better serve our communities," said Sellers. "United Way of St. Johns County's powerful response to expand its reach to Putnam County allows for a consistent and holistic impact in addressing community issues."
 
The nonprofit community is also supportive of this announcement. Many agencies serving Putnam County also work in St. Johns, again demonstrating the natural fit. Although there are multiple overlapping agencies, three partners currently working with United Way-SJC are also sharing efforts to rebuild from Hurricane Matthew: American Red Cross, Catholic Charities and St. Johns Housing Partnership as part of the Long-Term Recovery Organization (LTRO) for St. Johns and Putnam County.



United Way-SJC is pleased to announce that by working with United Way Worldwide and United Way of Northeast Florida, $27,566 has been secured for efforts in Putnam County. Those funds will be matched and put to work by the LTRO. 



"It is always a pleasure when we collaborate," said Jill Leslie, Director of Catholic Charities. "We can do so much more by working together and we cannot wait to put these dollars to work. United Way-SJC has been committed to working with hurricane relief, and so much more, with our organization and we are pleased to hear that there will again be a presence in Putnam County." 



Many details remain to be determined regarding the structure of the expanded operations. During the coming months, discussions will continue and include staff, the Board of Directors, committees and volunteers, along with community conversations, partners and key stakeholders. Along with questions regarding representation, funding and localized service, many inquiries have focused on a name change. For now, the moniker of United Way of St. Johns County, serving Putnam and St. Johns County, will be used. 



"It has been an incredibly thoughtful process in determining how to best address our expansion into Putnam County, and we are excited to be moving forward," said Melissa Nelson, President/CEO. "Where others see challenges, we see opportunities for greater capacity, impact, growth and collaborative efforts in the two-county region. I believe that all those involved are focused on what is truly important - the ability to fight for the health, education and financial stability of every member of our greater community. We know hunger and housing issues don't stop at county lines." 



Following this announcement, efforts will be made to communicate with historic donors and partners of United Way in the area. Very little data was made available to the organization to use in making those contacts, by the former organization, prior to this announcement but it is realized that those relationships are of the utmost importance. 



Leading up to this announcement, initial conversations began in February 2018, when United Way of St. Johns County was approached by members of the Board of Directors in Putnam. Although there was a decision by the Putnam Board to dissolve in March 2018, at the request of United Way Worldwide and many shared stakeholders in Putnam, United Way-SJC continued to evaluate the issue. When given the green light to move forward, United Way-SJC voted to accept the responsibility and is pleased to announce that commitment at this time. 



United Way-SJC has been in existence for over 60 years. Financially sound, last year over 1.3 million dollars was raised. Recent organization activities include mobilizing 658 volunteer hours during the spring for free tax preparation resulting in over 500 tax returns, netting over $500,000 in refunds in St. Johns County; working with Publix to provide nearly 202 families with holiday meals; distributing over $100,000 to families in need through the Empty Stocking Fund; collecting 50+ tons of canned goods in partnership with the US Postal Service Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive and the traditional funding of 43 needed programs through our Community Impact Grants.



"United Way is an organization that is known for asking that supporters in our communities give, advocate and volunteer," said Crum. "As we move forward with this exciting opportunity, I would like to stress that all three are exceptionally valuable to our success in this effort. I hope that you will join me as a hand-raiser and a game-changer. That is how we Live United."