United Way of Northern Shenandoah Valley will host its 5th annual ALICE Awareness Week, November 26th through December 3rd. ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) families make up 41% of VA residents, and 54% of City of Winchester residents, according to the most recent calculations (2018, www.unitedforalice.org/state-overview/Virginia). UWNSV anticipates a notable increase in these statistics based on the recession, rising inflation, and the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many families are finding themselves in need of assistance for the very first time.
The goal of this Week of Awareness, according to Kaycee Childress, UWNSV President and CEO, is to raise visibility of the increasing ALICE population in our region, the struggles, strength, and resilience of these families, and to raise $20,000 for the ALICE Emergency Fund. This goal would to help 40 families with life-changing financial support in a crisis. “The need is greater than ever. Our Valley Assistance Network (VAN) program has seen a 70% increase in requests this year over 2021. These are good, honest, hard-working people just trying to care for their families. We all know what it feels like to be overwhelmed by life. Thankfully, many have a safety network to see them through those times, but not all are so fortunate. It can be hard to ask for help but we all need to from time to time and that’s why the ALICE Emergency Fund was created,” says Childress.
To help this vulnerable population, United Way NSV launched the ALICE Emergency Fund in 2018. This flex-fund provides one-time grants of up to $500 to help families overcome emergencies and stabilize so they can move toward self-sufficiency. To date, the ALICE Emergency Fund has benefitted 45 families with over $21,000. The fund has been applied to clients all across the Northern Shenandoah Valley with half of recipients being single parents. Last year alone, the fund was able to meet 19 requests for assistance (12 for transportation, 3 for housing, 3 for technology, and 1 for education) where no other resources were available.
When funds run short, ALICE families are forced to make impossible choices, such as deciding between quality childcare or paying the rent, filling a prescription or fixing the car. These short-term decisions have long-term consequences not only for ALICE families, but for all of us.
In addition to their fundraising goal, United Way has also issued a Facebook challenge asking supporters to send a day/night/week in the shoes of an ALICE family. Challenges include: experiencing a night of housing insecurity by sleeping on a sofa or air mattress, cutting off your lights or heating, cutting your per person food budget to $5 per day/per person, using a laundromat, disconnecting your cell phone (even just the mobile data), and relying on ridesharing and/or public transit. According to UWNSV’s Valley Assistance Network program, these are the most common challenges of our local ALICE families. These lived experience challenges are intended to increase awareness of the daily struggles and resiliency of those in our community as they attempt to meet these basic needs. (www.facebook.com/UWNSV)
United Way’s local Women United group will be hosting a dining-for-dollars event on Thursday, December 1st from 4-8pm at the Winchester TGI Friday’s (111 Crossover Blvd). A generous portion of dine-in and to-go orders for the evening will be donated to the ALICE Emergency Fund.
For more information on ALICE, the ALICE Emergency Fund, and ALICE Awareness Week events, please visit www.unitedwaynsv.org/aliceawareness. You can also learn more about the ALICE population by visiting www.unitedforalice.org/state-overview/Virginia.