On Tuesday, March 16, Independent Health and the United Way of Buffalo & Erie County (UWBEC) will seek to mobilize community members for one day of giving to support UWBEC’s Join the Fight Fund. All donations made will support UWBEC’s efforts to respond, recover, reimagine and rebuild a more equitable, resilient Erie County in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The community can visit www.uwbec.org on March 16 and make a one-time, secure donation to the Join the Fight Fund. All donations will be matched, dollar for dollar, thanks to a grant from Independent Health. The local health plan committed to a total $100,000 matching grant.
The United Way and Independent Health chose March 16 to call attention to the one-year milestone of the week many businesses and schools began closing or shifting to work-from-home and home schooling last year as the coronavirus began reaching a crisis phase locally, in New York State, and throughout the U.S.
UWBEC and Independent Health hope to raise a minimum of $25,000 from the community in 24 hours on “Giving Day”, which will equal $50,000 after matching donations from Independent Health.
Donations benefit a range of organizations, which directly serve those in need throughout Erie County, and help the UWBEC bring stakeholders together to create a stronger community. Taking lessons learned during the Covid-19 pandemic, the Join the Fight Fund aims to ensure everyone in Erie County has: 
  • Safe, secure, affordable housing
  • Nutritious food
  • Resources that help address barriers to accessing needed medical care, including  mental health care
  • Access to high-quality child care so parents and caregivers can get back to work
  • Remote learning opportunities and access to technology so kids can maximize their learning even when they can’t be in their school buildings
  • Opportunities to build skills to secure employment or advance in the workplace
  • Tools to build financial well-being so people can not only meet their daily needs like rent or mortgage, utilities, and food, but also build a strong financial future

“Join the Fight” funding helped make it possible for the Salvation Army to provide emergency assistance to the Gayles family this past year. When Tiffany Gayles’ job at a local hospital was eliminated last spring due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, she made the difficult decision to give up her house after exhausting the family’s savings. When a plan to move in with a relative fell through, the family of seven turned to the Salvation Army, a United Way agency.
“When I got to the Salvation Army, staff were so understanding and welcoming,” said Gayles. “They really helped us settle in and made us feel comfortable. I was relieved knowing that my babies would have somewhere warm to sleep and have a hot meal.”
A few months later, the Salvation Army set the Gayles family up with an apartment.
“In the week of my move to an apartment after many months, I reflected on how much the Salvation Army and donors have helped me and my family get through this challenging time in our lives. I am truly thankful and grateful,” said Gayles.
“Every day, people in our community face personal and social crises. Homelessness, hunger, inadequate education and lack of access to health care have all been exacerbated by the Covid-19 crisis,” saidMichael Weiner, president & CEO, UWBEC. United Way’s mission – to bring people, organizations and resources together to create systemic community change – has never been more relevant than in the wake of the global pandemic. Independent Health Giving Day was created to provide a focal point for fundraising to support UWBEC’s efforts to rebuild an equitable and more resilient Buffalo and Erie County.”
“Any donation, no matter its size, will help our neighbors in need. If just 1,000 people in Erie County give $25, we can reach our goal,” Weiner added.
Michael W. Cropp, M.D., president and CEO of Independent Health, also encouraged community members to come together and contribute to Join the Fight to help UWBEC provide assistance to families like the Gayles.
“As a local, community-based health plan, I firmly believe we can have the greatest positive impact on this region by addressing health disparities and improving access to the health care system. We are honored to join the fight with the United Way and support this vital community campaign,” said Dr. Cropp.