United Way of the Mid-South

  • Website: uwmidsouth.org
  • Address: 1005 Tillman Street, Memphis, TN 38112
  • Phones: 901-433-4300

Since 1923 United Way of the Mid-South has been improving the quality of life for Mid-Southerners by mobilizing and aligning community resources to address priority issues. We work to improve education, income / financial stability, and health. Through our vital support of 80 agencies and major collaborative initiatives, we’re impacting hundreds of thousands of people across our 8-county Memphis metro area every day. Under the leadership of our new President/CEO Dr. Kenneth S. Robinson, United Way has relocated to a neighborhood in the heart of Memphis and has a stronger focus on addressing the economic challenges faced by individuals and families across the area.

Our vision is straightforward: we’re creating an awareness of the critical issues impacting the community; building alliances to tackle these issues; investing in high performing nonprofit organizations, and demonstrating the impact of the support donated to United Way. Millions of dollars are raised each year to benefit local organizations and support United Way initiatives in eight counties: Shelby, Fayette, Lauderdale and Tipton in Tennessee; Crittenden in Arkansas; as well as DeSoto, Tate and Tunica in Mississippi.

We’re focused on addressing our community’s most pressing issues to improve our overall quality of life. There is an incredibly large number of factors which contribute to an individual’s and a region’s well-being. Community needs and challenges are extremely diverse, but most civic health and human service matters fall into the categories of education, income, and/or health.

Our United Way partnerships address people’s current challenges and focus on the root causes of these issues to reduce future incidents. To put a twist on a popular expression, we’re providing a fish to a hungry man today, and teaching him how to fish so he can secure his own meal tomorrow, and making sure his children are in a position to learn how to fish in the future.

The Mid-South’s critical issues

It cannot be overstated - the Mid-South faces alarming challenges to its quality of life. While there is evidence of some improvements, there is a tremendous amount of work still to be done.

In 2014, the greater Memphis metro region was named the nation’s poorest large metro area. More than half of Memphis’s children are growing up in poverty, and over 27% of Shelby County families live at or below the poverty rate.

The FBI reports Memphis ranks among the top large cities in the nation for crime, with high incidents of theft and violence, especially domestic violence.

Our education system is also struggling, with over 60% of our children in public schools unable to read at proper levels by the end of third grade. This leads to problems with learning through the rest of their schooling. Currently, only 11% of our teens in public schools are considered college or career ready when they leave high school.

Also in 2014, it was announced that Memphis is the least healthy of the 50 largest U.S. cities, with disproportionate incidents of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and other negative health outcomes.

Our critical issues are interconnected

These issues are not isolated. Poor education outcomes can lead to lifetimes of economic struggles for individuals and families, and both feed into fewer resources for good health practices and regular checkups. This fosters a culture of uncertainty, fear, and desperation which can lead to increased violent and/or criminal activity. The Mid-South battles generational cycles of lack of education, high poverty, domestic violence, and poor health.

United Way has a strategic focus. It is not enough to simply focus on one area at a time - instead, a holistic approach is necessary, bringing numerous sectors together with a united approach to our problems. We examine available services and how they are delivered, identify possible gaps in services, align work around measurable results with meaningful metrics, and make sure clients can get the help they need in an effective manner.

Negative growth in any of these areas creates negative ripple effects. Likewise, however, improvements made in one area has positive ripple effects in other areas. More young children reading at proper grade level means fewer high school dropouts in the future, leading to more people with skills for employment having greater resources for making healthier life choices.

Making it easier to get help

It is important that health and human service agencies and programs continue to adopt a “no wrong door” approach to helping people. A person receiving job skills training, for example, should also be able to easily access information on local programs helping with repairing poor credit scores, or even providing domestic violence intervention. Bureaucracy and specialization have their places, but not when connecting people with needs to vital programs and services. Our health and human service sector is working to increase cooperation and communications so it can more effectively distribute resources and information when it is needed, and where it is needed, to create the most meaningful and timely impacts.

You can make a difference by giving and volunteering

Our area’s health and human service sector faces tremendous challenges, while currently there are not enough resources to address the depth of local problems. The sector is working to become even more effective and efficient. Stretching already-existing dollars only goes so far, however. We are blessed to live in one of the most generous areas of the nation, yet much of our philanthropy is not distributed in a focused, holistic manner that addresses the complex matrix of needs in our community.

Please consider serving as a community volunteer with a health and human service agency. Volunteers help nonprofits keep cost low, which means more dollars are available for programs and initiatives addressing local needs. We also need more people with strong hearts, ideas and determination to help the sector in this work. Visit our network partners at Volunteer Memphis for places where you can serve as a volunteer.