Tony Penn

Your United Way set some ambitious impact goals for the 2018-2019 campaign year.  But it’s that ambition that drives our work every day at United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona. That ambition is required for the level of accountability that we assume as stewards of the financial resources of hard-working Southern Arizonans. 

Please indulge me as I express my gratitude 155,000 times.

That’s my humble offering of thanks to every business and corporate partner who participated in last year’s United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona Annual Campaign. When combined with contributions from generous individual donors, these funds that came from payroll deductions effectively equipped us to serve nearly 155,000 children, families and seniors in our 2018-2019 year, which we wrapped up last week. 

This is no small number. In fact, 155,000 people represents more than 10 percent of the population of greater Tucson and the surrounding communities. It might seem daunting when you consider what it takes to connect with and serve that many people in a single year. But we were encouraged by the hundreds of businesses, partners and organizations that share our mission of building a thriving community.

Thanks for enabling us to provide more than 200,000 books to our children last year, many of whom had never seen a single book in their home before. Imagine the expressions on the faces of youngsters and their parents when they get to take books home to read and to keep. I’ve seen it myself, again and again, and each time it leaves an indelible mark on me.

Thanks for helping us reach more than 450 youth who weren’t in school or working, to connect them back to education and career pathways. I’ve often said that education is the best economic policy there is, and our work with these youth is a manifestation of that promise. 

Thanks for your support of our efforts to host child development and parenting classes. More than 5,000 adults attended these classes last year. Strengthening families is critical to the work of building a thriving community. The impact of these educational programs is immeasurable.

Thanks for assisting us in helping families save more than $4 million last year by enrolling in our Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. Southern Arizonans who earn up to $66,000 per year can have their tax returns prepared and filed for free by our IRS-certified volunteers. It’s no wonder why our United Way has become the largest tax preparation service in the state!

Thanks for joining us in serving our community’s seniors. Last year, nearly 9,000 seniors were able to receive supportive services in their own homes, and more than 5,000 seniors were given information and tools to make important choices for their end of life care.

Thanks for your participation in last year’s Days of Caring program, where more than 4,000 volunteers completed 100 community improvement projects for local schools, nonprofits, public spaces and care facilities. Days of Caring has become the single largest volunteer event in Southern Arizona, and our business community should be proud of its role in this success.

It should be obvious at this point that we use metrics to track outcomes. That’s part of the accountability that I mentioned earlier. But I also hope it’s just as apparent that it’s the human stories and the remarkable individuals whom we serve that speak the loudest. Because, really, what good does a metric do without an impactful human story behind it?

Behind every impactful story are investors and donors whose personal commitment and financial support helped to shape it. For that, I’m grateful. The resources are at the heart of our work to foster educational opportunities, maximize financial stability and enrich healthy communities, from birth to end of life.

As we start another exciting chapter at our United Way, we’re encouraged by the milestones that we reached last year and are looking forward to reaching new heights in the 2019-2020 year. Our goals are bold. They should be bold. And with our business partners’ and investors’ support again this year, even more impactful stories will be told.

Please accept this virtual handshake with my profound gratitude—and only 154,999 more to go. 

Tony Penn is the president and CEO of the United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona.