For almost 75 years there has been a United Way of Manatee County, whose focus has been the education, financial sustainability and health of the Manatee community.
On Wednesday, United Way of Manatee announced that the organization is merging with United Way Suncoast in the next six months. But they insist none of the services will change.
We will still have an area board focused on Manatee County. We will have our office in Lakewood Ranch for sure. Our focus in Manatee won’t change. It will still be on the education, health and financial sustainability of everyone in Manatee.
Bronwyn Beightol, chief operating officer, United Way of Manatee County
“Our two boards have actively agreed to pursue a merger that will be finalized by July 1,” said Bronwyn Beightol, currently chief operating officer of United Way of Manatee County.
The merged organization will most likely be known as United Way Suncoast, Beightol added.
Several years ago, United Way of Manatee County explored merging into United Way Suncoast, which itself was the product of a merger nearly five years ago between United Way of Sarasota County and United Way of Tampa Bay, said Anne Lee, chair of the United Way of Manatee County board.
“The timing wasn’t right,” Lee said. “Since then, we have watched how Sarasota has benefited post merger and seen first-hand the accomplishments United Way Suncoast has made in the Sarasota market with community impact.”
What will happen in Manatee
The United Way of Manatee’s annual budget is $1.75 million, which includes campaign funds, grants, individual gifts and other sources, Beightol said.
The agency spends its money on some key programs in which it partners with other organizations, like Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, ReadingPals, See Spot Read Spot, Building Stronger Families and Healthy Community.
“Absolutely,” Beightol said when asked if those programs will continue after the merger.
The merger will allow a sharing of knowledge between the Manatee and Suncoast staffs, Beightol added.
“We have unique talent and expertise among our teams that will be put to use in our local areas, but informed by best practice and shared knowledge,” Beightol said.
“With nine employees, we wear multiple hats,” Beightol added. “Our team members will be able to focus on our community’s tough challenges and be ready to respond with expertise as new challenges arise. By consolidating some of our administrative responsibilities, this will leverage the investments we make and strengthen local relationships.”
Right now, the United Way of Manatee works out of two locations — a downtown office at 1701 14th St. W. and a Lakewood Ranch office at 4215 Concept Court.
Over the next six months, United Way of Manatee will have a lot of decisions to make, but the mission of taking care of Manatee resident has already been made, Beightol said.
“We will still have an area board focused on Manatee County,” Beightol said. “We will have our office in Lakewood Ranch for sure. Our focus in Manatee won’t change. It will still be on the education, health and financial sustainability of everyone in Manatee.”
The United Way of Manatee County building on 14th Street West was a gift from the Kiwanis that United Way of Manatee has enjoyed for the past 30 years.
But the building is now ailing, said Beightol, who added that its fate is uncertain.
“We have a property use committee and we will explore possibilities,” added Beightol, who said the building could end up being used by another organization in the county.
According to the announcement, the boards of directors from both organizations began discussions about how they could work together in September. Both boards voted unanimously in January to merge.