2021 Report to the Community

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United Way Suncoast provides pathways to education and financial stability that create better opportunities for everyone in our community.

2021 Report to the Community

Jessica Muroff headshot

Letter from Jessica Muroff, CEO

We know that the community members we serve, the families we elevate and the strategic partners we support – no matter how strong they may have appeared over the last year – all carried a heavy load as they continued to endure the pandemic. We’ve witnessed how a confluence of factors impacted your friends, your families, and your lives.

Our empathy arises from our own experiences at United Way Suncoast. Your journey is our journey. If this pandemic has shown us anything, it’s shown us we cannot take on these challenges in silos. We must work together to have the greatest impact.

The drive to collaborate and convene, to create a collective community will, has served as a foundation for our work for nearly 100 years. That approach continued to be our formula for success in 2021. From our dedicated board members to our corporate donors, our coalition again delivered for those most in need.

Over the last 12 months, we focused on a key question: How can we strengthen our organization so we can emerge from this pandemic better prepared to handle the future?

We answered that question with a new strategic vision that will serve as our GPS. We coupled that vision with recommendations from our R.I.S.E. Task Force, a group of community leaders and stakeholders who employed radical transparency in laying out how we would utilize our transformational gift from philanthropist MacKenze Scott.

At the same time, we balanced that foundation for the future with a continuing focus on creating lasting community impact and addressing immediate needs. We funded 93 programs through 78 organizations, sparked more success with our own initiatives and launched a new effort to help community members facing eviction.

Internally, we continued to revamp our operational excellence. For the first time in several years, we surpassed our fundraising goals, and we set new standards in revitalizing our culture and creating a more cohesive team.

So, the load we carried in 2021 was indeed heavy, and the load we carry into 2022 appears to be just as weighty. But make no mistake, we will carry it well because of your support, your tenacity, your strength. We’re all in this together, and it’s together that we will succeed.

United We Rise, United We Win.

2021 By the Numbers

United Way Suncoast has been serving our community for nearly 100 years, working tirelessly to eliminate the constraints that prevent families from thriving. As we provide pathways to early learning, financial stability and youth success, we create opportunities today that help transform the lives of individuals and families tomorrow. Here are a few examples of the impact made across our five-county footprint during Fiscal Year 2020.




received support from United Way to improve their educational opportunities in DeSoto, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pinellas, and Sarasota counties.

0 %


in Summer Care educational programs maintained or grew their reading scores, successfully limiting summer learning loss.



were provided for Summer Care.



for the 93 students that were provided literacy tutoring during summer care.





have demonstrated growth in essential skills related to acquiring career readiness.

+ 0


have reported gaining work experience (internships or jobs)

0 %


of dual enrollment in Operation Graduate, a program for at-risk high-school students, graduated on time.

0 %


in Operation Graduate were accepted into higher education or the military.




in tax refunds returned to hard working families in our community.



tax returns were prepared by United Way’s VITA partnership. Using over 580 trained volunteers, taxpayers saved over $11 million in both savings from tax preparation fees and refunds that were given back to the community.



adults improve essential financial behaviors which helps to obtain or keep employment that pays a family-sustaining wage.



earning certificates or degrees of higher education which provides skills to obtain stable jobs.

+ 0


received food assistance/nutritious food.

Stories That Defined the Year


After successfully weathering the strife of 2020, United Way Suncoast embarked on its 2021 journey with renewed hope, buoyed by a $20 million gift from MacKenzie Scott, plans to craft a new Strategic Vision.
Learn More

Jessica Muroff - Strategic Vision

Jessica Muroff talks about United Way Suncoast's Strategic Vision 2021 during our Road to Revitalization presentation event.
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R.I.S.E. stands for: Reach, Invest, Support, and Empower our community. Learn how we engaged partners and experts across all five counties and embraced radical transparency to chart a plan for our transformational MacKenzie Scott gift.
Click Here
Like past years, we ignited our never-ending efforts to lift up families and inspire volunteers with the start of another Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) season and the MLK Day of Service.


Day of Service
"Everybody can be great...because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

8,270,774 DOLLARS

in tax refunds were returned to hard working families in our community.
Learn more about VITA
“I have decided to stick with love. . . . Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
- Martin Luther King, Jr.
VITA had to navigate through the challenges created by COVID and shift to appointment-only engagements, but by the end of the year...
VITA had spurred an over $8 million return in refunds to the community, including $3.2 million in Earned Income Tax Credits and Child Tax Credits. Add in the $1.8 million we helped community members save in preparation fees, and that’s an $11 million impact for the region.
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“Those who are not looking for happiness are the most likely to find it, because those who are searching forget that the surest way to be happy is to seek happiness for others.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.
At the end of January, United Way Suncoast officially launched its Quality Childcare Initiative at Mrs. B’s in Arcadia. In collaboration with local Early Learning Coalitions, United Way Suncoast supports the key quality components of childcare at selected early childcare centers in Sarasota, DeSoto, and Manatee County.
It seeks to enhance the learning environments of early learning centers, establish an experienced and stable workforce, create consistent family engagement and referrals and advocate.
In March, as COVID-19 vaccines rolled out, United Way Suncoast continued to safely provide for community members with socially-distanced events...
...including a Family Game Night at our North Greenwood Resource Center and an open house with Positive Spin at the Sulphur Springs Resource Center that included a distribution of Feeding Tampa Bay frozen dinners, educational supplies and children’s books.
All three of our resource centers, including St. Petersburg’s Campbell Park center, continued to have weekly food distributions through most of the year.
The collaborative efforts proved an ongoing necessity as community members continued to deal with pandemic challenges.
This is one of the advantages of community-based, or as we say at United Way Suncoast, place-based initiatives.
More than 3,500 community members visited one of our resource centers, taking advantage of a host of services and referrals.
We’re not just about funding efforts, we’re about being on the ground, touching lives and convening stakeholders so everyone buys in and believes in the mission.
In March, we also launched SUNCOAST SNAPSHOT, a weekly video feature that highlights UWS success stories and initiatives like Saving for Stability Transportation.
Visit our SUNCOAST SNAPSHOT page to view many of our success stories.
Click here
Gabriella Gillen talks about Define Yourself, her nonprofit that helps foster care children become successful young adults after aging out of the foster care system.
Watch Now
UWS asked its strategic community partners to submit project ideas requiring hands-on engagement, and then married the projects with corporate partners and community volunteers.
The 2021 WOC wedding again proved beautiful. In all five counties, Pinellas, Hillsborough, Manatee, Sarasota and DeSoto, our volunteers rallied to the call, including Publix workers at Sugg Middle School.
Sean Daly of WFTS-Ch. 28 captured the spirit of the week by chronicling the work of Seniors In Service.
Learn More


April 18-24

A volunteer effort so impactful it couldn’t even be contained to seven days.

1,286 HOURS devoted
= $36,702 VALUE
The final numbers revealed that we have a community ready to rise.
In April, UWS launched a new paraprofessionals component of United Way Suncoast’s Big Plan initiative in Manatee.
UWS leads the collaborative effort.


devoted by United Way Suncoast
UWS devoted $130,000 in funding to five Manatee Title I schools for first grade paraprofessionals who can devote individual attention to students requiring one-on-one assistance.
April 18-24
The Big Plan targets 10 key elementary schools in Manatee County where less than 35 percent of the students read on grade level by the end of third grade.
United Way Suncoast believes the way to strengthen our Manatee County community starts with the seeds of learning.
If we’re to grow the next generation into healthy, vibrant and successful community members, we have to start by nurturing the county’s youngest minds.


is to double the number of third graders reading on level at the 10 schools by 2026.
UWS devoted $130,000 in funding to five Manatee Title I schools for first grade paraprofessionals who can devote individual attention to students requiring one-on-one assistance.
We produced a podcast in October that drew tremendous interest and served as a prelude to one of United Way Suncoast’s most promising 2021 initiatives.
Chief Impact Officer Emery Ivery welcomed Hillsborough County Commissioner Kimberly Overman and Bay Area Legal Services attorney Tom DiFiore.
They heightened awareness of the ongoing eviction crisis in Tampa Bay and throughout our five-county region.
United Way Suncoast’s R.I.S.E. Task Force prioritized a portion of the MacKenzie Scott gift for immediate needs, and the rising rate of evictions proved to be an immediate challenge.


To address the complex issue, UWS moved forward with plans to devote
$3 million towards addressing the crisis.

Learn more about what we're doing to mitigate this crisis


The eviction crisis was a primary topic when more than 100 United Way representatives from around the state converged on Tallahassee in November for Capitol Days 2022.
Learn more
The contingent included United Way Suncoast CEO Jessica Muroff, Chief Impact Officers Bronwyn Beightol and Emery Ivery, and a host of other team members and United Way volunteers including YLS chair and Women United member Kiana Romeo.
Team members passionately spoke about the pandemic’s impact on ALICE families, including the current eviction crisis.
They also addressed the policy makers about United Way Suncoast’s core focuses: early learning, youth success and financial stability.
We enjoyed another collaboration with the Bucs in December when running back Giovani Bernard gifted singled parents affiliated with United Way Suncoast with $500 gift cards from Target.
Bernard, who was raised in a single-parent home after losing his mother to cancer, not only surprised the parents, but engaged with them about the challenges of raising children as he prepared to become a father for the first time.

Our Partners

United Way Suncoast proudly supports programs that help us create lasting community impact across our five-county region. Collaboration is woven into our name. Through our partnerships and our own initiatives, we will continue to create bold solutions to our biggest challenges – uplifting lives and achieving equity for generations to come.

2-1-1 Crisis Center of Tampa Bay

2-1-1 Tampa Bay Cares

A Brighter Community, Inc.

All Faiths Food Bank, Inc.

Academy Prep Foundation, Inc.

AmSkills Apprenticeship Foundation, Inc.

Bay Area Legal Services

Bess the Book Bus, Inc.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay, Inc.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast, Inc.

Bootstrap Business School, Inc.

Boys & Girls Clubs of Manatee County

Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota County

Boys & Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay, Inc.

Boys & Girls Clubs of the Suncoast

Catholic Charities, Diocese of St. Petersburg, Inc.

Champions for Children, Inc.

Children First, Inc.

Children’s Home Network

Children’s Home Society of Florida, Suncoast Region

Community Foundation of Tampa Bay, Inc.

Corporation to Develop Communities of Tampa, Inc.

Dawning Family Services

Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health

Early Childhood Council of Hillsborough County, Inc.

Early Learning Coalition of Florida’s Heartland

Early Learning Coalition of Hillsborough County

Early Learning Coalition of Manatee County, Inc.

Early Learning Coalition of Sarasota County

Earn to Learn FL, Inc.

Enterprising Latinas, Inc.

Feeding America Tampa Bay, Inc.

Florida Dream Center

Friends of the Children

Girls Incorporated of Pinellas

Golden Generations, Inc.

Goodwill Industries Manasota, Inc.

Greater Tampa Bay Area Council Boy Scouts of America

Gulf Coast Jewish Family and Community Services, Inc.

Gulfcoast Legal Services

Hillsborough County Public Schools

Hispanic Services Council

Homeless Empowerment Program

Jewish Family & Children’s Service of the Suncoast, Inc.

What's Next for UWS

Emily Cancela’s smile reflects the future of United Way Suncoast. So too does the confidence of Jacob Jensen and the dedication of Kodi Strickland. These are some of the folks United Way Suncoast put on life-altering paths of success in 2021, and we’ll look to replicate that success in 2022. The emerging challenges of these times demand no less of our organization.

Tampa Bay’s rate of inflation is one of the highest in the nation. The median cost of renting a two-bedroom apartment has dramatically risen in all five of the counties we serve. The pandemic continues to underscore the problematic issues with childcare, education and job wages. So, with the help of our strategic community partners, our corporate donors and our individual investors, we will help more, give more and do more. We’ll answer the call, because it’s what we do and what we’ve always done.

The effort will remain squarely-focused on our three pillars of success: early learning, youth success and financial stability. We know it’s at the intersection of these three interconnected issues that we do our best work at lifting up ALICE families, those hard-working parents and children who stand just one unexpected expense from dire circumstances.

Early learning educators like Kodi, who works at Imagination Station in Arcadia, will continue to garner support from our Quality Childcare Initiative, which lends tangible support to childcare centers in our region. We’ll also launch the Campbell Park Early Learning Network, a new effort designed to revamp the support for parents and preschoolers in South St. Petersburg.

Our youth success programs will buoy folks like Jacob, who receives guidance and support through strategic partner Suncoast Voices For Children. A St. Petersburg resident, Jacob is one step closer to financial stability because he now possesses a bank account thanks to our Bank On program. The same could be said of Emily, who earned her certified nursing assistant certificate after going through our CNA training program at our Sulphur Springs Resource Center.

With the help of MacKenzie Scott’s transformational gift and a detailed RISE Task Force Plan, our core mission will be enhanced.

For nearly 100 years, United Way Suncoast has tailored its efforts to address the needs of the day. In 2022, we’ll extend that approach, always working to be a beacon for community members in need.

United We Rise. United We Win.


Guidestar Platinum Seal of Transparency 2021


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