United Way’s new initiative “Mission United” serves more than 4,000 veterans during inaugural year

United Way Northeast Florida
Press Release
November 11, 2020

The initiative provides streamlined care coordination for local veterans in need

United Way of Northeast Florida is pleased to announce Mission United has served more than 4,000 veterans in its inaugural year. Mission United, a community network connecting veterans and their families to critical health, human and social services through care coordination, launched one year ago in a press conference at the Jessie Ball duPont Center.

Mission United utilizes United Way’s 211 hotline as the entry point for veterans and family members to navigate and access a critical range of available community resources and services. The initiative covers nine counties and is no cost for veterans. Mission United is dedicated to helping struggling veterans get back on their feet, stabilizing veterans to further improve their circumstances and helping all veterans engage in a peer-driven network of support.

“We are extremely grateful for our veteran-serving agencies and our generous early investors who made this important work possible,” said Michelle Braun, president and CEO, United Way of Northeast Florida. “Little did we know we’d soon face a devastating public health crisis that would affect so many already struggling in our community, including our veterans and their families. We’re incredibly proud and thankful to serve them through Mission United.”

One in four residents in Northeast Florida are active military, veterans or family members of veterans. While many are thriving, more than 2,470 veterans were reported as homeless in 2019, according to the Florida Council on
Homelessness Annual Report. Additionally, veterans suffer post-traumatic stress at twice the rate of non-veterans.

“Nearly 40 percent of Northeast Florida residents struggle to make ends meet – and that was prior to the start of the pandemic,” said Jeff Winkler, United Way of Northeast Florida’s head of basic needs. “While we field over 100,000 calls annually through United Way 211, Mission United is a concentrated effort designed specifically for veterans by veterans. By utilizing the strong infrastructure of our 211 call center, we are able to quickly and efficiently connect veterans to the already robust network of local service providers to ease their transition to civilian life.”

In addition to the more than 4,000 veterans served since Mission United’s launch, these veterans were connected to available services via more than 9,000 referrals. These services included help with utility payments, food assistance and tax preparation services. As we navigate the pandemic, Mission United data shows the greatest area of need for veterans is help with rent and mortgage payments.

Thanks to the generosity of our early and passionate investors, Mission United onboarded two veterans as care coordinators to ensure a true peer-to-peer approach to care delivery. In June, Mission United was a lead partner in the Veterans Experience Action Center event, a virtual resources fair led by the Northeast Florida Community Veterans Engagement Board (CVEB) and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and supported by United Way 211 call center staff. Mission United also recently partnered with the VA, Feeding Northeast Florida and DoorDash to deliver food packages to local veteran families, including homeless veterans.

“In spite of COVID-19, a once-in-a-lifetime global crisis, United Way has made tremendous progress since Mission United’s launch one year ago,” said Dan Bean, Mission United Advisory Council chair, U.S. Navy veteran and attorney at Abel Bean Law, P.A. “Mission United’s steadfast commitment to help our service members navigate and better access our community’s robust network of veterans’ services is a huge testament to United Way’s expertise, dedication and passion for serving those who have served our nation. I know thousands of veterans and their families are profoundly grateful.”

United Way conducted preliminary research in 2018 to determine if the veteran services community would benefit from a Mission United model, which now exists as an effective model in more than 20 United Way communities across the U.S. United Way then convened more than 70 Northeast Florida service-provider representatives, corporate leaders, veterans and community stakeholders, who determined Mission United was indeed a needed service for Northeast Florida.

To fuel the launch of Mission United, United Way implemented an initial fundraising campaign in 2019. So far, more than $530,000 has been committed through 2022 to support Mission United. These funds will continue to provide necessary staffing, infrastructure and technology supports. Commitments include $150,000 each from CSX and K9s For Warriors. Jacksonville Area Legal Aid (inkind support), the Jaguars Foundation, VyStar Credit Union, Southeast Toyota/JM Family Enterprises and generous individual donors have also pledged financial support. Mission United also received additional funding from Florida Veterans Support Line.

Mission United is one impactful component of a strategic portfolio of community solutions designed by United Way and its partners to help local residents and families meet their basic needs and live more prosperous lives. If you or your company is interested in supporting Mission United, please contact Pamela Ducas, United Way’s director of corporate engagement, at [email protected].

“Providing a coordinated care network, a clear entry point through 211, a dedicated care coordinator and a robust community of service providers is a gamechanger in helping our veterans lead better lives,” said Winkler. “With your support, we will continue to ensure Northeast Florida veterans no longer slip through the cracks and instead lead productive, fulfilling, healthy lives.”

To learn more about Mission United, visit unitedwaynefl.org/missionunited. More information on United Way of Northeast Florida can be found at unitedwaynefl.org or on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.

About Mission United
Mission United is an initiative of local United Ways, veteran services organizations, donors and volunteers across the country. Mission United helps military veterans and their families acclimate back to civilian life by affording them the services and support they need. Operated through United Way 211, Mission United in Northeast Florida provides navigation and care coordination at no charge to active-duty military, veterans and their families. Since its inception in 2013 in Broward County, Florida, Mission United has launched in more than 20 United Way communities across the U.S. and served tens of thousands of veterans and their family members. For more information, visit unitedwaynefl.org/missionunited.

About United Way 211
United Way 211 is an integrated information and referral helpline and online database that connects people of all ages and walks of life to essential health, human and social services. Operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the service connects more than 100,000 callers annually to trained call center specialists who provide available information on community services and resources. There is no cost to those seeking services. In Northeast Florida, United Way 211 serves nine counties: Duval, St. Johns, Clay, Nassau, Baker,
Putnam, Columbia, Suwannee and Hamilton. For more information on 211 or to access the online database, visit unitedwaynefl.org/get-help. To get help now, dial 2-1-1, or call 904-632-0600 on your cell phone or landline.

About United Way of Northeast Florida
Founded in 1924, United Way of Northeast Florida has earned a reputation as a respected and efficient philanthropic organization. United Way envisions a community of opportunity where everyone has hope and can reach their full potential. Because change doesn’t happen alone, United Way’s mission is to solve Northeast Florida’s toughest challenges by connecting people, resources and ideas. The nonprofit organization focuses on comprehensive basic needs, high-quality education, good health and well-being, and financial security. United
Way’s long tradition of addressing the human-service needs in Duval, Baker, Clay, Nassau and Northern St. Johns counties is made possible through the commitment of thousands of volunteers, donors and community partners. To learn more, visit unitedwaynefl.org, or follow United Way of Northeast Florida on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.