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A community response to COVID-19

United Way is dedicated to helping our vulnerable friends and neighbours get the support they need during the COVID-19 pandemic. We will be providing weekly updates on how we’re using your donations to take action on the frontlines of our community. You can also read our archive to see how we have been meeting urgent needs since March.  



Grassroots organization Concerned Citizens for the Homeless in Newmarket received funding from our Local Love Fund to deliver 1,200 meals to date, making up for the shortfall in local hot take-out dinners for those facing food insecurity. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have extended funding to the essential work of 55 agencies new to United Way


The call for disaggregated data collection—where data collected for research is divided into smaller categories (e.g., by race) that reveal trends which can be masked by aggregate data—has grown louder recently. This kind of data related to people's experiences in the GTA—particularly as it relates to poverty—is essential to better understanding barriers and developing policies that achieve better outcomes.   

That’s why United Way Greater Toronto is partnering with the Toronto Central Local Health Integration Network and the City of Toronto on a new project looking at how to streamline disaggregate data collection and reporting. United Way’s network of agencies will be crucial partners in the pilot phase, test-driving data collection strategy, analysis and resources. Information is power—and can drive real change in our communities.


North Etobicoke is among the GTA neighbourhoods most impacted by COVID-19. A United Way-led community co-ordination table is on the ground, convening local community agencies to identify urgent issues and quickly implement solutions to rising needs, including food security. This Etobicoke Guardian article, featuring expert insight from our own Vice President of Community Investment and Development, dives into our local community response


United Way-funded agencies Hope 24/7 and Interim Place report spiking rates of violence against women in Peel Region due to women being isolated with their abusers during the pandemic. Peel Region is partnering with United Way, local school boards, Peel Regional Police and local municipalities to address the issue through a community safety and well-being plan that will ensure women experiencing violence and their families are cared for and their needs are prioritized in COVID-19 response and recovery.


Since March, United Way Greater Toronto has approved more than $2.1 million in emergency funding to 198 projects across the GTA, including rapid response initiatives in the communities most impacted by COVID-19:

  • Elspeth Heyworth Centre for Women – New funding will purchase used laptops to enable young mothers, seniors and newcomer students in Black Creek and Humber Summit to access supports online.

  • Jane/Finch Community and Family Centre – New funding will support neighbourhood leaders in assisting 1,500-2,500 residents across five buildings with crisis response, including food hampers.

  • TNO - The Neighbourhood Organization – New funding will deliver 1,000 culturally appropriate food hampers to isolated seniors in Thorncliffe Park, Flemingdon Park and St. James Town.


More than 2 million meals have been provided to people and families made vulnerable by the pandemic as a result of a partnership between the City of Toronto and a number of community organizations, including United Way. The Food Security Table, which consists of city staff and representatives from United Way, Daily Bread Food Bank, FoodShare Toronto, North York Harvest Food Bank, Second Harvest, Red Cross, Toronto Public Library and The Salvation Army, continues to meet regularly to discuss food access gaps in the community and how they can be filled.


We are pleased to share our 2019-2020 Annual Report with you, which highlights the need, now more than ever, for a united way through these challenging times. We hope you’ll take the time to learn more about how you, along with thousands of other caring individuals across the GTA, are helping to keep our community strong and connected.


Access to food has emerged as one of the most important, and ongoing, needs during the pandemic and has reinforced the connection between food security and equity. United Way-supported agencies Black Creek Community Farm and FoodShare Toronto have been connecting the issue of hunger with the other social determinants of health—race, class, health and housing—as they respond to growing need. They’ve delivered hundreds of FoodShare’s Good Food Boxes (full of fresh produce) to local residents, including seniors, racialized families and those who are precariously employed. They’ve also partnered with 50 other community organizations to deliver 20,000+ emergency food boxes to more than 500 Foodora couriers who lost their jobs as well as Black and Indigenous families who had to self-isolate after attending a protest march at the end of May. The agency is also working with families living in rental apartments in the Flemingdon Park, Black Creek and York South-Weston communities, offering do-it-yourself balcony gardening kits.


Applications for the federally funded Emergency Community Support Fund (of which United Way Greater Toronto received $11 million) closed June 19. We plan to notify agencies as soon as possible with our funding decisions so that programs can start by the end of July. These one-time emergency grants will help agencies meet the urgent needs of vulnerable individuals and families affected by COVID-19. Learn more about additional federally funded programs we’re supporting in community.


Photo of a senior looking at an iPad while seated at a table.

It’s never too late to learn how to connect to your community in new (and digital) ways. Thanks to a federal grant that’s part of the Government of Canada's New Horizons for Seniors Program (administered in part by United Way Greater Toronto), nearly 25 seniors in Vaughan and Keswick will be receiving free iPads and data plans to help them stave off social isolation during the pandemic.

Collage of three photos from the 519 showing groups of people participating in programming.

A recent survey by human rights non-profit Egale and Innovative Research Group found that LGBTQI2S Canadians have disproportionately been impacted by COVID-19, with 53 per cent of LGBTQI2S households facing layoffs or reduced hours compared to 39 per cent of the overall population. These findings track with early geographic data from public health departments across Canada indicating marginalized Canadians have borne the brunt of the economic, social and health impacts of the pandemic. The 519 Community Centre, a United Way-supported agency and a hub of Toronto’s LGBTQ2S community, is feeling this impact first hand. In response, they’ve adapted their services while continuing to meet rising needs in the community, including expanding their drop-in community meals to a daily takeout format.

Exterior of the Native Child and Family Services of Toronto building.

Native Child and Family Services of Toronto, a United Way-supported agency, is offering an innovative way for the children it serves to spend some much-needed time outside while still adhering to social distancing guidelines. Staff from the agency will be piloting a program in Toronto parks that offers wellness checks for children as well as programming that boosts kids’ physical and mental health during this period of isolation.

Closeup photo of a keyboard with one red key with the word "Donate" on it.

Donating to anti-racism organizations here in the GTA—and across Canada—is one way that you can show your support for, and allyship with, your Black friends and neighbours who experience this systemic issue. Here are 25 charities, organizations and agencies where you can make a gift.


Photo of a medical professional administering a COVID-19 test.

COVID-19 pop-up testing is coming to Toronto's northwest, an area of the GTA that has been heavily impacted by the virus. The new testing is thanks to the collaborative work at the United Way-led Black Creek/Humber Summit community co-ordination table, in partnership with the Central LHIN and Toronto Public Housing. 

It’s one example of how our community co-ordination tables are bringing local government, agencies and community stakeholders together to identify trends and gaps in essential services—ensuring urgent needs are met as COVID-19 continues to have an impact on our community.

Screenshot from the video showing Daniele Zanotti with a text overlay reading: “President & CEO Update”

I like to talk a lot about the “systems-level” change that your support makes possible in community. It’s a term that’s well understood in the social services sector but one that often needs explaining for other audiences. In my video update this week, I talk about what systemic change really means and how it translates to quantifiable, long-term impact for people and families made even more vulnerable by the pandemic. WATCH NOW.

Screenshot of people on the AGM Zoom call.

More than 400 people attended our first-ever virtual Annual General Meeting on June 23. Didn’t get a chance to join us? You can watch a recording of the meeting, featuring an engaging panel discussion with the Honourable Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development and MP, York South-Weston; Toyo Ajibolade, Executive Director, Lady Ballers Camp and Beth Wilson, CEO, Dentons Canada LLP.

Screenshot from the Peel Town Hall showing the screens of some of the people who participated.

Over the past two weeks, we’ve come together virtually with more than 500 community members in Peel and York regions as part of our online town halls. Don’t worry, if you missed these community conversations—featuring a group of distinguished panellists—you can watch recorded versions of the Peel and York town halls.

Screenshot from the Peel Town Hall showing the screens of some of the people who participated.

We had an incredible turnout for our first-ever virtual town hall for Peel Region on June 11. More than 240 community members, donors and agency staff joined us to talk about their local love in action across the GTA. Panellists included Sonia Pace, Director, Community Partnerships, The Regional Municipality of Peel; Sharon Floyd, Executive Director, Interim Place; and Blair Peberdy, Vice President, Government & Corporate Relations, Alectra Inc. Don’t worry, if you missed the event you can watch a recording here.

Screenshot from the Peel Town Hall showing the screens of some of the people who participated.

Over the past two weeks, we’ve come together virtually with more than 500 community members in Peel and York regions as part of our online town halls. Don’t worry, if you missed these community conversations—featuring a group of distinguished panellists—you can watch recorded versions of the Peel and York town halls.