United Way Long Island’s Holistic Response to Need
Just east of the big city of Manhattan, Long Island, New York, is home to more than 7.5 million people, including 109,000 veterans and the United Way Long Island. With one of the highest living costs in the country, it is increasingly difficult to live in this beautiful place.
This is especially true for many veterans on the Island.
We spoke with Craig Fligstein, chief grant officer & SVP strategic partnerships, and Jennifer Carpenter Low, vice president of marketing & communications at United Way of Long Island, to better understand the challenges facing Long Island’s veterans.
The Bob Woodruff Foundation in partnership with Craig Newmark Philanthropies supports veterans through their investment in the United Way Long Island. United Way Long Island is a force in the battle against housing, food insecurity, and joblessness among Long Island veterans. With a commitment to serving those who have served our nation, the organization is a lifeline to many – igniting hope and restoring dignity.
Food insecurity is an adversary affecting many veterans and their families, and United Way Long Island refuses to ignore it. Food insecurity, housing, and income are interrelated factors that often impact veterans, particularly those facing challenges. United Way recognizes that a roof over one’s head is only part of the equation. By joining forces with local food banks, community partners, and volunteers.
“What distinguishes the United Way is that it’s almost like a wraparound of different services, resources, and the like,” says Jennifer.
United Way Long Island weaves a safety net of nourishment, ensuring no veteran goes hungry. Their mobile food pantries and gift card drives create spaces where veterans can access nutritious meals and find solace and connection in shared experiences. The programs meet veterans where they are in the community and create multiple touchpoints to ensure veterans can access these services.
The ALICE Report
United For ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) is a research and advocacy group representing individuals and families who work and earn an income but still struggle to meet their basic needs and afford a decent standard of living. Founded by United Way of Northern New Jersey, United for Alice has spread to more than 20 states, including New York. The most recent report shows that 22.6% of Long Island families often have limited savings or assets.
Veterans often face more economic difficulties than the general population due to factors that can uniquely impact their financial well-being, including service-related Disabilities, limited civilian job experience, mental health problems, and access to benefits and support services.
“The ALICE Report talks about veterans that have served, they’ve sacrificed,” explains Craig. “Yet, they get out of the military and are sacrificing financially because the cost of living is very difficult for so many to keep up with.”
For many Long Island veterans with disabilities and a lack of housing or employment, this means even more sacrifice.
It’s All Connected
United Way of Long Island works to improve the lives of veterans of all ages. They tailor various programs and initiatives to address each group’s specific needs and challenges.
Some veterans on Long Island are “aging in place,” or staying in their homes. United Way Long Island assists with wheelchair accessibility construction, home heating, and grocery costs for these residents.
“The Bob Woodruff Foundation’s grants for food insecurity have helped hundreds of older veterans that just cannot find any other means to make it,” Craig says.
For younger veterans, United Way Long Island works with employers to find and place them in growing careers.
“If we can get them on the path of growth and prosperity by shining the light on different career paths that they just might not be aware of,” says Craig. “They have they have a career pathway versus a job.”
Their mission is to combat the harsh realities that many veterans face when returning to civilian life. Innovative programs build a foundation of support, ensuring that no veteran must endure uncertainty alone.
Through strategic collaborations with housing agencies, financial institutions, and the community, they work tirelessly to provide veterans with affordable housing opportunities.
United Way Long Island’s commitment to veterans’ well-being has transformed countless lives. Their comprehensive approach to addressing key risk factors among veterans is a great example of how veteran-serving organizations can operate.