Message from our President & CEO, Greg Burris


Greetings from the United Way of the Ozarks,

First and foremost, we hope you and your family and friends are safe and well.  The phrase “be well” has taken on a whole new meaning over the past four months.

As a community leader in the Ozarks, I want to provide you a special update on what United Way is doing to impact our community.

“Bizarre” doesn’t do it justice.  This is nothing we’ve ever seen before.

And we are responding differently than we ever have before.

To be honest, we did not have a plan for this – we are adapting as we go along.  We see a need; we respond.  Being nimble has its advantages at a time like this.

We’ve hosted weekly Zoom calls with our partner agency CEOs.  We’ve helped them through the various stages of crisis response into recovery mode.  And we’re still working with them to figure out what recovery looks like.

When our partner agencies were in crisis mode, we provided them with critical supplies they needed and couldn’t find elsewhere.  For example, we have obtained and allocated 12,468 masks.  We solicited our partner agencies’ most critical needs and helped create the Master Needs List.  We created the Coronavirus Response Fund and have raised and allocated more than $164,084 to address our partner agencies’ most critical needs.

When our elected officials asked United Way of the Ozarks, Community Partnership of the Ozarks and Community Foundation of the Ozarks (“Philanthropy Row”) to help coordinate the response of the faith community, we quickly worked with our partners to create the Have Faith Initiative.  Now, with more than 100 faith leaders from across the faith spectrum as members and working together, the Have Faith Initiative has become a model being copied by other communities.  (We were even asked to create a “how to” video to share with other community’s leaders.)  Mayor Ken McClure, Greene County Commissioner Harold Bengsch, Health Director Clay Goddard and Director of Public Information & Civic Engagement Cora Scott provide updates directly to the faith community each week.  That doesn’t just happen; and it doesn’t happen just anywhere.

As we prepared for 2020, “responding to a pandemic” was not on our To Do List.  It probably wasn’t on yours, either.

As we began planning our 2020-2021 annual campaign earlier this year, we did not plan to have to quickly pivot to develop a fully digital campaign; some workplaces may not allow us to make in-person presentations. In January, we planned to implement a digital campaign within the next 24 months; now we are implementing one in two months.

But we are all adjusting.  And we will keep adjusting . . . not to the “new normal,” but to the “next normal.”

We will continue to convene community leaders, provide a “systems” approach to our response, and change the engines while the plane is in the air.  I couldn’t be more proud of our Board and staff team and how they have pulled together under such strange circumstances; I hope you are proud of them, too.

Thank you for all you do for our community.

Greg Burris

President & CEO