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United Way Greatest Community Needs Fund

United Way Greatest Community Needs Fund

Thanks to our donors, United Way of North Central Massachusetts supports nearly 40 programs through its Greatest Community Needs Fund. 


United Way Youth Venture helps to empower young people by providing them all the tools necessary to create civic-minded organizations, clubs or businesses.  Students interested in launching a team work with an adult Champion within each collaborating partner, identifying an ally (non-controlling adult mentor) to work through the application process, to help make their idea a tangible project benefiting the greater community. Success is measured not only by the number of teams launched, but also by measurement of personal and academic indicators before and during participation in the program. 

UWYV does not have a clear point of exit, or end; as the program is truly transformative in nature, and creates such investment and ownership on the part of leading participants that many youth continue to engage in the program, and support their venture after they graduate from high school.

A Venture can be any youth-created, youth-led organization designed to provide a positive lasting benefit in a school, neighborhood, or larger community.  Participants are granted access to a variety of resources, including: skill-building workshops and trainings, grant and scholarship opportunities, media opportunities and up to $1,000 in seed capital needed to launch their organizations.

In North Central Massachusetts, the program now touches over 6,000 students.  

United Way Early Childhood Literacy Initiative (Dolly Parton Imagination Library) – Did you know that studies show that on average in middle-incomes homes, there are 13 age-appropriate books per child? In low-income homes, there is ONE book per 300 children.  Did you know that kindergarten preparedness directly improves 3rd grade reading skills? And that better 3rd grade reading levels improve graduation rates?  

The Imagination Library is a preschool literacy program that provides children with a new, FREE, age-appropriate book each month from birth until their 5th birthday, regardless of socioeconomic status. This program ensures that children have quality books in the home in their most developmental years. Any child living in Ayer, Shirley, Fitchburg, Leominster, Gardner, Winchendon or Templeton may sign up for the program.

  • 21st Century Scholars Afterschool Program - Helps students meet state and local standards in subjects such as reading and math; increases student achievement in literacy, math, communication and problem-solving; assists with homework & helps develop effective habits for learning.
  • Bridging the Gap - Addresses multiple determinants of emerging anti-social behavior in first-time juvenile offenders and other youth at high risk: a 12-week comprehensive life-skills program offered in the Fitchburg and Gardner areas. 
  • Camp Lowe Scholarship Program - Scholarship program to allow for 75 children to attend Camp Lowe for one week during the summer months. Camp Lowe operates during the summer months for 9 weeks.
  • Community Partnerships  - Enhances school and community-based youth violence prevention programs.  Provides knowledge to help understand the seriousness and long-term ramifications of violent behavior. 
  • Fitchburg Community Based After School Program Collaborative – Programming addressing the prevention of youth violence, drug abuse and teen pregnancy.  Geared to engage low-income children and youth with a collaboration of existing, successful programs.  
  • Fitchburg High School Plato Credit Recovery Program – This program’s unique approach addresses the need of students on the verge of dropping out of high school.  Under the guidance of a licensed math teacher, an ELA teacher and a guidance counselor, students complete classes they need to graduate. This digital program is tailored to each registered student in the program.  
  • HOPE for Kids - Afterschool program for low-income children in K-12 in Gardner and neighboring communities. Committed to a “whole child” approach HOPE works closely with families to bridge the gap between home and school.
  • Males Advocating Change – MAC works to develop the peer leadership potential of young males in addressing the male culture of violence, and particularly sexual violence towards women and children. MAC works to engage middle school, high school, and college-age males throughout North Central Massachusetts in the primary prevention of sexual and dating violence, harassment, and bullying.
  • Hope Summer Camp - Provides a positive summer camp experience for those who would not otherwise have one!  Provides breakfast and lunch to children who might not other wise get healthy meals during the summer. 
  • Project Learn - Designed to work with the "Power Hour" program to develop positive and effective study habits while addressing and decreasing behavioral problems during school hours through learning successful methods of information retention through a reward system.
  • Power Hour – Power Hour Afterschool program designed to engage youth in learning, encourage academic success and develop life-long learners.
  • Sexual Assault Youth Education Program - Provides age and culturally appropriate education/prevention services designed to change social norms within communities to reduce the perpetration of sexual assault across the life span.  
  • Strengthening Families Collaborative - Provides support to at-risk families throughout the region through collaboration with Strengthening Families Alliance (15 collaborative partners including CAFS).
  • Teen Center - Provides services to the middle & high school youth by offering opportunities that will help develop their social & leadership skills through structured activities, homework help, classes, volunteerism and involvement in the community. Youth Program - Provides services to youth (12 years) offering recreational activities that enhance academic and social development in a safe, supportive and supervised environment.


  • Action Health Services - Provides substance abuse counseling, personal addiction identification, while working through the stages of addiction and rehabilitation in order to provide the outcome of relapse.
  • BWR Community Based Domestic Violence - Serves the needs of victims/survivors of domestic violence and their children.  Provides a 24 hour hotline, 90 day emergency shelter, crisis intervention, high risk assessment, individual counseling, support groups, advocates in six District Courts. Addresses domestic violence at all levels: crisis intervention, support, prevention and education.
  • Companion/Escort Volunteer Program - Services to elders and disabled adults to enable them to continue living independently in their homes through a range of services, including: companionship, escort to and from medical appointments, shopping assistance, respite for caregivers,  S.H.I.N.E. (serving Health Information Needs of Elders) referrals, and telephone reassurance.
  • Medical Transportation - Coordinated travel arrangements to & from out of town medical appointments for elderly & disabled individuals in rural areas. 
  • Summer Fun Program - Provides breakfast and lunch for income-eligible kids 0-18, as well as educational, craft and recreational programs with a mentoring component for children 13 and up - during the summer months.
  • United Way Combat Hunger Initiative (Heroes Against Hunger) - Nutritious meals are packaged for local food pantries.
  • Shelter - A confidential emergency shelter for victims of domestic abuse and their children who are in imminent danger of physical harm. 
  • Basic Life Skills & Emergency Assistance - Provides emergency material assistance (food, clothing, shelter) to individuals and families in need. 
  • AIDS Services Food Resource Program - A multi-service program that provides a food resource program for individuals living with HIV/AIDS in the area. 
  • Comprehensive Emergency Assistance - Provides emergency assistance for those in need.  Helps with food assistance, rental/mortgage, utility assistance, emergency disaster services, camp experiences, seasonal assistance, referrals, clothing and furniture.
  • Emergency Assistance - Serves low-income clients, addressing issues of poverty, such as hunger/malnutrition, along with immediate crisis, such as rental eviction, house foreclosure and utility terminations.  Provides for basic human needs. 
  • Fellowship Table Program - Provides a free nutritious, balanced meal for individuals in need in a safe environment.  Predominately addressing hunger and malnutrition, this meal site also serves as an outlet for isolated individuals to share a common meal, socializing with others in a hospitable location.
  • Food Pantry - Provides food and nutritional stability to 3,633 individuals in need in a safe environment. Predominately addressing hunger and malnutrition, this meal site also serves as an outlet for isolated individuals to share a common meal, socializing with others in a hospitable location. 
  • Homeless Outreach - Provides homeless outreach to North Central Massachusetts.
  • Food Pantry - Provides food to families and individuals who have no food and no resources to obtain food.  Provides food on a regular basis to households in need.
  • Food Pantry - A food pantry provides groceries and referrals to people in need in Nashoba Valley region.
  • Family Shelter – Provides safe and clean housing in a congregate setting, addressing the needs of up to eight families. Through volunteer and staff network, helps each family transition back to permanent housing through case management and benefit assistance.
  • Center Food Pantry - Provides hot meals to displaced families living in Leominster motels in addition to providing fresh ethnic foods to individuals who cannot otherwise provide food for themselves or their family. 
  • Family Support & Advocacy - Provides individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities, and their families, with support.
  • United Way Supplemental Basic Needs Initiative - Provides emergency food, utility and other basic living support to families in North Central Massachusetts. 



  • Money Management Program - This program provides services to ensure financial stability and security for elders and younger disabled adults in the community through either Bill Payer volunteers or Representative Payee staff.
  • Transition to Independent Living (TIL) Services - Assists older adolescents and young adults to take charge of their lives and reach their fullest potential. Youth have the opportunity to learn crucial skills necessary to function and compete in the adult world.
  • Literacy Volunteers - Promotes and fosters literacy, teaching adults to read, write and speak English. One-to-one tutoring for adults who struggle with limited literacy skills, as well as students who cannot function due to lack of English language skills.


  • United Way Volunteer Center - It is the volunteer center for North Central Massachusetts. It connects volunteers with opportunities and resources to address important community issues.