By IAN MUNRO
Daily News-Record 3/16/19
HARRISONBURG— United Way of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County will roll out a centralized database for local health and human service providers to improve quality of referrals to clients on Wednesday.
The system, called Empower Harrisonburg Rockingham, uses software from the New York based Unite Us company.
Unite Us, founded in 2013, was originally created to support the military community, said Sabina Loscalzo, the director of marketing for Unite Us.
“Over time, the service has expanded to serve all populations,” Loscalzo said, and now the software is in 48 different communities across 16 states.
Harrisonburg will formally join those communities on Wednesday, as United Way will open the landing page to explain the service and who is involved.
The system is for providers who work with people in need, said Tashfia Hasan, coordinator of community impact of the local United Way chapter. Hasan is also the contact for organizations to enroll in the system.
Organizations that are already enrolled in the system are Autumn Valley Guardianship, Central Valley Habitat for Humanity, Open Doors, Salvation Army, Strength in Peers, Blue Ridge Community College, Sentara RMH Community Health, Our Community Place, Elkton Area United Services and Brain Injury Connections of the Shenandoah Valley.
United Way expects more groups to join in the coming weeks.
“It’s quite a variety of organizations,” said Laura Toni- Holsinger, executive director of the local United Way chapter. “And we’re in conversations with some other 501©(3)s and some other local and state-funded government agencies.”
Providers will be able to use Empower Harrisonburg Rockingham to connect their clients, primarily disadvantaged community members, with others who can help them.
The cost of the system was covered by a donation from Rockingham Insurance, which is marking its 150th year. In celebration of its sesquicentennial, the company is donating $150,000 to local community groups, including United Way.
The donations from Rockingham Insurance covered the first year of software costs, said Amanda Leech, director of business engagement for United Way.
“Because it was their anniversary, they really wanted to do something meaningful in the community,” Leech said.
United Way of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County helps to connect those in need with services and nonprofits that can help, and discovered the software by connecting with community organizers in Hampton Roads, Toni-Holsinger said.
“They started out using it just for veterans,” she said.
But as Hampton Roads saw success, users expanded the program to include those in need beyond veterans.
“It’s been a really good tool for [ Hampton Roads],” Toni- Holsinger said.
The establishment of the system comes on the heels of a series of community conversations in 2018, Toni-Holsinger said.
“One thing we heard loud and clear is more clear referrals,” she said.
The software can help ease the connection between people in need and providers.
“It’s just a more effective way for local people to navigate services,” Toni-Holsinger said.
United Way could use the service to gather more data regarding the public’s needs, and providers could use the data for grant writing and funding requests, Toni-Holsinger said.
More information about Empower Harrisonburg Rockingham will be available to view at uwhr.org/empowerhr on Wednesday.