Community Listening Tour

This past summer, United Way of Roanoke Valley (UWRV) dispatched staff and volunteers to 12 community events to conduct the first Community Listening Tour. With nearly 300 surveys taken at community events, during bus rides, conferences, civic meetings and focus groups, UWRV was able to identify gaps in services and start working on an updated strategic plan.

Participants in the listening tour answered questions about their hopes and dreams and what they felt were their family’s most important needs. Many participants responded that their dreams were to be able to live comfortably instead of week-to-week. “I would like to be more financially healthy, maybe one day own a home but it seems like unexpected things always happen.” Another noteworthy trend included a staggering number of working parents who framed their personal hopes and dreams around the things they hope to provide for their children.  “I hope to give my daughter the life I never had – I’m a single parent so it’s financially hard,” answered one mother. 

At one event, a young child was given a free toothbrush and proceeded to run to his grandparent yelling “Look Grandma! I have my very own toothbrush!” He skipped around with a smile on his face exclaiming that he no longer needed to share one with his siblings. Another girl excitedly shared that it was her night to have the sheets and when asked what she meant, she explained that her family only had one set of sheets, so each night they take turns sharing. An elderly couple shared that due to an injury, the husband was unable to work and had to have four surgeries within a month. Between medical bills, the wife’s low income, rent, and utilities, the couple is left with approximately $17 per month for food and other necessities.

A combination of research and experience shows that issues with education, income, and health are interrelated, and just like these families, others rarely face challenges in only one area. The responses to these surveys validate our work towards a comprehensive approach to supporting our friends and neighbors, and United Way is dedicated to addressing the needs of family members at every stage of life.