United Way of Berks County

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Safety Net Services

Helping Vulnerable Populations Meet Basic Needs

When basic needs such as food, clothing, and shelter are not in place, the consequences may be severe. This is why part of United Way of Berks County’s mission is to ensure that the basic necessities of life are available for those in need.

Whether someone is a victim of a disaster or other type of personal crisis, the existence of supportive services helps people’s basic needs to be met. Through United Way partnerships and funded programs, these services provide a crucial safety net for vulnerable populations to quickly access help and receive the support they need to have a better quality of life, both now and in the future.

Community Outcomes and Partner Agency Programs

Following is a list of community-level outcomes that have been established for the focus area of Safety Net Services, and a list of partner agency programs receiving funding to address each particular outcome. For a full description of these agency programs and contact information, click here.


Outcome: Disaster victims and people in crisis throughout Berks County, have their basic needs quickly met 

Funded Programs

Partner Agency


American Red Cross-Berks County Chapter

Disaster Response and Preparedness

Jewish Family Service of Reading, PA

Case Management

Food Bank

Transportation Services

Salvation Army-Reading Corps

SHARE Program

Salvation Army-Service Extension Units

Community Welfare Programs



Outcome: People who are homeless or experiencing a housing crisis have their emergency housing needs met

Funded Programs

Partner Agency


Opportunity House

Shelter Program



Outcome: Families and military personnel who are separated in time of war have access to communication and other support services

Funded Programs

Partner Agency


American Red Cross-Berks County Chapter

Armed Forces Emergency Services

Veterans Services

United Service Organization-USO

Programs to Support Military Personnel and their Families



Outcome: Victims of interpersonal violence are ensured of safety and supportive services

Funded Programs

Partner Agency


Berks Women in Crisis

Hotline/Rapid Response



 Outcome:  People are easily able to locate accurate information and appropriate and available health and human services

Funded Programs

Partner Agency


Friend, Inc. Community Services

Community Resource Connections



Outcome: Individuals are able to receive culturally and linguistically appropriate health and human services

Funded Programs

Partner Agency


Centro Hispano Daniel Torres, Inc.

Information and Referral


Special Funded Programs

Berks TALKLINE, a program of Community Prevention Partnership

Berks TALKLINE provides confidential listening services, referral information, and crisis intervention as needed to callers from 11am ? 11pm, seven days a week, on every day of the year except for holidays. Trained phone line workers assist callers with various needs including emotional and family concerns, loneliness, abuse, drug and alcohol abuse, and suicide. Limited bilingual services are available.

In July, 2012, Berks TALKLINE dissolved as an independent nonprofit agency, but the program continues to operate under the Community Prevention Partnership of Berks County. United Way provides a special grant to the organization for this program to continue serving the Berks County community.

Greater Berks Food Bank

There has been an ongoing need for food among members of the Berks County community with the downturn in national and local economic conditions. Many people are finding themselves in need for the first time in their lives due to job loss, decreased working hours or other unforeseen circumstances. Currently, about 64,000 adults and children in Berks County qualify for food assistance.

Because of this need, United Way of Berks County provides an annual grant to the Greater Berks Food Bank to address current and future food needs throughout our local area. The food bank distributes 7 million pounds of food annually to over 300 charitable food programs who in turn distribute the food to those in need. In 2013, the Food Bank distributed food to an average of 23,000 individuals each month through food pantries, and served over 964,000 meals at soup kitchens and shelters.

An additional component of United Way's partnership with the Greater Berks Food Bank has been our participation in the 2014 Hunger in America Study. This is a national project through Feeding America, where surveys are conducted with agencies who distribute food, and with clients accessing food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters. United Way trained approximately 50 volunteers who have conducted over 500 surveys with clients at 90 food distribution sites across the area.

The goal for the project is to gather national and local data on who the hungry are, their economic circumstances, and their level of need for supplemental food assistance. Results from this study will be released later in 2014, and will help in planning future responses to address food insecurity in Berks County.

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Community Impact Contacts

Pat Giles, Senior Vice President, Community Impact


Stella Leonti, Director of Education


Jane Moyer, Early Care and Education Program Director


Jen O'Brien, Community Impact Director


Darby Wiekrykas, Volunteer Engagement Program Manager



UWBC Initiatives and Programs

United Way Initiatives and Programs

FamilyWize Discount Drug Program

Community Collaborations

Berks Community Health Center

Special Funded Programs

Greater Berks Food Bank

RACC English as a Second Language Program

Berks TALKLINE, Inc., a program of Community Prevention Partnership

Did You Know?

Berks County faces many challenges each day that impact the present and future quality of life for many of its residents. Did you know…………..

  • At the beginning of 2014, over 62,000 adults and children received SNAP benefits (food stamps) across Berks County, almost 15% of the population. (PA Department of Public Welfare)
  • The City of Reading is ranked as one of the nation’s poorest cities, having the highest poverty rate in Pennsylvania (40.5%) and the second highest in the country, behind Detroit. (among cities with a population above 60,000) (United States Census Bureau, American Community Survey)
  • 14.6% of Berks County residents are living in poverty. (United States Census Bureau, American Community Survey)
  • Over 23% of Berks County youth age 18 and under are living below the poverty level. (United States Census Bureau, American Community Survey)
  • Almost 17% of the Berks County adult population does not possess a high school diploma. (United States Census Bureau, American Community Survey)
  • The Reading School District estimates that 70% of children entering kindergarten lack one or more skills needed to be successful in school.
  • Over 25% of Berks County third graders fall short of being proficient in reading on the PSSA (Pennsylvania System of School Assessment).
  • The City of Reading has one of the highest rates of births to teen mothers in the state of Pennsylvania. (Pennsylvania Department of Health).