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21 Cares for Kids

United Way of Central Oregon reflects on historic 2020, broadens its scope

New name, new grantmaking structure, new employees and TRACEs 2.0

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The year 2020 was a historic one, as it shone a spotlight on financial and racial inequalities in our region, in Oregon and across the nation. Nearly 40% of Central Oregonians were already living on the edge before COVID-19. The pandemic and economic fallout deepened existing disparities.

Having been a nonprofit grantmaking organization in our region for the last 69 years, United Way of Central Oregon, a "21 Cares for Kids" partner, revised its grantmaking structure in 2020 to be immediately responsive to new community needs caused by the pandemic, executing 5 grantmaking cycles over the year rather than its customary annual cycle.

Through its COVID-19 Emergency Response, Recovery, and Resilience efforts, the local nonprofit raised and granted $295,000 to 44 local and regional agencies in six grantmaking cycles, touching 65,000 Central Oregonians.

26% of Central Oregonians are served by at least one of these programs or services. This funding met immediate critical needs of our community’s most vulnerable and helped the agencies that serve them to adapt to new challenges in delivering services.

In 2020, United Way also distributed $260,600+ of federal and county emergency food and shelter grants to organizations that are providing meals, clothing, housing, rent, and mortgage assistance in Deschutes County, impacting over 25,000 people. And the nonprofit was empowered last year by the City of Bend to allocate $500,000 of CARES Act funding to nonprofits providing essential services to vulnerable populations, benefiting nearly 3,500 community members.

2020 was historic for other reasons at United Way of Central Oregon. In addition to a name change to reflect a service area the nonprofit has been serving for years, the organization also hired two new employees in service of the TRACEs movement: Kerani Mitchell and Kristen Kaul.

Joining the team in mid-August, Kerani Mitchell brings a background of nonprofit, equity consulting, and philanthropic experiences to “TRACEs 2.0.”  A graduate of Sisters High School and Seattle University, she is excited to collaborate with community members to foster a region where we all have what we need to thrive. Kerani serves as the TRACEs Movement Director.

Kristen Kaul has been part of the TRACEs initiative since 2018. With experience in statewide community wellness projects, Kristen has seen the importance of trust and relationship building with community members as we work together to tackle the root causes of trauma. She is excited to continue listening and learning with our Central Oregon communities. Kristen serves as the TRACEs Operations and Training Manager.

TRACEs (Trauma, Resilience, and Adverse Childhood Experiences) is a region-wide collective action partnership of over 150 public, private, and nonprofit sector partners in Central Oregon tackling the root causes of major social concerns such as suicide, depression, chronic diseases, incarceration, lost productivity, low performance in schools, and more.

Since inception, TRACEs has touched over 8,200 lives in an effort to tackle the root cause of challenges faced by many in our community by raising awareness of the effects of trauma, reducing its incidence and impact, and building resilience in individuals, families, and our community.

With 2020 has come “TRACEs 2.0” – a reimagining of the work with a continued commitment to addressing root causes of trauma and oppression with transparency about those causes, such as white supremacy, patriarchy, and capitalism, as illustrated by last year’s events.

By collaborating with communities who are currently, and have historically, been most impacted by those systems and structures, “TRACEs 2.0” aims to foster a true collective movement for, and by, the people.

As the local nonprofit enters 2021, it continues the valuable work it has always done, and simultaneously broadens its scope to deepen opportunities for collaboration in service of all Central Oregonians. 

About United Way of Central Oregon

United Way of Central Oregon fights for the health, education, financial stability, and resilience of every person in our region. The local nonprofit is concurrently driving the change that is building a resilient Central Oregon and working to reduce disparities and increase equity through grantmaking and through the TRACEs movement. Learn more and give at

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Barney Lerten

Barney is the digital content director for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Barney here.


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